The Dallas Stars moved one step closer to making the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
Jamie Benn scored the game-deciding goal in a shootout to lead Dallas to a 3-2 win over the Calgary Flames on Sunday.
“We're just playing simple hockey and coming together as a group to win these games and that's what we need right now,” Benn said. “Definitely coming down the stretch, we need as many points as we can get and we're getting them.”
Loui Eriksson had a goal and an assist in regulation and also scored in the shootout for the Stars (35-26-5), who have gone 6-0-1 in their past seven games to climb to seventh spot in the Western Conference.
“We haven't been in the playoffs for a couple years,” Eriksson said. “Definitely we need to step up here. We've been playing really well lately. It's so tight in the conference. Every game is huge for us. We need to win every one here, so we have to keep going.”
Michael Ryder also scored for Dallas. Kari Lehtonen made 36 saves in the Stars' net to record his 26th win of the season and he drew an assist on Eriksson's short-handed goal in the second period.
“It was an exciting game and more work than last game against the Oilers,” said Lehtonen, who made 19 saves Friday night in a 3-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers.
Lehtonen gave credit to the Flames (29-25-12) for pushing hard to tie the game to force overtime and the shootout.
“These guys came really hard and there was a lot on the line,” he said. “That just makes it more exciting. When you're able to help your team it feels good. Hopefully we can keep doing that.”
Curtis Glencross and Jarome Iginla scored for the Flames, who have lost two straight and three of their past four.
“It hasn't been easy losing those shootout games,” said Iginla in regards to Calgary's 3-7 record in shootouts this season. “I honestly do feel they can go either way. We need to keep going, moving forward and work on getting the next game.”
By gaining a point, the Flames are now three points behind the San Jose Sharks (33-24-7) for the eighth and final playoff berth in the Western Conference.
“We've been walking a fine line,” said defenceman Cory Sarich. “We've done a lot of really good things, but then it's the couple mistakes that bite you and then it's kind of back to square one. We're trying our best to make sure we tip on the right side of that line. It's been a bit of a struggle.”
Miikka Kiprusoff, who received a rare night off on Friday when Leland Irving was in net for Calgary's 3-2 road loss to the Anaheim Ducks, stopped 38 shots.
Just past the four minute mark of the opening frame, the line of Iginla, Alex Tanguay and Michael Cammalleri hemmed the Stars into their own zone and produced several good scoring chances. Lehtonen turned aside consecutive shots by Tanguay, Sarich, Cammalleri and Iginla to keep the game scoreless.
During a power play for Calgary, Lehtonen then stopped a slapshot off the stick of Iginla and also denied Cammalleri from swatting in the rebound.
At the other end of the ice, Kiprusoff made a nice glove grab to snag a shot by Radek Dvorak.
A short time later, Kiprusoff turned over the puck to Eriksson behind his net. Eriksson sent the puck out to the slot, but Kiprusoff was able to get back into position to deny Mike Ribiero's scoring attempt.
Early in the second period, Calgary forward Lance Bouma cut hard to the net and directed a shot on goal that Lehtonen turned aside. Bouma was then hit hard into the end boards by Dallas defenceman Sheldon Souray. He struggled to get to his feet, immediately went to the dressing room for treatment and didn't return to the game.
Glencross opened the scoring at 7:18 of the second when he tapped in a great behind-the-back feed from linemate David Moss.
With the Flames on a power play, Eriksson took a pass from Steve Ott and skated into the Calgary zone where he deked around Tanguay before lifting a perfect backhand shot over Kiprusoff's blocker and into the net.
“I was planning to make a move on him and it worked real well,” Eriksson said. “It was nice to see that go in.”
Eriksson then set up Ryder for a power-play goal late in the second period to put Dallas up 2-1.
The Flames had a great chance to tie the game early in the third period when Stars defenceman Stephane Robidas fell in the neutral zone to give Iginla a clear-cut breakaway. While Iginla failed to capitalize on the scoring attempt, he had a power-play goal a short time later when he redirected a behind-the-back feed from Cammalleri past Lehtonen.
Early in overtime, Lehtonen turned aside shots by Calgary defencemen Jay Bouwmeester and T.J. Brodie.
Then with Cammalleri in the penalty box for hooking, Kiprusoff made a great glove grab to stop a point shot by Souray. Kiprusoff then slid across his crease to make a chest save to stop a shot off the stick of Ryder.
In the shootout, Benn and Eriksson scored on Kiprusoff, while Lehtonen stopped Jokinen before Tanguay hit the post.
Notes: With forward Blake Comeau out due to an upper-body injury, defenceman Anton Babchuk drew back into Calgary's lineup after missing the past 18 games as a healthy scratch. ... Glencross has scored Calgary's first goal of the game 11 times this season. The Flames have compiled a 3-7-1 record in those games. ... With his goal, Ryder ran his point-scoring streak to five games. He has recorded five goals and two assists in that span. ... The Stars have compiled an 8-0-1 record against Canadian teams and are 10-3 against Northwest Division teams this season.