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Ritchie, Benn score in 2nd period, Stars hold on for 2-1 win over Penguins

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DALLAS — Kari Lehtonen and the Dallas Stars' defense made two quick second-period goals hold up.

Brett Ritchie and Jamie Benn scored 1:23 apart in the second, and Lehtonen made 15 of his 31 saves in the third to lead the Stars to a 2-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins.

"Kari needed to make some saves for us and he did," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said.

Benn set up Ritchie's deflection goal at 2:15 of the second, and put his own rebound past Marc-Andre Fleury at 3:37 for a 2-0 lead.

"Good play by (Benn) to get (the puck) to the net, and I tried to pass to (Shawn Horcoff) back door," Ritchie said. "I think their guy sort of dove and tried to block the pass, and I'm pretty sure it went 5-hole."

Benn caught up with a loose puck along the left-wing boards and passed in front, where Ritchie deflected it off defenseman Beau Bennett's stick and past Fleury.

"There was a lot of will in some of those 50-50 battles with the puck," Ruff said. "He was giving it everything he had to try to get a puck out or win a battle that would give him some space. When it came to the battle sense, I think he led our team."

Kris Letang scored the Penguins' second power-play goal in nine games at 13:26 of the second. They have scored only twice in losing their last four games.

The undermanned Pittsburgh offense was without the injured Evgeni Malkin and Patric Hornqvist, who between them have 51 goals and 62 assists this season.

PHOTO: Dallas Stars center Shawn Horcoff (10) becomes entangled with Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Christian Ehrhoff (10) during the third period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, March 19, 2015, in Dallas. The Stars won 2-1. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
Dallas Stars center Shawn Horcoff (10) becomes entangled with Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Christian Ehrhoff (10) during the third period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, March 19, 2015, in Dallas. The Stars won 2-1. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Center Sidney Crosby assisted on Letang's goal.

"Regardless of who it is, we've got to collectively find a way to produce more goals," Crosby said. "This time of year, the games are 3-2, 2-1 type of games. We still have to find a way to generate more offense."

Lehtonen's big third — a period during which the Stars have allowed 89 goals this season — preserved his 30th win. His best save in the third period came with the teams skating 4-on-4. He stopped Christian Ehrhoff's drive from the right point and smothered the rebound before Pittsburgh's Chris Kunitz could get to it.

Fleury had 24 saves.

"Certainly in the third period, we were really strong but we just didn't finish around the net," Penguins coach Mike Johnston said. "A couple of those ones, I think Ehrhoff's, might have hit the post. We had our opportunities. We just couldn't bury it."

The Stars won for the sixth time in their last eight games to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. With 11 games remaining, they are eight points away from the Western Conference's final wild-card spot.

Benn's goal was just 1:23 after Ritchie's. Tyler Seguin passed in front to Benn and Fleury stopped the first shot with his pads, but Benn retrieved the puck and maneuvered around the prone goalie to tap it into the net.

Pittsburgh's first goal came 8 seconds into the power play on Letang's wrist shot from the left point.

The Penguins pulled Fleury twice during the final 2 minutes. Dallas just missed two empty-net goals in the last 11 seconds, forcing faceoffs in the Stars' end.

NOTES: Malkin (lower-body injury) missed his third straight game, and Hornqvist (undisclosed) was out for the second game in a row. ... Stars D John Klingberg (upper body) returned after missing three games, and assisted on Ritchie's goal. ... Dallas C Cody Eakin earned his 100th career point with an assist on Benn's goal. ... Letang had not scored a goal in his previous 15 games. ... The Penguins had been 1 for 24 on the power play before Letang's goal, and had scored only one goal on 108 shots in the previous three games. ... The Stars swept the season series 2-0, and are 3-0-1 in their last four home games vs. Pittsburgh.

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Photo Gallery:
PHOTO: The shoot goes wide as Dallas Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen (32) and Alex Goligoski (33) defend the goal against Pittsburgh Penguins center Brandon Sutter (16) during the first period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, March 19, 2015, in Dallas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
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