GLENDALE, Ariz. -- With just one win in their last six games and on the outside looking in at a Western Conference playoff spot, the Dallas Stars have a lot to play for Tuesday night as they visit the Phoenix Coyotes.
But it's a pretty big game for the Coyotes as well, and the Stars gave them plenty to play for the last time they came to Glendale on March 1.
Rallying from a 2-0 deficit with a pair of late goals, the Coyotes tied the game on a Ray Whitney goal with 37.7 seconds left and the game appeared headed for overtime. But Radim Vrbata took a needless hooking penalty seconds later and the Stars cashed in, with Jamie Benn scoring with 4.8 seconds left to give Dallas a dramatic 3-2 win.
Benn has the decisive goal in both wins over Phoenix this season, but the Stars have dropped the other three meetings.
The Coyotes are still smarting -- not only from the loss and the lost points, but from what they saw as a little extra celebrating by Dallas coach Marc Crawford after Benn's goal.
"We definitely wanted to end that game a little differently than it ended," Phoenix captain Shane Doan said. "And then Crawford does a little celebration dance up against the glass to our bench, you want to respond. You don't need any more motivation, not at this time of year by any means … but it's a big game for us."
The Coyotes will again be without top center Martin Hanzal and 18-goal scorer Lauri Korpikoski, but could have center Vernon Fiddler back after he missed Saturday's 4-1 loss to San Jose. Fiddler took part in the morning skate and coach Dave Tippett called him a game-time decision. Phoenix could certainly use him after being forced to press Lee Stempniak into a center spot and calling up journeyman Ryan Hollweg to play against the Sharks.
"That game was an opportunity for us to really jump out and push forward," Tippett said of the opportunity to move into a first-place tie with the Sharks. "I still think we felt sorry for ourselves that we were missing some people, but we're past that now and recognize whoever you have in the lineup, you have to play."
The Coyotes are still fourth in the Western Conference, but their lead is tenuous. Los Angeles and Nashville are one point back, Anaheim is two behind and eighth-place Chicago is three points back -- and all four teams have played fewer games than Phoenix.
The Stars are in more dire straits. After gaining points in eight straight games to earn a place in the top eight, Dallas has gone 1-3-2 since and could find itself five points out of eighth and final playoff spot if it loses. Dallas has injury problems on their back line, with defensemen Nicklas Grossman (knee) and Karlis Skrastins (thigh) out of the lineup as well as winger Adam Burish (leg).
Phoenix defenseman Ed Jovanovski, out since late February following orbital bone surgery, is on track to be cleared for contact this weekend with an eye toward playing in Phoenix's final three games of the regular season next week.