The Dallas Stars are still very much alive in the race to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Kari Lehtonen made 23 saves for his 17th career shutout, Steve Ott scored his second goal in 25 games and the Stars pulled closer to the final Western Conference playoff spot with a 3-0 victory against the Columbus Blue Jackets at the American Airlines Center on Tuesday night.
"It's always nice when you don't let any goals in, especially in a situation like this one where you have to win," Lehtonen said. "That was good that I was able to do my part and the guys did their part and that usually equals two points."
Loui Eriksson and Brenden Morrow had empty-netters in the final 53 seconds to secure the win for Dallas, which improved to 91 points. The Stars and idle Calgary have the same number of points, but Dallas holds the No. 9 seed in the conference because it has a game in hand.
Dallas and Calgary are two points behind Chicago and Anaheim for the last playoff spot. Anaheim is No. 7, owning the tiebreaker over Chicago.
The Blackhawks got a point when they lost 2-1 in overtime at Montreal earlier Tuesday night. Anaheim and Calgary did not play. Dallas, Chicago and Anaheim all have three games left, and Calgary has two remaining.
The Stars have a home-and-home against Colorado on Thursday and Friday before Sunday's season finale at Minnesota.
A loss to the Blue Jackets would have almost ended the Stars' playoff hopes.
"Very crucial, for sure," coach Marc Crawford said of the victory. "It almost goes without saying. It was a huge win for our team. It keeps us alive, it keeps our momentum moving forward. We've now got two wins in a row and obviously start our preparation for our next game against Colorado almost immediately. You can savor these victories, but not for very long."
Ott's deflection of Brad Richards' shot from center point during a power play gave the Stars the lead at 5:00 of the opening period. Lehtonen made the lead stand up until the two empty-netters.
The Blue Jackets are 3-10-7 in their last 20 games to fall out of playoff contention.
Columbus was coming off Sunday's 6-1 home loss to St. Louis, but the Jackets turned in a more determined effort against the Stars.
The Blue Jackets are without their captain and top scorer, right wing Rick Nash (lower body injury), as well as goaltender Steve Mason (lower body injury), defenseman Jan Hejda (suspension), left wing Ethan Moreau (foot) and right wing Chris Clark (lower body).
"It would have been easy for us to quit, but we battled to the end," said Columbus goaltender Mathieu Garon, who finished with 27 saves. "It's frustrating. We're pretty banged up right now, but it's not an excuse."
Garon came up with his best stop of the night when he denied Morrow from close range with 16:52 remaining.
The Blue Jackets thought they'd tied it at 1 with 4:43 left on a shot out of the corner that went into the net off Eriksson. But the goal was immediately waved off when Derek Dorsett was penalized for goalie interference after crashing into Lehtonen in the crease.
"At the time I didn't (agree with the call)," Columbus coach Scott Arniel said. "I thought Eriksson had it in his hand, but (Dorsett) did drive him into the goaltender and the goaltender didn't have an opportunity to make the save."
Material from wire services and team media was used in this report
|Sami Lepisto Interference against Brenden Morrow|
|Derick Brassard Delay of game|
|Jason Williams Hooking against R.J. Umberger|
|Kari Lehtonen Tripping against Jakub Voracek|
|Sami Lepisto Hooking against Tom Wandell|
|Craig Rivet Cross checking against Brenden Morrow|
|Brenden Morrow Cross checking against Craig Rivet|
|Kristian Huselius Hooking against Loui Eriksson|
|Derek Dorsett Interference on goalkeeper against Kari Lehtonen|