DALLAS – James Neal scored twice, Alex Auld made 33 saves, and the Dallas Stars beat the stumbling Columbus Blue Jackets 3-1 on Wednesday night.
Rookie Jamie Benn had a first-period goal, and Brad Richards and Loui Eriksson had two assists each for the Stars, 6-1-2 in their last nine at home. Colombus’ Rick Nash scored his 19th career goal against the Stars, and Steve Mason made 25 saves for the Blue Jackets.
On Tuesday, Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson, coach Ken Hitchcock and his staff and 10 veteran players gathered to discuss the state of the team and its lengthy slump. The meeting didn’t produce the desired result as Columbus fell to 0-6-2 in its last eight and 1-8-3 in December.
With the score even at 1, Neal set up in front of the net and fired a rebound past Mason at 6:18 of the second period. Neal pounced on another rebound at 10:28 of the third period to make it 3-1. He had a team-high 18 goals this season.
Neal was involved in a controversial play the last time the teams met on Nov. 19 in Texas.
Columbus winger Derek Dorsett sustained a head injury on a hit from behind by Neal, who was slapped with a two-game league suspension. Dorsett, who later accused Neal of reckless play, sat out nine games with a concussion, then returned for three games before breaking his hand. Dorsett missed his sixth straight game with the latter injury.
Since that 4-1 Columbus victory, the Blue Jackets are 2-11-5.
The Blue Jackets entered the game with the league’s No. 1 power play, converting 23.2 per cent of their chances, but Columbus went 0-for-4 with the man advantage against Dallas.
Nash beat Auld with a quick shot from the left circle at 11:16 of the opening period for his team-high 19th goal of the season. Columbus had been outscored in the first period 13-1 in its previous seven games.
Benn tied it at 1 at 17:23 of the first period on a wrister from the high slot, Benn’s eight goal of the season.
NOTES: Columbus had been 5-1-1 in its previous seven trips to Dallas over the last three seasons. … The Blue Jackets are winless (0-7-3) in their last 10 on the road. … Dallas RW Jere Lehtinen (groin) missed his second straight game. … Stars D Trevor Daley (shoulder) and Mark Fistric (concussion) are out. … D Anton Stralman (flu) and Rostislav Klesa (groin) missed the game for Columbus.