NHL

Stars take Pacific division lead with win over Oilers

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The Canadian Press
3/29/2012 1:14:09 AM
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EDMONTON -- A win over non-contending Edmonton turned into a huge swing in the standings for the Dallas Stars.

Michael Ryder scored a pair of goals and added an assist as the Stars beat the Oilers 3-1 on Wednesday.

The victory propelled Dallas past San Jose into the Pacific Division lead, as the Sharks later fell 3-1 to the Anaheim Ducks. That boosted the Stars from seventh to third in the Western Conference standings.

"Every point is so valuable the way things sit right now," said Stars defenceman Sheldon Souray.

"We have a tough road right to the end of the season and hopefully we will be in the mix when the dust settles a week or so from now. It's cliche, but you can only take it one game at a time right now. We've been in third for a while this year and you take one loss and you are in seventh or eighth and battling with teams one point behind you. It's exciting with so much on the line right now."

Mike Ribeiro also scored and had two assists for the Stars (42-30-5).

Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen was sharp for the Stars with 31 saves.

"It was a big two points for us tonight," he said. "Sometimes it is tougher to play against the teams that are already out because they might be more offensive-minded than the ones in the playoff race. Every game is tough right now. We are happy to get these two points and keep going."

With his three-point night, Ryder moved past the 60-point mark for the first time since his rookie season with Montreal in 2003-04.

"I'm just grateful for the opportunity here and for the chance to play on the top line," he said. "We've been working well together. I'm happy to come here and help this team make the playoffs and we are right there now."

Ales Hemsky responded for the Oilers (31-37-9). Edmonton had been on a roll before the loss, going 5-0-2 in its previous seven games.

"We kind of fell into their trap," said Oilers head coach Tom Renney. "We weren't very good in our own end or defensively, which includes the forecheck.

"We needed to stick to the job and get out noses a little dirtier than we did tonight."

Renney was asked if Dallas is the one team that has Edmonton's number, taking all four games of the season series.

"We only have one?" he chuckled. "That's awesome. We are improving."

Edmonton came close to starting off the scoring eight minutes in on a short-handed two-on-one, but Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen came across to make a huge kick pad save on Nick Schultz.

Dallas went up 1-0 12 minutes into the opening period as Ryder sped around Jeff Petry and then chipped the puck over the stick of a diving Devan Dubnyk in net for his 34th of the season.

The Stars took a two-goal lead five minutes into the second period as Ribeiro took the return pass from Loui Eriksson on a two-on-one opportunity and banked the puck off of Dubnyk and into the Edmonton net.

Dallas came looking for more late in the third as Ryder went in on a breakaway, but Dubnyk made a stick save to keep it 2-0 after 40 minutes.

Lehtonen kept the Oilers off the board early in the third, doing the splits to stop Jordan Eberle on a short-handed break.

The Stars made it 3-0 four minutes into the third when a beautiful display of tic-tac-toe passing was converted at the side of the net by Ryder, his second of the game.

Edmonton broke Lehtonen's bid at a fifth shutout this season with just under nine minutes remaining in the third period. Corey Potter's shot went wide but came off the boards to Hemsky at the other side of the net with a wide-open goal to shoot into.

Both teams return to the ice on Friday as the Stars play the third of a four-game road trip in Vancouver while the Oilers play host to the L.A. Kings.

Notes: It was the fourth and final meeting between the two teams this season. The Stars won the series by a combined score of 14-4 and got their first series sweep over the Oilers since the 2007-08 season. ... There were a few changes to the Edmonton lineup as captain Shawn Horcoff returned after leaving their last game early with injury. Rookie F Lennart Petrell and veteran D Andy Sutton also drew back in... F Reilly Smith was able to dress for the game but the Stars were missing several players for the match including F Eric Nystrom, F Radek Dvorak and D Mark Fistric... Stars F Jamie Benn came into the contest with four goals in his previous two games but was kept off the scoresheet on Wednesday... Eriksson had two assists to reach 70 points for the third consecutive season. There are only three NHL players who have currently reached 70 points in the past three seasons --Steven Stamkos, Joe Thornton and Henrik Sedin.

Dallas Stars players celebrate (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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