DALLAS - The Dallas Stars weren't very interested in duplicating their impressive offensive onslaught displayed against the New York Rangers two nights ago. Reproducing the end result was much more important.
Fresh off their 10-goal performance against the Broadway Blueshirts, the Stars ended a three games in four nights stretch in fine fashion, posting a solid 4-1 win over the Nashville Predators on Sunday night at American Airlines Center. The win was the Stars' 13th in their last 16 home games, and pulled them into a fifth-place tie with Anaheim in the Western Conference.
Both Dallas and the Ducks have 59 points, but the Stars hold the tiebreaker based on four fewer games played.
"They're not all masterpieces but we'll take the win and the two points," coach Dave Tippett said. "That was the game that the team that got the lead was going to have a distinct advantage, and you were going to have to hang on because the team behind was going to have to push from behind."
The Predators came in red hot, having won five of their last six to climb back into the playoff picture. But they wound up being no match for the surging Stars, who've got postseason aspirations of their own as they continue to play inspired hockey.
Brad Richards had a goal and assist, and Brian Sutherby, Mark Parrish, and Steve Ott also scored for Dallas, which won for the seventh time in its last eight tries. Goalie Marty Turco, making his 23rd consecutive start, turned aside 25 Nashville shots.
"In all of our games there are tight moments, and we're just finding ways to win," said Turco, who tied Cesare Maniago's franchise record set during the 1968-69 season for consecutive appearances by a goalie. "We'll take the win. That's what we're looking for, and what we need to continue to do. I don't think anybody in here cares what the reasons are (for the turnaround). We know what we need to do, and nothing can change for us to maintain this type of pace. All the guys know that."
The Stars once again survived a second-period blitz by their opponent, as the Predators fired 13 shots on goal in the frame. But Turco was up to the task, and helped preserve the Stars' slim lead by stretching along the ice to stop Predators forward J.P. Dumont's glorious attempt from in front with eight minutes to go.
"I need to be playing with poise and confidence and make saves regardless of what happens with rebounds and blocked shots," Turco said. "Trusting my teammates, like a few times tonight to get the back door and sweep away rebounds."
Up 2-1 after 40 minutes, the Stars took the first eight shots of the third period, and upped their lead when Richards notched his 15th of the year just 1:42 in while Dallas was enjoying a 5-on-3 man advantage. With Nashville left wing Steve Sullivan (high sticking) and goalie Dan Ellis (delay of game) in the box, Richards' blast from the point blew past Ellis, who was deftly screened by Ott.
Ott then capped the scoring with his 11th of the year, shoveling the puck into an empty net with 94 seconds to go.
"We weren't on our best tonight but we picked it up in the third and we found a way to win," said Richards, who now has 16 multi-point games this season. "It was a little sluggish but we found a way. We didn't play well in the second, so it's big to get that two-goal lead back in the third."
Jason Arnott scored Nashville's lone goal, as the Predators had their four-game winning streak snapped. Ellis, coming off a shutout Friday against Minnesota, finished with 18 saves.
"If you come in the locker room now, you're going to have most guys saying they're giving their 100 percent," Richards said.
Down 2-0 after the first period, Nashville cut the deficit in half when Arnott popped in his 20th of the year with just under six minutes left in the middle stanza. After Ryan Jones corralled Dallas defenseman Matt Niskanen's turnover along the left boards in the Stars end, Arnott converted a nifty back-and-forth pass play with Dumont to make it 2-1.
Sutherby opened the scoring with his sixth of the season while the Stars were shorthanded. With Mike Modano serving a double-minor for high-sticking Sullivan, Sutherby was able to put the puck past Ellis with a wrist shot along the ice from the inner edge of the left circle to give Dallas a 1-0 lead five minutes in.
"If you work hard and go to the net, good things happen," Sutherby said. "I'm starting to settle in a little bit around here, and I came in here at a good time. We found a way to gut it out…it's been a long week. Tonight, at times, we weren't playing our best, but Marty kept us in it and we were able to break through."
Parrish made it 2-0 with his seventh of the season with 4:28 left in the first. Rookie James Neal's wrist shot from the left faceoff dot barely squirted through Ellis' legs, and with the puck sitting a foot away from the goal line, Parrish shoveled it in for his first goal since Jan. 12 against Detroit.
The Stars will have the next couple of days off before getting back to action on Wednesday when they host the Phoenix Coyotes (7:30, FSN). The Coyotes lost their sixth straight Saturday night in a 7-2 pasting by the Carolina Hurricanes.
"You rest when you can," Tippett said. "Tomorrow is a full day off and a short practice on Tuesday. The two days off at home, we really need this. We've been going real hard since the All-Star break. It's probably more mental than physical, because these guys are in great shape. Tomorrow we'll grab some energy back, and I think we'll have a strong practice on Tuesday and hopefully carry that into these next games."
-- The Stars are 11-1-1 in their last 13 games at American Airlines Center.
--Ott tied his career high of 11 goals set last season, and extended his career-high points streak to eight games.
--Jere Lehtinen dished-out a pair of assists, and also extended his career-high points streak to eight games.
--Niskanen picked up an assist on Ott's goal, his eighth helper during a new career-high five-game points streak.
--Sutherby's goal, his third in the last five games, was Dallas' second shorthanded tally this season. Loui Eriksson has the other.
--Parrish had missed the past six games, in part because of the flu. He was in the lineup after rookie Fabian Brunnstrom was scratched because of a lower body injury sustained against the Rangers. Parrish played on a line with Modano and Neal.
--The Stars have scored first in five of their last seven games.
--Defenseman Stephane Robidas picked up his 100th career NHL assist on Sutherby's goal.
--Dallas is 9-2 in its last 11 home games against the Predators.
--Turco has allowed two or fewer goals in seven of his last 10 games.
--The Stars are 20-1-2 when leading after 40 minutes.