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Playoff Pulse: Stars move into seventh in West

by Brian Compton
The Dallas Stars continued their playoff push Sunday and created some much-needed space between themselves and ninth place.

Loui Eriksson had a goal and an assist and Jamie Benn tallied the game-deciding goal in the shootout as the Stars earned a 3-2 win against the host Calgary Flames on Sunday night at Scotiabank Saddledome.

Kari Lehtonen made 36 saves for the Stars, who moved into seventh place in the Western Conference and three points ahead of ninth-place Los Angeles, which was idle Sunday.

The two points give the Stars 75, two ahead of San Jose, which sits alone in eighth place after Sunday's action.

With three games on the schedule Monday, here's a look at how the races in each conference shape up after Sunday's contests:


Division leaders:

New York Rangers (91 points after Sunday's 4-3 win against Boston) didn't have captain Ryan Callahan back in the lineup, but still found a way to beat the second-place Bruins at Madison Square Garden and extended their lead in the East to 12 points. The Blueshirts will be in New Jersey on Tuesday.

Boston (79 points after a 4-3 loss to the New York Rangers) saw another two points get away as they came up short at MSG. The Bruins are in Toronto on Tuesday night.

Florida (74 points after Sunday's 4-2 win against Ottawa) rallied from an early 2-0 deficit to beat the Sens in regulation at the BankAtlantic Center. Now four points ahead of Winnipeg in the Southeast Division, the Panthers will visit Philadelphia on Thursday.

The next five:

Pittsburgh (81 points) was idle Sunday. Winners of five in a row, the Penguins will host Phoenix at the Consol Energy Center on Monday night.

Philadelphia (79 points after Sunday's 1-0 win at Washington) got a second-period tally from Eric Wellwood and 34 saves from Ilya Bryzgalov and blanked the Caps at the Verizon Center. Philadelphia, which is now also without defensemen Kimmo Timonen and Andrej Meszaros due to lower-body injuries, begins a two-game homestand on Tuesday night against Detroit.

New Jersey (77 points after Sunday's 1-0 loss to the New York Islanders) didn't create many chances in the first two periods and couldn't find the equalizer in the third in a loss to the Isles at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. The Devils will host the Rangers on Tuesday night.

Ottawa (76 points after Sunday's 4-2 loss at Florida) began a two-game swing through the state of Florida by jumping out to a 2-0 lead, only to lose to the host Panthers. Ottawa's trip continues on Tuesday at Tampa Bay.

Winnipeg (70 points) did not play Monday, but lost ground in the Southeast race thanks to Florida's win against Ottawa. Still a point up on Washington, the Jets host the Buffalo Sabres on Monday night (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN in the U.S.).

On the outside looking in:

Washington (69 points after Sunday's 1-0 loss to Philadelphia) failed to rebound after a poor showing against New Jersey on Friday as Ilya Bryzgalov stopped 34 shots to hand the Caps their second straight shutout. The search for offense continues Tuesday night against Carolina at the Verizon Center.

Tampa Bay (68 points) was idle Sunday. The Lightning, who have won four in a row, host Ottawa on Tuesday.

Buffalo (68 points) was also off Sunday. Winners of three straight, the Sabres' road trip continues Monday night at Winnipeg (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN in the U.S.).

Toronto (67 points) did not play Sunday, but underwent their first practice under new coach Randy Carlyle. The Leafs are off until Tuesday, when they begin a stretch of four tough games in six nights by hosting Boston.


Division leaders:

Vancouver (90 points) did not play Sunday. The Canucks return to action Tuesday night against the Dallas Stars at Rogers Arena.

St. Louis (89 points) was idle Sunday. The Blues -- who have one more regulation victory than Detroit -- will host Chicago on Tuesday night at the Scottrade Center.

Phoenix (75 points) did not play Sunday. The Coyotes will visit Pittsburgh on Monday night.

The next five:

Detroit (89 points after Sunday's 2-1 loss to Chicago) was already without defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom (ankle) and center Pavel Datsyuk (knee) when Chicago arrived at Joe Louis Arena. During the game, the Wings lost goalie Jimmy Howard to a lower-body injury and defenseman Jakub Kindl (upper body) in a loss to the Blackhawks. Still one point behind the Canucks and now behind the Blues, the Wings are in Philadelphia on Tuesday.

Nashville (83 points) did not play Sunday. The Preds face the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday at Bridgestone Arena.

Chicago (79 points after Sunday's 2-1 win at Detroit) received another solid performance from Ray Emery and came up with two huge points against the host Red Wings. Still without captain Jonathan Toews, the Blackhawks will visit St. Louis on Tuesday.

Dallas (75 points after Sunday's 3-2 shootout win at Calgary) created some distance between itself and the outside of the playoff picture with a big shootout win against the Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome. Now three points up on the ninth-place Kings and two ahead of eighth-place San Jose, the Stars are in Vancouver on Tuesday.

San Jose (73 points) did not play Sunday, but now finds itself alone in eighth place thanks to Dallas' win at Calgary. The Sharks will host Edmonton on Tuesday.

On the outside looking in:

Los Angeles (72 points) was idle Sunday. L.A. begins a stretch of four games in six nights on the road Tuesday night at Nashville.

Colorado (72 points after Sunday's 2-0 win against Minnesota) pulled even in the points department with Los Angeles (the Kings have two games in hand) as it blanked the Wild at the Xcel Energy Center. The Avs and Wild conclude their home-and-home series Tuesday at the Pepsi Center.

Calgary (70 points after Sunday's 3-2 shootout loss to Dallas) sure could have used two points but settled for one in a shootout loss on home ice against the Stars. The Flames' homestand continues Tuesday night against Montreal.

Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL
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