- Mark Stepneski, ESPNDallas.com
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It wasn’t pretty, but it was two big points for the Dallas Stars. The Stars scored three goals on just 15 shots and got a solid performance from goaltender Kari Lehtonen to defeat the Edmonton Oilers 3-1 on Friday night and pull to within two of the Pacific Division lead.
“It was an important game for us to come out and establish ourselves on this road trip,” said Stars defenseman Sheldon Souray. “We’re in a dog fight. It sounds like a broken record, but we’re looking at the standings every night and we’re trying to take care of our own business. It was a good start to this road trip. We didn’t paint a Picasso, but we were strong when he had to be and we got the two points. Our goalie was good. We needed this win.”
The Stars’ pushed their points streak to six games (5-0-1) and improved to 6-1-2 over their last nine games. They remain in eighth place in the Western Conference standings, but tied seventh-seeded San Jose in points (Sharks have played two fewer games) and increased their lead over Los Angeles, currently in ninth, to three points.
“Naturally, you kind of look at the standings before the game and you realized if we win this game we are starting to catch teams and put ourselves in a playoff spot,” said Stars forward Adam Burish. “The goal is to keep getting points because it is so darn tight.”
Friday’s game was tight as well. There was no scoring in a first period that the Stars manage just four shots on goal.
The Stars scored twice in a 4:10 span of the second period to take a 2-0 lead. Vernon Fiddler backhanded a puck on net, where Eric Nystrom and Radek Dvorak had set up shop and Dvorak knocked the puck past Oilers goalie Nikolai Khabibulin at the 8:35 mark.
The Stars made it a 2-0 game when Philip Larsen shot rebounded to the front of the net off the endboards, Khabibulin was knocked out of position by his own defenseman and Tomas Vincour put the puck into an open net at the 12:55 mark.
"We made two poor net plays and that was the difference in the game,” said Oilers coach Tom Renney.
The Stars gave the Oilers little in the third period, limiting them to just four shots on goal.
“We played really tight the whole third period,” said Lehtonen, who stopped 19 of 20 shots. “They didn’t get to start any kind of comeback.”
The Oilers pulled Khabibulin for an extra attacker, but Michael Ryder scored into an empty net with 1:28 remaining to give the Stars a 3-0 lead.
The Oilers spoiled Lehtonen’s bid for a shutout with 29.4 seconds left when Sam Gagner scored off a one-timer from the left circle to make it a 3-1 final.
The shutout was lost, the Stars still gained two big points.
“Not our best outing, but we’ve got to take points right now and not worry about how we’re getting there,” said Stars coach Glen Gulutzan. “We’ve got to get points.”
*The Stars improved to 4-1-2 in their last seven road games.
*The Stars did not take any penalties in the game. It’s the second time this season they haven’t been penalized in a game. The January 3 game against Detroit was the other.
*The Stars were 0-2 on the power play.