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Blue Jackets stay alive by beating Stars

by Steve Hunt /

DALLAS -- The Columbus Blue Jackets' playoff hopes are still alive. The Dallas Stars' are not.

The Blue Jackets got two goals from Cam Atkinson, two assists from Brandon Dubinsky, and 31 saves from Sergei Bobrovsky to remain alive in the chase for the final Stanley Cup Playoff spot in the Western Conference by defeating the Stars 3-1 on Thursday.

"We came in here, did our job and we won our game," Dubinsky said. "We're going to have to do it again on Saturday (at home against the Nashville Predators).

"It's going to be a great crowd and a great opportunity and it's going to be a lot of fun. [Heck] of a job by these guys, six-game road trip, 5-1 against some [darn] good teams, really proud of these guys. The job's not done but we gave ourselves an opportunity."

Dallas was officially eliminated from contention late in the second period after the Detroit Red Wings finished defeating the Predators a 5-2 at Joe Louis Arena. The Stars have missed the playoffs in each of the past five seasons.

"It's another tough one for me to swallow," Stars defenseman Stephane Robidas said. "It's been a long time since I've had the chance to get in the playoffs, but the good news, I guess you have to look at the positives: We fought to the end."

The Stars learned their fate during the second intermission but Columbus did not know of Detroit's win until after the final horn.

"We had all the TVs off in the room [during the second intermission], but I have a sense that this is the media age," Stars coach Glen Gulutzan said.

The Blue Jackets are tied with the Minnesota Wild for eighth place in the West with 53 points after completing s 5-1-0 road trip. Detroit, who will play at Dallas on Saturday, is in seventh with 54 points. The Wild play host to the Edmonton Oilers on Friday and visit the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday.

Atkinson scored his first of the night 19 seconds into the game to give the visitors a 1-0 lead. Jamie Benn tied it at 8:43 of the second period with his 12th of the season while the Stars were on the power play.

"I didn't mind the first part of the second [period]. It was really just at the end of the second [where we struggled]," Columbus coach Todd Richards said. "To me, it was a couple shifts, a couple plays here and there that we just needed to shore up. I think we did that. I really liked our third period. There were a couple odd-man opportunities, but they're a good team. You give Benn and some of their defensemen an opportunity to jump up, they're going to get those odd-man rushes. But you could see the desperation, working back, whether it was blocking a shot or getting a stick on a puck or forcing them to kind of make a tough play."

The Blue Jackets went ahead when Letestu scored a power-play goal at 7:56 of the third period. Atkinson added an insurance goal with 1:40 remaining.

"[Dubinsky] did a great job in the circle tonight," Letestu said. "We talked about winning draws. We try to make an effort to get a lot of pucks on the net on the power play and it just happened to hit I think it was [Eric] Nystrom's stick on the way through and changed direction on Kari [Lehtonen]."

Columbus finished 2-for-4 on the power play.

"Last week, we kind of switched up our power play. We went to a spread, so it definitely gives us more of a chance to make plays and not force things," Atkinson said. "Past couple games, it's been our success and we've been playing pretty well."

Atkinson's first goal came off a rebound. Dubinsky's initial shot, a wrister from the right circle, was stopped by Kari Lehtonen, who also denied Blake Comeau's wrister from in front of the net. However, the rebound from Comeau's attempt sat in the crease to Lehtonen's right and Atkinson quickly poked it in.

Bobrovsky kept the Blue Jackets in front midway through the second period when he used his pad to deny Eric Cole. Lehtonen kept the Stars within one goal when he stopped Marian Gaborik on a breakaway after Gaborik intercepted a pass from Robidas at the Stars blue line.

Benn made it 1-1, scoring off a deflection with Dallas on the power play. Cole started the rush before dropping the puck to Loui Eriksson. Benn deflected the shot past Bobrovsky to get the Stars even. Dallas had gone on the power play at 7:36 when Johansen was called for a slash on Stars defenseman Jordie Benn.

Columbus took the lead three seconds after Robidas was called for interference. Dubinsky won a draw, sending the puck back to Letestu, whose blast deflected first off Nystrom's stick, then off the crossbar and into the net. Atkinson tapped in the rebound of Jack Johnson's shot for an insurance goal.

Now, the Blue Jackets have their regular-season finale, a game they have to win and hope Detroit loses in Dallas.

"Our players have earned this opportunity. Granted, we still need some help, but it's going to make for a great environment on Saturday in our building," Richards said. "I'm sure the fans are going to be loud and behind us and the players have earned that, and I think the fans have earned it too."

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