CALGARY -- The Dallas Stars have earned themselves some breathing room – at least temporarily.
Fighting for a playoff berth in the ultra-competitive Western Conference, the Stars captured a 3-2 shootout victory over the Calgary Flames, vaulting themselves into seventh place ahead of the San Jose Sharks.
Jamie Benn and Loui Eriksson scored on the Stars first two attempts in the shootout, while Kari Lehtonen stopped both shooters he faced to earn Dallas' win - their sixth in seven games - and put the Stars three points up on No. 9 Los Angeles.
"It's always nice to get the extra point," Eriksson said. "For sure, it's big right now. It's so tight in the conference. That point can really help us a lot. Benner had a great move there and he got the first goal. I tried the five-hole move and it worked today. It was a good one."
Earning a point in the loss, Calgary pulled within three points of the Sharks for eighth in the West, though the Sharks have two games in hand. On the outside looking in, the 11th-place Flames cannot afford to leave any more points on the table, according to Alex Tanguay.
"We're five points back, there's 16 games left and we've got three teams we've got to pass," Tanguay said. "It's pretty obvious that we've got to win. That's going to be the case on Tuesday and that's going to be the case on Friday and that's going to be the case for every game from now on."
The Stars nearly nabbed the extra point in overtime.
After Michael Cammalleri turned the puck over to Jamie Benn, he fired a shot on Miikka Kiprusoff. Kiprusoff handled the initial shot, but kicked the rebound out to Michael Ryder, who was hooked by Cammalleri in the process of depositing the puck in the gaping net.
On the ensuing power play, Sheldon Souray stepped into a blast met by the sparkling glove of Kiprusoff. Just as the penalty expired, Kiprusoff again shut the door on Ryder, who was parked on the faceoff circle to his right. The save set the stage for Benn and Eriksson in the shootout.
But it was Jarome Iginla's heroics that forced extra time in the third.
After stopping Iginla on a breakaway by Lehtonen earlier in the period for one of his 36 saves on the night, the Flames captain found the back of the net at the 12-minute mark. Lehtonen stopped the initial shot from Tanguay, but Cammalleri gathered the rebound and sent a backhanded pass between his legs to Iginla, who put it into the net to tie the game 2-2. The goal marked Iginla’s 13th consecutive season with at least 25 goals.
Though the goal set the stage for extra time, Calgary admitted their desire to end the game in regulation.
"We wanted to," Tanguay said. "That's what we were talking about in the third period. It's certainly very frustrating. We're not happy with the result. We fought hard in the third period. I felt we played solid there, but once again we made too many mistakes and it cost us."
In a near do-or-die situation and the proverbial four-point game on the line, the Flames combination of Tanguay, Cammalleri and Iginla pressed hard in the first period but left unrewarded.
Instead, the Flames opened the scoring for the eighth straight game during the middle period.
After Kiprusoff, who stopped 38 in the losing cause, weathered the storm in the form of an early period push by the Stars, Glencross converted a pass from David Moss behind the net at 7:12 to give the Flames a 1-0 advantage. The goal gives Glencross goals in four straight.
The lead wouldn't last the period, though.
Eriksson put the Stars on the board with a shorthanded tally. Breaking in 1-on-1 against Tanguay, Eriksson walked around the Flames' forward and beat Kiprusoff with a backhand over the blocker to even the game at 1-1 at 14:59.
"I got a lot of good speed there," Eriksson said. "I was trying to make a move on him and it worked real well. It was nice to see that go in. I just tried to do something and it worked."
The dazzling goal would lift Dallas to the lead before the period was out.
A too-many-men call shortly after Tim Jackman was denied on a partial break proved costly for the Flames. Ryder couldn't redirect Eriksson's feed past Kiprusoff, but gathered his own rebound and lifted it over the pad of the Flames' goaltender to make it 2-1 with just 1:34 left on the clock in the period.
The loss leaves the Flames with just one win in their last seven games.
"We've been walking a fine line," Cory Sarich said. "We've done some really good things, but it's a couple of mistakes that bite you and it's back to square one. We're trying our best to make sure that you tip on the right side of that line, but it's been a bit of a struggle."
Time may be running out on the Flames playoff hopes, but Iginla remained optimistic.
"There's 16 games left, 32 points left," he said. "Lots of points left. We need to keep going, moving forward and work on getting the next game."