DALLAS - Scoring goals hasn't been the problem for the Ottawa Senators - they just haven't been able to keep the puck out of their own net.
They turned in a much better defensive job Friday night. Christoph Schubert and Antoine Vermette scored first-period goals, and the Senators used an improved defensive showing for a 4-2 victory over the Dallas Stars.
Mike Fisher added a power-play goal in the third period and Ray Emery stopped 23 shots for the Senators, who had allowed four or more goals in seven of their previous eight games.
"We were strong in the trenches and battled hard," Ottawa coach John Paddock said. "This was the most urgent game we've played in a while."
Ottawa won its second straight to improve to a Northeast Division-best 39 points, tops in the Eastern Conference. But the Senators had been slumping with a 1-4-3 record in their previous eight games.
"We kind of got in a lull," Fisher said. "Guys weren't playing as well as we knew we could, myself included. It takes time to get on track. I think we're getting our confidence back."
Mike Ribeiro scored his 12th goal of the season for Dallas with 1:49 left to make it 3-2, but the Stars were unable to tie it after pulling goalie Mike Smith for an extra attacker with 90 seconds remaining.
Chris Kelly's empty-netter with 27 seconds left sealed the win for the Senators.
Stars coach Dave Tippett was upset about some officiating decisions that didn't go his team's way, including what he thought should have been a high-sticking call on Ottawa's Daniel Alfredsson against Dallas' Jussi Jokinen with about 40 seconds left.
"We couldn't get a break in everything from calls to bounces around the net," said Tippett, who said Alfredsson's raised stick against Jokinen in the final minute was "blatant."
"We were on our heels most of the night and we couldn't seem to get any momentum," Tippett added.
Niklas Hagman registered his 11th goal on a power play, Brenden Morrow had two assists, and Smith made 17 saves for the Stars, 8-4 in their last 12 games.
Schubert scored a flukey goal at 5:18 of the first period - his fourth - when his flip toward the net from 50 feet got past Smith, who was screened.
"There were two or three big guys in front of me, but I should have found it," Smith said.
Dallas capitalized on a 5-on-3 to tie it 1-1 when Hagman fired home a rebound at 7:32 of the opening period.
The Stars had failed to score a power-play goal in five of their previous six games.
Vermette's outstanding individual effort gave Ottawa a 2-1 lead at 16:29 of the first period when he broke in alone past Dallas defencemen Stephane Robidas and Matt Niskanen and fired his fifth of the season through Smith's pads.
"That works every once in a while," Vermette said. "It was more lucky, I guess."
Fisher added his seventh of the season from the left circle to stretch Ottawa's advantage to 3-1 only 22 seconds after Dallas' Stu Barnes received a double-minor for high-sticking.
Notes: Hagman received a five-minute roughing penalty and a game misconduct with 3:38 left in the second period after he checked Schubert hard into the glass. Schubert seemed woozy and was down for a few minutes before skating slowly to the bench, but was back on the ice during the ensuing power play. ... Out for the Stars were RW Antti Miettinen (groin) and LW Loui Eriksson (shoulder). ... RW Patrick Eaves (shoulder) and D Anton Volchenko (hand) were out for the Senators. ... The Senators held a 6-1 shots edge in a scoreless second period. ... Ottawa C Jason Spezza had a nine-game points streak come to an end.