1/25/97 -- 1:56 AM


LANDOVER, Md. (AP) - The Dallas Stars have mastered the difficult task of winning on the road. Now it's time for them to take care of business at home.

Arturs Irbe stopped 36 shots as Dallas beat the Washington Capitals 5-2 Friday night, their NHL-best 15th win on the road. The Stars have 32 points on the road compared to 29 all of last season.

Problem is, Dallas is a mediocre 11-10-2 at Reunion Arena.

``We seem to relax and play a smart road game. But we really need to win at home - that's something we have to start thinking about down the stretch,'' said defenseman Darryl Sydor, who had a goal and an assist.

``You have to win on the road if you want to be a winner, but for us right now it's the other way around,'' Sydor said. ``We have to start winning at home.''

Irbe suggested that the Stars try to get a bit too fancy when playing in front of the home fans.

``We're a better road team than a home team,'' he declared. ``At home, we sometimes try a showtime play and do some things that are not necessary. On the road we just keep it tight all the time, don't take any chances and wait for mistakes to happen on the opposition's part.

``That's been the case all year.''

The Stars are 5-1 on the road against Washington since March 1991, the lone exception a 2-1 loss last season. Dallas, which beat the Capitals at home in October, swept the season series for the first time since 1993-94.

Irbe was 0-3 since Dec. 20, but only Sylvain Cote and Steve Konowalchuk were able to get the puck past him. Irbe (5-6-1) owns a 2.65 goals-against average in away games and a 4.17 mark at home.

``I play more on the road and I like the booing sometimes. The fans get a little upset by the visiting team, and if I can add to it, that just makes me more happy,'' Irbe said.

Capitals coach Jim Schoenfeld was seemingly more irritated with Washington than were the fans in the sellout crowd of 18,130.

``I thought our play away from the puck was sorely lacking tonight,'' he said. ``Dallas deserves some marks - they won a lot of 1-on-1 battles - and once they got inside our blue line they did a better job of fighting for the puck than we did.''

The Stars took the lead for good at 1:06 of the second period when Dave Reid sent a backhand pass across the crease that Guy Carbonneau put in from the left side of the net.

Sydor made it 3-1 at 6:19, scoring from inside the left circle while the Capitals were attempting to kill a five-minute high-sticking penalty against Craig Berube.

Mike Modano put in his own rebound at 17:07 after the Capitals were called for too many men on the ice. The period ended with Dallas up 4-1, and the Stars had no problem improving to 20-0-1 when leading after two periods.

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