As they did a year ago, the Philadelphia Flyers clinched a playoff berth by winning a shootout -- but this time, they did it with plenty of time to spare.
Ville Leino scored in the sixth round of the shootout Saturday night to give the Flyers a 3-2 victory at Dallas and assure them of their 35th trip to the playoffs since entering the NHL in 1967. They clinched with three weeks left in the season -- a big change from last year, when Philadelphia beat the New York Rangers 2-1 in a shootout on the final day of the season to earn the last playoff berth.
The Flyers' next goal is to earn home ice throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs -- the win moved them two points ahead of Washington.
"We've never talked about clinching a playoff berth, we've always talked about home ice, all rounds. Game 7 if it comes to that in our building," Philadelphia coach Peter Laviolette said. "That's why we continue to push."
Claude Giroux had a goal in the second round for the Flyers, but Mike Ribeiro tied it in the third round with a nifty hesitation move. Leino deked his way around Kari Lehtonen and slid the puck into a wide-open net for the win.
Other than Ribeiro's goal, Sergei Bobrovsky was perfect in the other five shootout rounds as the Flyers won their eighth in a row against the Stars.
"In the shootout, he was great and made the saves when he had to," Flyers center Jeff Carter said.
Carter and Mike Richards scored in regulation and Bobrovsky made 28 saves for the Flyers. Philadelphia went 2-0-1 on its road trip and will return home to meet the Capitals on Tuesday and Pittsburgh on Thursday.
"Look at the standings, they're both playing pretty good hockey, right on our tails, so we have to come out with our best games," Flyers defenseman Sean O'Donnell said of the upcoming matchups.
Defensemen Alex Goligoski and Stephane Robidas scored in regulation and Lehtonen stopped 28 shots for the Stars, who got a point after trailing 2-0 and are 2-2-2 in a season-high, seven-game homestand. Lehtonen fell to 0-10-2 against the Flyers.
Dallas earned a point when Robidas skated into the Flyers zone and beat Bobrovsky with a slap shot from the slot with 4:36 left in regulation.
"Robie didn't get much of a chance, but the seas parted and he had a chance to unleash his shot, and it was a great shot. He found a hole," Stars coach Marc Crawford said.
The Stars got a 4-on-3 power play with 1:37 left in regulation when Kimmo Timonen backhanded the puck into the stands on an attempted clearing pass for a delay of game call. But Dallas was unable to capitalize in on the power play, which extended into overtime.
Carter gave the Flyers a 1-0 lead with 1:21 left in the first period when Andrej Meszaros' 40-foot shot deflected off his skate and past Lehtonen. Richards made it 2-0 at 1:17 of the second when he flipped a loose puck through Lehtonen's pads.
Goligoski's shot from the blue line beat a screened Bobrovsky at 12:44 of the second to pull the Stars within a goal.
Material from wire services and team media was used in this report.