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Blue Jackets pull away from Stars in third period

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- After two years as Ron Tugnutt's
understudy, Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Marc Denis finally got
to show his mentor what he can do.

Denis was brilliant in the first period to keep Columbus in it
until Mike Sillinger and Andrew Cassels scored power-play goals in
the third to ruin Tugnutt's homecoming with a 4-2 victory over
Dallas on Friday night.

Tugnutt was the most popular Blue Jackets player in the first
two years of the expansion franchise, then was traded to the Stars
last summer for a third-round draft pick. In the 2000 election, he
even received six write-in votes for president from Franklin County
residents.

"I was fine until right up before the game, and then
surprisingly I got a little nervous,'' said Tugnutt, a 15-year
veteran who has played for eight NHL teams.

After receiving a loud ovation when the lineups were announced
before the game, Tugnutt allowed a goal on Columbus' first shot.

"The first one I really didn't see,'' Tugnutt said of Ray
Whitney's first-period goal. "From then on I was fine. It was a
tough start, though.''

Denis kept Columbus in the game by turning away 23 shots in the
first period -- a record for shots and saves in a period in
Nationwide Arena.

"We really didn't get off to a good start out of the gate,''
Denis said. "Maybe everyone gave them a little too much respect.''

Denis, who finished with 38 saves, said it was a strange
experience to see Tugnutt in a different uniform after suiting up
next to him in the dressing room for so long.

"Tugger was a huge part of this organization for two years,''
Denis said. "It was good to see him back in the building. The
game, though, was bigger than the Columbus Blue Jackets against Ron
Tugnutt.''

Tugnutt, who made 24 saves, heaped praise on the player he
groomed to take his spot as Columbus' No. 1 goalie.

"Marc was great today, especially early. He had a fabulous
first period,'' Tugnutt said. "He was eating up all the
rebounds.''

Whitney's early goal gave Columbus a 1-0 lead. The scoreless
start by the Stars meant that in a little over one period, they
outshot their opponents 28-2 -- and were outscored 2-0.

Dallas outshot Florida 44-13 on Wednesday night at home and
still lost 3-2 in overtime.

The Stars finally broke through in the opening seconds of the
second period, with Rob DiMaio getting his fifth goal of the season
when he redirected Sergei Zubov's hard slap shot from the left
point through traffic. Zubov extended his assists streak to nine
games.

"Yeah, we had chances,'' Dallas coach Dave Tippett said. "It's
one thing to have chances but you have to have the urgency and
desperation to bury those chances. You can't let the frustration
get to you. You've got to beat that frustration of not scoring, and
we let it beat us tonight.''

Columbus regained the lead with a power-play goal 1:35 into the
third period. Cassels dug the puck out of the corner and fed
Jaroslav Spacek cross-ice for a one-timer. Tugnutt made the save
but the rebound bounced out to Sillinger in the slot and he jammed
it in for his second goal of the season -- and first since the
opener.

The Blue Jackets made it 3-1 at 6:28 of the third, with Cassels
scoring on a one-timer from Rostislav Klesla with a man advantage.

"He was a fan's favorite here,'' said Cassels, a newcomer who
never played in Columbus with Tugnutt. "We know how the fans loved
him. I'm sure he wanted to win the hockey game, just like we did,
too. I don't think it was any extra incentive playing against
him.''

It was the Blue Jackets' 12th power-play goal of the season in
10 games. Last season, it took them 24 games to get their 12th goal
with a man advantage. They have scored at least one power-play goal
in every game this season except Tuesday night's 3-2 loss in
Chicago.

Kirk Muller scored the Stars' second goal, jamming in Jere
Lehtinen's shot for his first point of the season.

Tyler Wright pushed the Columbus lead back to two.

"Marc gave us the opportunity to win after that first period
and we responded in the last two periods,'' Wright said.

Game notes
The arena-record 23 shots by an opponent broke the old mark
of 20 set by Detroit in the first period near the end of the 2001
season. ... Columbus lost the previous six meetings with Dallas.
... Wright is just two points shy of 100 for his career.