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Steve Ott has first career hat trick, leading Stars to 5-1 win over Sharks @NHLdotcom

DALLAS - The Dallas Stars might be making playoff plans if they'd played more games the way they did against the San Jose Sharks.

Steve Ott had three goals for his first career hat trick, scoring short-handed early in the first period and adding even-strength and power-play goals in the Stars' 5-1 victory over the Western Conference-leading Sharks on Wednesday night.

Dallas, which kept its slim playoff chances alive, won its final two home games against San Jose by a combined score of 13-3.

"We've got a lot of pride in this dressing room," Ott said. "We might not make the playoffs, or it's pretty unrealistic right now, but to finish with character and finish with pride, I think means more than anything."

Fans littered the ice with baseball caps after Ott struck on the power play in the final minute of the second period to give Dallas a four-goal pad, and the Stars went on to take the season series from the Sharks, 4-2.

"It's obviously a fun night," said Ott, who had two tap-in goals. "It definitely puts a big smile on my face, but I think I was more proud of the sacrifice of my teammates."

Dallas improved to 82 points, seven behind No. 8 Colorado in the Western Conference. The Stars have five games left.

The Stars are trying to avoid missing the playoffs for the second straight season, something that hasn't happened since 1987 and '88 when the franchise was based in Minnesota.

Loui Eriksson put Dallas ahead for good with a first-period goal, Brian Sutherby added a goal, and Marty Turco made 29 saves to help end San Jose's winning streak at four games.

"We've played very well against one of the top teams in the league," Stars coach Marc Crawford said. "We've won a lot of different ways. I thought tonight we played a very, very strong game. We killed penalties well, we had a really good goaltending performance and I thought physically we were very assertive."

San Jose's Evgeni Nabokov gave up five goals on 21 shots in the first two periods before being replaced by Thomas Greiss for the final 20 minutes.

Rookie Logan Couture had a power-play goal for San Jose, which remains atop the Western Conference with 104 points, three better than second-place Chicago.

The Sharks fell into some of the same bad habits which plagued them during an 0-5-1 slump that preceded the four consecutive wins.

"We gave up 2-on-1s, 3-on-2s," San Jose defenceman Dan Boyle said. "Defensively we weren't on the same page. We were poor tonight."

Sharks points leader Joe Thornton missed the game because of a lower-body injury. Thornton also was scratched Sunday against Colorado, breaking a string of 398 consecutive appearances. He's expected to return Friday night at Minnesota.

"Anytime you lose a good player like that, it hurts, but it opens the door for other players," Boyle said.

With teammate Mike Ribiero serving an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, Ott took advantage of a San Jose turnover, beating Nabokov from the slot a 1:45 after the opening faceoff.

But the Sharks capitalized on the same power play with Couture's deflection at 2:46. A video review confirmed that Couture's stick was below crossbar level.

Dallas grabbed a 2-1 edge at 10:20 of the first when Eriksson redirected Brad Richards' centring pass.

Sutherby's rebound at 12:16 of the second period extended Dallas' advantage to 3-1.

Later in the period, Sutherby's pass set up Ott, who skated hard to the net for his second goal of the night at 18:19.

Sutherby absorbed a big hit on the pass that led to Ott's second goal.

"That goal, Sutherby got demolished," Ott said. "He made a play that he knew he was going to get hit. He knew he was in the tracks and I ended up tapping it in."

Ott's power-play goal with 33 seconds left in the second gave him seven goals in his last nine games, matching his career high with 19 on the season.

NOTES: San Jose C Ryane Clowe left midway through the first period with an upper-body injury and did not return. ... The teams met for the third time in 16 days. ... The Sharks opened a four-game trip that will wrap up the road portion of their regular-season schedule. ... Dallas C Mike Modano sat out his ninth straight game following an appendectomy, but is skating in practice and could be back in the lineup by the weekend. ... San Jose has given up five goals or more in four of its last 12 games. ... The Sharks are 7-7-1 since the Olympic break. ... The Stars are 6-8-2 after the break. ... Dallas has nine short-handed goals this season.

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