EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) – A win over the also-ran Edmonton Oilers turned into a huge upswing in the standings for the Dallas Stars.
Michael Ryder scored two goals and added an assist to lift the Stars over the Oilers 3-1 on Wednesday night.
Mike Ribeiro also scored and had two assists for the Stars (42-30-5), who moved back atop the tight Pacific Division. Dallas has a one-point lead over Los Angeles and San Jose, and a two-point edge over Phoenix. Each team has five games remaining.
The Stars jumped from seventh place to third in the Western Conference standings.
“Every point is so valuable the way things sit right now,” Dallas defenseman Sheldon Souray said. “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.
“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.”
Kari Lehtonen was sharp for the Stars with 31 saves.
“It was a big two points for us,” 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.”
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 had the lone goal for the Oilers (31-37-9), who were 5-0-2 in their previous seven games.
“We kind of fell into their trap,” Oilers coach Tom Renney said. “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.”
Dallas swept the four-game season series from the Oilers, who are ahead of only Columbus in the West. When asked if the Stars were the one team that had Edmonton’s number this season, Renney responded with a laugh.
“We only have one?” he said. “That’s awesome. We are improving.”
Edmonton came close to going ahead early, just eight minutes in, on a short-handed 2-on-1 break, but Lehtonen came across to make a kick pad save on Nick Schultz.
Dallas took a 1-0 lead 11:43 in when Ryder sped around Jeff Petry and chipped the puck over the stick of diving goalie Devan Dubnyk for his 34th goal.
The Stars took a two-goal lead 5:05 into the second period. Ribeiro took a return pass from Loui Eriksson on a 2-on-1 rush and banked the puck into the net off of Dubnyk.
Ryder had a breakaway chance, but Dubnyk made a stick save to keep it at 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 at 4:11 of the third when Ryder finished a tic-tac-toe passing play at the side of the net for his second goal of the game.
Edmonton broke Lehtonen’s bid for his fifth shutout of the season at 8:21. Corey Potter’s shot went wide but came off the boards to Hemsky at the other side of the net, and he scored into a wide-open goal.
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