The surging Dallas Stars are getting offensive contributions from all four lines as they continue pushing for their first playoff berth in six years.
It also hasn’t hurt that goaltender Kari Lehtonen is in the midst of one of his best stretches of the season.
The visiting Stars look to win a season-high fourth straight game and continue their dominance over the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday night.
Dallas (37-27-11) is four points behind Minnesota for the Western Conference’s top wild-card spot, in a tight race with Phoenix for the other one and playing like a team determined to reach the postseason for the first time since 2008. It has won five of six, and 11 Stars have recorded goals as Dallas has outscored opponents 16-5 during a three-game win streak.
"We rely heavily on (Tyler) Seguin and (Jamie) Benn and this time of year and moving forward the games are going to get tighter and teams are going to focus in on those two, so you are going to need secondary scoring," winger Ray Whitney told the Stars’ official website after Tuesday’s 5-0 win at Washington. "We’ve been getting it for the last two weeks and that’s going to be big the rest of the way."
Whitney and Ryan Garbutt each scored, Seguin notched his team-leading 33rd goal and Dustin Jeffrey got his first two of the season. Benn assisted on Seguin’s goal but has gone five games without scoring, remaining stuck on 30.
"We have to be able to score up and down our lineup," said Jeffrey, who has shuffled between the minors and Dallas.
Lehtonen came up big again with 35 saves for his fourth shutout of the season, tying a career high, in his seventh start since missing more than a week because of a concussion. He has a 1.67 goals-against average in starting each of Dallas’ last six games.
"I’ve been trying to stay extra calm and wait for players to do their moves," Lehtonen said. "I’ve been fortunate to have a few good games in a row, and hopefully I can keep it going."
Lehtonen made 29 saves while Seguin and Benn each scored in a 4-1 win over the Hurricanes on Feb. 27 in Dallas’ first game after the Olympic break. Those three have regularly frustrated Carolina, which has two wins in the last 11 matchups.
The Stars have outscored the Hurricanes 14-5 during a four-game win streak in the series as Benn has totaled four goals and three assists. Seguin has three goals and an assist in his last four matchups against them, and Lehtonen has a 1.76 GAA in winning his past four starts versus Carolina.
The Hurricanes (33-32-11) haven’t been officially eliminated from playoff contention, but with four teams and six points between them and Columbus for the East’s second wild-card spot, their chances are slim.
They’re not mailing it in, though, winning 4-1 at Pittsburgh on Tuesday to deny the Penguins a chance to clinch the Metropolitan Division.
Rookie Elias Lindholm had the first two-goal game of his career while Eric Staal and Justin Faulk also scored. Anton Khudobin stopped 30 shots, improving to 2-0-1 with a 1.32 GAA in his last three games.
"I thought we kept it simple and kind of slowly frustrated them as it went on and it was a win we needed," Staal said.
Jeff Skinner has four goals and three assists during a six-game point streak. He leads Carolina with 30 goals and has never scored in four career games against Dallas.