EDMONTON – During their five-game point streak coming into Friday’s encounter with Edmonton, the Dallas Stars had won every which way they could. They came from behind for wins against the Vancouver Canucks and Chicago Blackhawks, shut out the Montreal Canadiens, cruised to an efficient victory over Minnesota, and rallied to earn a point in a shootout loss to Pittsburgh.
In their latest act against the Oilers they didn’t produce a work of art, but they certainly got the job done.
Radek Dvorak and Tomas Vincour scored second-period goals, and the Stars shrugged off a sluggish start to earn a 3-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers at Rexall Place on Friday night.
The win pushed Dallas (34-26-5) into a tie with San Jose for seventh place in the Western Conference, with the Sharks holding the tiebreaker. The Stars currently sit in eighth with 73 points, three points in front of both Los Angeles and Colorado.
And don’t look now, but the surging Stars sit just two points out of first place in the Pacific Division, which is currently topped by the Phoenix Coyotes.
“It sounds like a broken record every night, but we’re in a dog fight,” defenseman Sheldon Souray said. “We’re looking at the standings every night, and we’re trying to take care of our own business. We were strong when we had to be, and got the two points. We needed this win. We’re gaining confidence and we’re learning that it’s going to take everybody playing hard every night to get the results we want.”
Kari Lehtonen, playing for the 14th time in the last 15 games, was once again his solid self, turning back the Oilers at every turn in making 19 saves. His bid for a shutout, though, was spoiled when Sam Gagner scored with just 30 seconds to go in regulation after Michael Ryder sealed the win with an empty-net goal with 88 seconds left.
It was Ryder’s team-leading 27th goal of the season, and extended his goal-scoring streak to three games.
“It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you don’t care who gets the goal,” Vincour said. “We’re all battling for each other.”
In a game that had little flow that produced a performance that was hardly easy on the eyes, the Stars were able to fight through the slop to find their way into the win column for the fifth time in the last six games. They mustered just four shots on goal in the first period, but returned the favor by putting the clamps on the Oilers in the third.
With a two-goal lead, Dallas held Edmonton shotless for the first nine minutes of the final frame, and limited them to just four overall over the final 20 minutes.
Though the Stars finished with a mere 15 shots, they gladly traded aesthetics for results.
“I didn’t think we started very good, but the second we got going, and in the third we played pretty tight defensively,” coach Glen Gulutzan said. “Not out best outing, but we gotta take points right now and not worry about how we’re getting there.”
A big reason for the win was Dallas’ ability to stay out of the penalty box. Boasting the top-ranked power-play unit in the league, the Oilers never got a chance to display their firepower as the Stars weren’t whistled for a single infraction.
That discipline, along with Lehtonen, helped them send Edmonton (25-33-6) to its third loss in four games.
“You need good goaltending in this league, and you need to score goals,” Souray said. “Right now we’re getting a little bit of both. Kari wants to play and is ready every night, and we’re confident with him back there. It wasn’t our best offensive game, that’s for sure. We weren’t firing on all cylinders, but we got some ugly goals, which is good for us.”
After a scoreless first period, Dvorak staked the Stars to a 1-0 lead midway through the second period with his fourth of the season. The play began behind the net when Vernon Fiddler corralled the puck and brought it over the goal line before spinning around to send a backhand pass to the crease. Both Dvorak and Eric Nystrom crashed the net, with Dvorak eventually shoveling it in.
Vincour made it 2-0 with 7:05 remaining in the second with his third of the year. Philip Larsen’s shot from the right circle was deflected wide of the Edmonton net, and Nikolai Khabibulin wandered from his crease to help control the puck. But Khabibulin got tied up with a couple of players en route, allowing the puck to ricochet off the end boards freely and right to Vincour, who was standing in the crease. He was able to easily slide the puck into the open net.
“The first period was pretty slow from our side, but second period we got up 2-0,” Vincour said. “We needed to get pucks to the net and get some easy goals.”
“We have to play a four-line game,” Gulutzan said. “We have to get pucks deep and play tight defensively. We have a good goaltender and we have to use him. We have to manage our game. This is how we’ve had success, and the players are embracing it. This is how it’s gotta get done if we want to get in. Whether it’s pretty or not, we have to play this way to have success.”
The Stars continue their three-game road trip to Western Canada on Sunday when they face the Calgary Flames (5 p.m., FS-SW). The Flames lost on a late goal to Anaheim on Friday night.
-- Souray made his first trip back to Edmonton since signing with the Stars. He played for the Oilers from 2007-10.
-- The Stars improved to 3-0-0 this season against the Oilers, and they’ve outscored Edmonton by an 11-3 margin in those three games. The Stars have now earned a point in 11 of their last 12 games against the Oilers, going 9-1-2 in that span.
-- Lehtonen made his 18th start in the last 20 games, and improved to 6-1-0 against the Oilers in seven starts with Dallas.
-- Mike Ribeiro had his season-high eight-game points streak snapped.
-- Trevor Daley had his career-long five-game points streak snapped.
-- The Stars improved to 7-0-1 against Canadian-based teams this season.
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