Stylistically, it was an ugly win, But to the Dallas Stars, the two points they got for beating the Edmonton Oilers were things of beauty.
The Stars got goals by Radek Dvorak, Tomas Vincour and Michael Ryder to back a 19-save performance by Kari Lehtonen and beat the Oilers 3-1 on Friday night. Dallas managed only 15 shots -- but the Stars limited to Oilers to just 20 and kept Edmonton off the board until Sam Gagner broke up Lehtonen's shutout bid with 29.4 seconds remaining.
"We didn't paint a Picasso, but we were strong when we had to be," said Dallas defenseman Sheldon Souray, who was booed in his first appearance at Rexall Place since demanding a trade two years ago. The Oilers sent him to the minors for all of the 2010-11 season before he was bought out and claimed by Dallas last summer.
"It wasn't our best offensive game. We weren't firing on all cylinders. But I thought we did a good job defensively -- and we scored three goals.
The Stars, eighth in the West, improved to 5-0-1 in their last six games and increased their point total to 73, three ahead of Colorado and Los Angeles. They visit Calgary on Sunday and Vancouver on Tuesday.
Stars coach Glen Gulutzan agreed that this one wasn't exactly a classic.
"It wasn't our best outing," Gulutzan said. "But we've got to take points right now and not worry about how we're getting there. We've got to get points."
Gulutzan said his team has to stick with the kind of grind-it-out game that's been successful recently if the Stars want to end a postseason drought that dates to 2008.
"We have to do it this way," he said. "We have to play a four-line game. We have to get pucks deep. We have to play tight defense. We've got a good goaltender; we have to use him.
"This is how we've had success. This is the way it's got to get done if we're going to get in. Whether it's pretty or not, this is the way we have to play to have success."
It worked to perfection against the Oilers (25-33-6), who have lost three of their last four and are 29th in the 30-team overall standings.
"They played well and didn't give us much," Gagner said. "We had to battle through a lot of things they were throwing at us.
Neither team generated much offense in a first period that saw the Stars manage only four shots on Nikolai Khabibulin and the Oilers test Lehtonen just seven times.
Dvorak broke the tie 8:35 into the second period when he outfought Eric Belanger for position just outside the crease and swatted home the rebound of Eric Nystrom's shot for his fourth of the season.
The Stars went up 2-0 at 12:55 when Vincour had an easy tap-in after Oilers defenseman inadvertently took Khabibulin out of the play as they went after a dump-in. The goal came on Dallas' ninth shot of the game.
"We made two poor net plays and that was the difference in the game," Oilers coach Tom Renney said. "I'm frustrated."
Lehtonen's best save came midway through the third period when he robbed Ryan Whitney on a point-blank blast.
Dallas put the game away with 1:28 remaining when Ryder rolled a shot from the red line into an empty net for his 27th of the season. Gagner's snap shot off a feed from Ales Hemsky served only to spoil Lehtonen's shutout.
"We didn't get a chance to generate much tonight," Oilers forward Ryan Smyth said. "Turnovers became a factor. You have to earn your power plays, and we didn't do that."
Gulutzan said he's more than happy to keep on winning ugly.
"I like our focus on what it takes to win," he said. "It's limiting our opponents' chances and staying above the puck, and little things. Whether it's pretty or not, we have to play this way to have success, and I think the players truly realize that -- and that's what they're trying to do, night in and night out."
Material from team media was used in this report