The New Jersey Devils have been beating up on Eastern Conference competition this season. Now they're starting to take care of teams in the West.
Brian Rolston, Jay Pandolfo and Sergei Brylin all scored in the game's first 7:28 and New Jersey held off a third-period Dallas rally for a 5-2 victory in a meeting of two of the NHL's elite teams.
"We came out hard, got some breaks and we capitalized on their mistakes," Rolston said. "They were turning the puck over and that got us off to a big start. We beat a great hockey club here tonight."
The Devils entered the game in first place in the Atlantic Division, but they were 0-2-1 against the Western Conference prior to Wednesday.
New Jersey has another tough road test Thursday night against the Western Conference-leading Phoenix Coyotes.
The Stars were in second place in the Pacific, but New Jersey was far the better team as three first-period Dallas turnovers ended up in the Stars net.
"We took ourselves out of the game in the first period," Stars coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We were sloppy with the puck and sloppy defending. The game was over in the first period."
New Jersey won its fourth in a row and improved to 6-1-0 over its last seven games.
Dallas waited until 4:04 of the third period to come up with its first goal when Jamie Langenbrunner scored on the power play, his fourth.
The Stars made it a one-goal game at 7:06 of the third period when Shawn Chambers scored his first of the season on a slap shot from the left point only four seconds into a power play.
But New Jersey responded with 9:09 to play on Dave Andreychuk's sixth, boosting the Devils' lead to 4-2.
Petr Sykora added an empty-net goal for the Devils with 2:12 left to make it 5-2.
The Devils stopped the Stars' five-game unbeaten streak and handed Dallas its second defeat of the season at Reunion Arena. ThStars, who brought the NHL's best home record into Wednesday's game, are still 8-2-1 at Reunion Arena.
New Jersey scored on three of its first five shots, and starting goalie Ed Belfour was pulled by Hitchcock after the third goal.
Hitchcock said none of the goals was Belfour's fault, but he went to backup Roman Turek to shake up his team.
A turnover by Stars defenseman Derian Hatcher eventually ended up as Rolston's third goal 1:02 after the opening faceoff. Bob Carpenter picked off Hatcher's bad pass and Rolston converted Pandolfo's goalmouth feed on the Devils' first shot.
Pandolfo split two Dallas defenders, went in alone and beat Belfour at 3:37 for his sixth. When Brylin scored his third from the slot at 7:28, Hitchcock pulled Belfour.
The Stars' top defensive pairing of Hatcher and Richard Matvichuk was on the ice for the first three goals.
"It starts with me and Derian to come out and lead the team," Matvichuk said. "We were absolutely awful from the start. When he and I aren't setting the tone, that reflects on the whole team."
Belfour started the night tied for the league lead with nine wins and was fifth in goals-against at 1.94.
Right wing Brett Hull returned for the Stars after missing two games with a bruised kidney, but Hull suffered a groin injury in the first period and missed the rest of the game. Hull's condition will be evaluated on Thursday.
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