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Stars move into fifth in West

by Brian Compton
A 6-2 loss at Chicago on Saturday night left Dallas Stars coach Dave Tippett fuming. He expected more out of his club, given just how tight the Western Conference standings are.

"We didn't have enough players who thought this game needed the urgency it did to get the job done," Tippett said after the loss.

Judging by how his players performed on Monday night, it seems as if the Stars got the message.

Brad Richards scored 27 seconds into the game and Marty Turco stopped 41 shots through regulation and overtime before going 3-for-3 in the shootout as Dallas edged the Columbus Blue Jackets by a 3-2 score at Nationwide Arena.

Richards took a hard check midway through the second period and skated to the bench holding his right wrist. He didn't return. Tippett said he would be evaluated Tuesday.

With the victory, Dallas moved into sole possession of fifth place in the Western Conference. Fourth and ninth place are separated by just 9 points.

"I guarantee you we're going to come down to that last week (of the season) and you're going to be thinking about points you could have had," Tippett said.

James Neal scored the lone goal in the shootout, as he improved to 6-for-9 in 2008-09. Turco denied Columbus captain Rick Nash in the final round and is now 14-1-2 lifetime against the Blue Jackets. Dallas and Columbus entered Monday night tied with the Anaheim Ducks with 61 points.

"This race has the chance of being one of the all-time tightest," Turco said. "If you look at (the teams in positions) five through 15, everyone has a sniff. The teams that can focus on themselves and play well down the stretch, get the special teams a-rockin' and get good goaltending, those teams are going to have the best chance."

R.J. Umberger gave Columbus a chance on Monday night, as he scored twice in the second period for his 18th and 19th goals of the season. The Blue Jackets held a 2-1 lead until Loui Eriksson tied the game at 12:56 of the second.

Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock raved about Umberger afterwards.

"I think he's trying to carry the team right now," Hitchcock said of Umberger. "I think he's doing a hell of a job. He's playing with great speed, he's comfortable playing center ice. He's winning key face-offs. He is an absolute horse out there right now."

Umberger, who helped the Philadelphia Flyers reach the 2008 Eastern Conference Finals, scored his goals just 1:29 apart -- the fastest by one player in Blue Jackets' history. The first came on the power play at the 6:17 mark.

"You've got to be gritty," Umberger said. "At this time of year, you've got to pay the price. You've got to get in the goalie's face to score goals in this League. That's good for me to be there and give a spark to the team in front of the net."

Turco faced a season-high 43 shots, including a 20-shot assault in the second period.

"Turcs was great today," Eriksson said. "He's been amazing. To (stop) the three shots in the shootout, too, that's what we want from him. He's been incredible."

Neal's shootout goal came in the second round. Columbus goalie Steve Mason was able to deny Mike Ribeiro in Round 1, but Neal was able to slip the puck past the Calder Trophy candidate's glove side, much to the dismay of the 15,006 in the crowd.



"We battled hard," Neal said. "We had a rough one against Chicago a couple of nights ago, and we just wanted to come in here and get the job done. It was obviously a real good game. The standings are so tight and the points are so big. It was a big two points."

The Stars weathered a Blue Jackets' power play in the third and two in the overtime, although the latter lasted only the final eight seconds. Turco turned aside hard shots by Nash and Manny Malhotra, as Dallas improved to 24-4-4 against the Blue Jackets since Columbus joined the League in 2000-01.

"We fought hard," Umberger said. "It was a playoff-type game out there tonight. A shootout loss is sometimes justifiable … it's hard to swallow, but you've got to move on to the next game."

Material from wire services and broadcast media was used in this report.


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