A battered, bruised and broken-down Edmonton Oilers team was no match for the surging Dallas Stars.
Jere Lehtinen scored twice on the power play, Brenden Morrow had a goal and assist, and Loui Eriksson and Mike Modano also scored to help lift the Stars to a convincing 5-2 win over the struggling Oilers on Friday night at American Airlines Center.
Dallas won for the 10th time in the past 12 games, and in the process, captured its sixth straight against the Oilers. The Stars also pushed its Pacific Division lead to six points over Anaheim, pending the Ducks late game Friday against St. Louis.
Dallas goalie Marty Turco finished with 20 saves to win for the eighth time in his last 10 starts, and Jussi Jokinen added a pair of assists to put Dallas in the win column for the fifth time in its past six home games.
"We created a lot of scoring chances, and we want to keep getting better every game," Lehtinen said. "We competed hard, and we are going to do that every game the rest of the way. Everybody played hard tonight, and we matched their intensity."
The Oilers limped into the Lone Star State without their best offensive player, Shawn Horcoff, as well as prized free agent defenseman Sheldon Souray, both of whom have been lost for the season because of injuries. Not good, especially since Edmonton came in just four points out of the Western Conference basement, and was also finishing off a stretch in which it played five of six on the road.
Instead, it was a perfect recipe for the Stars, who were looking to bounce back after a disappointing loss to Calgary on Wednesday. And with gritty forward Steve Ott setting the tone with a thunderous check of Edmonton's top scoring threat, Ales Hemsky, early in the first period, the stage was set for a predictable outcome despite a late Oilers charge.
"Last game was pretty tough, so we wanted to play much harder and we did that tonight," Lehtinen said.
"The scoring by committee has been working and tonight the special teams got us a few, which proved to be the difference," Morrow added. "I've always enjoyed playing Edmonton with their tradition and the rivalry we have built with them from the playoffs, so it's always good when we come out on top."
Dustin Penner scored on the power play, and Curtis Glencross also scored for Edmonton, which lost its third straight. Mathieu Garon made 25 saves in his eighth straight start before being lifted after the second period, and Dwayne Roloson allowed a goal on 10 shots in relief in the final stanza.
Garon dropped to 0-4-1 in his last five games against the Stars.
"It was a game we managed to get a lead, we gave one up late to make it closer than it needed to be, but we held on and earned some big points," coach Dave Tippett said. "We had some key things happen that help us win. The Oilers compete very hard and have some good young player going through some growing pains, but they make sure you're in the game."
Already up 3-0 after two periods, Lehtinen shoved the dagger in deeper when he scored his 10th of the year, and second of the game, just 4:32 into the third with Dallas up a man. Edmonton defenseman Matt Greene's clearing attempt from his own goal line was blocked by Lehtinen right in front of Roloson. The crafty winger then quickly slipped the puck in between Roloson's legs.
Penner, though, spoiled Turco's shutout bid with his 18th of the year at 7:59 to cut the deficit to 4-1. From in tight, Turco made two consecutive stops on Penner before Penner cashed in on his third attempt.
Glencross made it 4-2 with 5:50 remaining in regulation when his sharp angle wrist shot snuck in between Turco and the left post, but Modano iced it with an empty-net goal, his 17th, with just under two minutes to go.
"We wanted to dominate, and it's been a while since we did that on a game," Turco said. "We don't talk about the postseason yet. We are just continuing to erase bad habits and understand the way we need to be playing heading into the playoffs. We are looking to simplify things and get everyone on board so we can reach our potential."
Up by a goal after the first 20 minutes, the Stars upped their lead on Lehtinen's power-play goal at 5:35 of the second period. Lehtinen scored just seconds after Dallas' short 5-on-3 man-advantage expired, capping a nifty tic-tac-toe passing play with Morrow and Jokinen. From the right circle, Jokinen sent a cross-ice pass to Morrow, who immediately fed Lehtinen for the tap-in at the top of the crease.
Morrow then made it 3-0 with his team-leading 25th goal at 17:13, a short-handed tally. Skating into the Oilers zone with only Jarret Stoll back, Morrow whiffed on his wrist shot. But the dribbling puck went off Stoll's skate and right back to a charging Morrow, who then went around a sprawling Garon for the goal.
"My goal wasn't the way I drew it up because one move turned into about four, but then I was able to put it in," Morrow said.
Dallas opened the scoring when Eriksson notched his seventh goal of the year with 3:26 left in the first period. After corralling the puck near the outer edge of the right circle, Jokinen sent a shot towards the Edmonton net. Despite being cross-checked by Mathieu Roy, Eriksson was able to deflect the puck past Garon for his first goal in 17 games.
"It was a nice pass from Jussi, and I had an open net and just put it in," Eriksson said. "When you score, you gain confidence."
"We are looking for Loui to find some more opportunities like that, and his line brought some good energy," Tippett said. "We are looking for that on a more consistent basis."
The Stars will get right back at it on Saturday night when they travel to Nashville to play the Predators (7 p.m., my27). Dallas has lost both prior meetings this season against Nashville, including a 5-1 defeat in Music City in October.
The Predators are coming off a 3-2 shootout loss to Vancouver on Thursday night in a game in which they fired 51 shots on Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo.
"That will be a tough game, so we need to keep this going," Eriksson said.
--Winger Brad Winchester was inserted into the lineup after Jeff Halpern was scratched because of a groin injury.
--Forward Krys Barch got into a first-period scrap with Edmonton enforcer Zach Stortini. Stortini sustained a cut above the bridge of his nose in the bout.
--Morrow snapped a three-game pointless streak, and his 25 goals match his career-high set in 2003-04.
--It was Jokinen's third multi-point game of the season.
--The Stars are now 9-1 in their past 10 games against the Oilers, and they improved to 42-9-5 against Edmonton since moving to Dallas in 1993.
--Turco won his sixth straight against the Oilers, and is now three wins shy of reaching 30 victories overall.
--The Stars won for the 20th time at home, the ninth time in the past 10 seasons they've reached that plateau.