DALLAS -- If the Dallas Stars are to end a four-year playoff drought, they probably need to win out. Dallas took the first step toward accomplishing that goal, getting third-period goals from Cody Eakin, Jamie Benn, Ray Whitney and Erik Cole in a 5-1 win over the Vancouver Canucks before 16,571 at American Airlines Center.
The loss kept Vancouver from clinching a playoff spot. The Canucks have been to the postseason in each of the past four years and will get their next chance to clinch on Saturday night against Detroit at Rogers Center.
Dallas moved into a tie with Columbus for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference with 44 points. The Stars entered Thursday with a game in hand over the Red Wings, who were idle. Dallas leapfrogged Detroit, who had been alone in ninth, in the standings with the victory.
In a hard-fought game that was 0-0 after one and 1-1 after two periods, the Stars wasted little time in taking the lead for good in the final frame.
The flurry started at 1:36 of the third when Eakin beat Vancouver goaltender Cory Schneider through the five-hole with a 40-foot wrister for his seventh of the season. Eakin had nearly scored with six seconds left in the second but saw his shot that first struck the right post cleared off the line by Canucks defenseman Andrew Alberts.
Benn then converted a costly Vancouver turnover at their blueline into his 11th goal of the season at 4:09 of the third, beating Schneider top shelf to make it a 3-1 game.
Whitney then tapped in a rebound for his 11th at 7:03 to give the Stars considerable breathing room. Schneider had made a pad save on Benn's attempted tip-in, but Whitney was waiting at the near post and he pounced for the easy tally.
Cole's ninth goal of the season, which came courtesy off a 43-foot wrister with 1:42 remaining and with Dallas on the power play, made it a 5-1 final for the Stars.
Benn and Eakin had a goal and an assist each for Dallas, which also got a 37-save performance in net from Kari Lehtonen, who was seeing his first action since suffering a groin injury in the first period of a 5-1 win over the Kings on April 9.
Derek Roy had the lone goal of the night for the Canucks, who ended their five-game road trip at 2-2-1. Roy broke the deadlock at 6:38 of the second, beating Lehtonen with a 14-foot backhand to make it 1-0.
Roy began the season with Dallas before being traded to Vancouver prior to the NHL trade deadline on April 3. The Canucks center won a one-on-one battle with former Dallas teammate Alex Goligoski in the Stars' end and then dashed up the ice before converting for his sixth goal of the season.
Dallas tied it up at 12:09 of the second when Vernon Fiddler netted his fourth of the season right after the Stars went off the power play. Eric Nystrom's pass from the left faceoff circle deflected off several players before resting at Fiddler's skates and he finished with a 21-foot wrister into the right side of the net to make it 1-1.
The Stars had gone on the power play at 10:03 when Vancouver's Maxim Lapierre was called for interference on Dallas' Erik Cole.
Schneider stopped 25 of the 30 shots he faced in a losing effort for the Canucks.
Dallas plays on Friday night in St. Louis, the Stars' final back-to-back of the regular season.
NOTES: Before the opening faceoff, Dallas honored former defenseman Sergei Zubov for his inclusion on the Stars' 20th Anniversary Team. Zubov, who now works in the front office of the St. Louis Blues, spent 12 seasons in Dallas and was a member of the Stars' 1999 Stanley Cup championship team. ... Defenseman Derek Joslin, who was recalled from the American Hockey League on Wednesday, and winger Tom Sestito were both healthy scratches for Vancouver. Defenseman Jordie Benn was Dallas' lone healthy scratch.
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