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Stars use big third period to beat Canucks

by Steve Hunt /

DALLAS -- The Dallas Stars didn't let one bad game get them down.

Cody Eakin, Jamie Benn, Ray Whitney and Erik Cole had third-period goals as the Stars prevented the Vancouver Canucks from clinching a playoff spot with a 5-1 victory at American Airlines Center on Thursday night.

The win came three nights after the Stars were beaten 5-2 by the League-leading Chicago Blackhawks on the road.

"The bounce back from the Chicago thing was important, and we got a good one here tonight," Stars coach Glen Gulutzan said. "Now we go on the road and we have to do our thing. We have to play the same way: a north-south game, limit our turnovers and time in our zone, and get pucks to the net."

Kari Lehtonen had 37 saves for Dallas, which moved past the Detroit Red Wings into ninth place in the Western Conference. The Stars and Red Wings have 47 points, two fewer than the eighth-place Columbus Blue Jackets.

After Thursday, the Stars and Red Wings will have two games in hand on Columbus.

"From here on now, we kind of control our own destiny and every game is big for us, so we're ready to give our all and scratch and claw every chance we get, and play our game from here on in," Eakin said.

Vancouver, which finished a five-game road trip at 2-2-1, missed a chance to lock up a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Instead, the Canucks will have to wait until the Red Wings come to Rogers Arena on Saturday night.

"They scored their goal in the second period and I thought we had a number of chances to score," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. "They got some momentum and in the third, they obviously made plays and we didn't. The plays that we didn't make ended up in the back of our net."

In a game that was scoreless after one period and 1-1 after two, Eakin gave Dallas its first lead of the night 1:36 into the third with a wrister from the high slot that beat Canucks goaltender Cory Schneider through the five-hole for his seventh of the season.

Benn added his 11th of the season at 4:09, going top shelf after miscommunication between Vancouver's Keith Ballard and Alexandre Burrows near the Canucks blue line led to a turnover.

"It was kind of just a turnover by them. I maybe got a little bit lucky," Benn said. "I just tried to make a quick shot and it was fortunate enough to go in."

After the game, Burrows took full credit for the miscommunication which led to Benn's goal.

"I took responsibility for it when I told him and he [Ballard] said the same thing," Burrows said. "It's one of those nights that we didn't click there. They made us pay and that was a difference maker in tonight's game."

Whitney put home a rebound at 7:03 for his 11th of the season, and Cole's power-play wrister beat Schneider with 1:42 remaining

"Very frustrating," was how Schneider characterized Vancouver's play in the final period. "It's just happening too much lately and it's all preventable. We're just making casual plays or we're not being hard enough on the puck or hard enough on our plays. We're just giving them looks right down the middle. It's up to me to make some of those saves, to come up with a big stop here and keep it at one or keep it at two and give our team a chance, but that's not the way we want to play the game in the third period."

Except for Derek Roy's goal at 6:38 of the second period, Lehtonen was unbeatable in his first game since leaving in the first period of a 5-1 win against the Los Angeles Kings on April 9 due to a groin injury.

"Real solid," Gulutzan said when asked about Lehtonen's performance. "I thought we did a good job in front of him, too -- even in the first two periods, I felt like we had the better quality chances."

Roy scored against the Stars, who had traded him to the Canucks just prior to the NHL Trade Deadline, beating Lehtonen with a backhander for his sixth of the season.

The Canucks outshot the Stars 12-10 in the first period and had nine of the first 11 shots on goal in the second.

But Dallas tied it at 12:09 second when Vernon Fiddler scored his fourth of the season just six seconds after the Stars' second power play ended. Fiddler fired a wrist shot past Schneider and into the right side of the net after a pass by Eric Nystrom from the left circle deflected in front of the goal and fell to his skates.

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