Jiri Hudler is having the best season of his 10-year career, and the Calgary Flames forward is savvy enough to know that it doesn't hurt to be a little lucky.
Hudler deflected in a second-period shot to start Calgary's three-goal flurry in a span of 6:49 that helped the Flames beat the Dallas Stars 5-3 on Monday night.
Kris Russell's shot from the left point hit Hudler and Dallas defenceman Alex Galligaskins and trickled past goalie Kari Lehtonen.
That made it 2-2, started the surge that eventually knocked Lehtonen out of the game, boosted the Flames' playoff chances, and damaged Dallas' dwindling post-season hopes.
"When it hit the guy's, I think knee pad, and it went right in, we were happy about it," Hudler said. "Obviously, it was a lucky, lucky bounce. I thought it gave us more life."
After Raphael Diaz and Johnny Gaudreau scored for a 4-2 Flames lead, Stars coach Lindy Ruff pulled Lehtonen.
"I think it was more about just trying to get some new blood there and new excitement. That's just part of being a goalie," Lehtonen said. "Some nights I maybe could have grabbed a couple of those."
Backup goalie Jhonas Enroth stopped all five shots he faced in 22 minutes.
Jason Demers brought Dallas back within a goal at 3:44 of the third period, but Calgary's Mikael Backlund scored into an empty net with 7 seconds left.
Dallas also couldn't score in the second period after taking a 2-1 lead on first-period goals by Jason Spezza and Tyler Seguin.
"They had some chances in the beginning of the second period," Flames coach Bob Hartley said. "(Hiller) kept us in. When we got the second one, I thought we got more life, and we were jumping. We were putting pucks behind them and we were on better D."
The third-place Flames moved three points ahead of Los Angeles in the Pacific Division.
If Calgary makes the playoffs, the reason could be the Flames' play in difficult circumstances.
They improved to 21-5-2 on the road. Following a 5-2 victory at Nashville on Sunday, Calgary improved to 7-2-1 in the second game of back-to-backs.
Flames coach Bob Hartley said the reason was "our conditioning and our commitment."
"Our players are working hard," he said. "We always find a way to get back in games. That speaks volumes about the leadership of this hockey club and the fact that our young players are really listening to our leaders."
The Stars remained six points behind Winnipeg for the Western Conference's final wild card, with only five games left.
"For me, it's not over yet," Ruff said.
Dennis Wideman, Gaudreau and Hudler all had a goal and assist for Calgary.
Jason Spezza had a goal and an assist, Jamie Been had two assists, and Lehtonen allowed four goals on 19 shots. Wideman tied it with a shot from the slot at 9:34 of the first period.
Seguin matched Wideman's power-play goal at 19:26 for the Stars, who outshot Calgary 10-5 in the first.
Diaz gave the Flames their first lead at 12:27 when he skated around Lehtonen on the right side of the net, went behind it, and put the puck in on a wraparound before the goalie could get over to the left side.
Gaudreau scored at 16:14 to knock Lehtonen out of the game.
NOTES: The Stars attempted 100 shots, but missed the net with 32 and had 32 others blocked. ... Diaz's goal was his second in 55 games this season and first since Feb. 2. ... Demers' goal originally was credited to Ryan Garbutt, who hasn't scored in 34 games. ... Calgary played its third game on a five-game trip. ... Hudler, who played in his 600th NHL game, has career highs of 29 goals and 42 assists. ... Stars D Jordie Benn (back injury) sat out his second straight game.
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