The Washington Times - November 9, 2011, 01:57AM

Lost in some of the self-criticism in the aftermath of the Capitals’ fourth loss in six games, 5-2 on Tuesday night, was something pretty simple.

The Dallas Stars are good. Really good.


The Caps’ loss had players questioning their team-wide work ethic and coach Bruce Boudreau noting that if there’s a comfort level that came from starting hot, it’ll be gone by Wednesday. But the Stars, with their victory, not only made it 2-0 to start their four-game road trip but moved into the top spot in the NHL. They’re 11-3 and have 22 points.

“We’re trying to gauge ourselves against the league, mostly,” Dallas coach Glen Gulutzan said. “We liked our game, and I think it just gives us confidence moving forward.”

The Caps occupied the top spot in at least a majority of “power rankings” around the league as they reeled off a torrid 7-0-0 start. But the Stars have quietly passed even the Pittsburgh Penguins by going 8-2 in their last 10 and winning four in a row.

“Things are going pretty good right now. I think it’s because were playing a simple game and we’re playing the right way,” forward Jamie Benn said. “Guys are having fun and we’re all buying in and getting big points on the road.”

Much of the Stars’ success, at least lately, has been predicated on catching lightning with the line of Benn, Michael Ryder and Loui Eriksson. That trio was responsible for three of Dallas’ five goals agains the Caps.

At the moment they played the Caps, Benn, Ryder and Eriksson may have represented the most dangerous opposing line out there. Even though they’ve only been together for three games since Steve Ott got injured, Gulutzan is happy they’ve developed some quick chemistry.

“They’ve been flying. I just jump in there and feed off them,” said Ryder, the late addition to the line. “We got something going good right now.”

Of course, with Brenden Morrow, Mike Ribeiro and Adam Burish playing together, Gulutzan said there are some healthy arguments within his locker room about the “No. 1” line. The veteran group pitched in a goal Tuesday, too.

“It’s good to have some internal competition and that’s kind of the battle in the room right there: the young guys vs. the old guard,” Gulutzan said. “They’re having fun with it. Every night we’re getting one of those lines stepping up.”

Against the Caps, it was both. And now the Stars will roll on to Pittsburgh for a battle of the league’s top teams Friday night.