Updated at: 04/19/2013 12:05 AM
(AP) DALLAS - Cody Eakin, Jamie Benn and Ray Whitney scored goals early in the third period to break open a tie game and help the Dallas Stars cruise to a 5-1 victory over the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday night.
Vernon Fiddler and Erik Cole also found the back of the net and Kari Lehtonen returned from a three-game absence due to a groin injury to stop 37 shots for the Stars, who are 6-1-0 in their last seven games.
Dallas moved into a tie with Detroit for ninth in the Western Conference, trailing Columbus for the eighth and final playoff spot by two points. The Stars have five games remaining, including one against the Blue Jackets in Dallas on April 25 and the finale against Detroit at home on April 27.
Derek Roy, who was traded from Dallas at the trade deadline on April 2, scored for Vancouver, which had a chance to clinch a playoff spot with a win. The Canucks lead the Northwest Division by four points over Minnesota, which was playing San Jose in a late game.
Cory Schneider made 25 saves for the Canucks, who are 5-2-1 in their last eight outings and concluded a season-long five-game road trip with a 2-2-1 mark.
Dallas spotted the Canucks a 1-0 lead, tied it late in the second period and then scored three goals within the first 7:03 of the third. Lehtonen was outstanding in goal along the way.
With the teams tied 1-1 heading into the final period, the Stars’ offensive assault began with Eakin’s seventh of the season just 1:36 into the third. After slipping past Canucks defender Cam Barker at the blue line, Eakin rifled a wrist shot from the high slot that beat Schneider between the pads.
Benn recorded his third goal in the last two games at 4:09 when a botched exchange between Alex Burrows and Keith Ballard at the Vancouver blue line allowed Benn to race in on a breakaway. His perfectly placed wrist shot from the high slot beat Schneider over the blocker for his 11th of the year.
Whitney completed the barrage with his 11th goal at 7:03. Benn, stationed in front, deflected Brenden Dillon’s snap shot from the left point, forcing Schneider to make a strong pad save, but the rebound spit out to the left of the crease, where a wide-open Whitney popped it over his pad and in.
The Canucks nearly got one back with 4:52 remaining when Zack Kassian’s wrist shot from the right faceoff circle beat Lehtonen past the glove but pinged off the right post.
Dallas capped off the triumph with Cole’s power play goal with 1:42 left, coming off a wrist shot from the slot that beat Schneider past the blocker, just inside the left post.
Roy opened the scoring 6:38 into the second period with his second goal in eight games with the Canucks. He chased down a loose puck in the Dallas zone, blowing past Stars blue-liner Alex Goligoski in the process, and then made a wide move to his backhand before lifting the puck past Lehtonen.
Vancouver had been controlling the second period, outshooting the Stars 10-1 by the halfway point, but Maxim Lapierre’s interference penalty at 10:03 put Dallas on the power play and 6 seconds after the penalty expired, Fiddler notched his fourth of the year. Following a scramble in front, Eric Nystrom batted the bouncing puck over to a wide-open Fiddler at the right side of the slot for a quick one-timer past Schneider at 12:09.
Dallas surged with the momentum and nearly took the lead at 15:32 after Barker’s turnover set up Ryan Garbutt for a point-blank one-timer, but Schneider made a brilliant glove save.
On another power play in the closing seconds of the period, the Stars almost got one with 5.4 seconds remaining. Eakin’s wrist shot from the high slot clanked off the right goal post, then pinballed off Alex Edler’s back and bounced back toward the goal line, but Andrew Alberts knifed his stick along the line, knocking it back under Schneider. A mad scramble ensued and Cole managed to slide it home, but the referee had started to blow the whistle before he shot it, nullifying the goal.
NOTES: Vancouver D Kevin Bieksa missed his second game in a row with a groin injury, while fellow blue-liner Christopher Tanev missed his sixth straight with a leg ailment. ... Dallas rookie RW Alex Chiasson, who scored six goals and an assist in his first seven NHL contests after his recall from AHL Texas, sat out due to a shoulder injury. He is listed as day to day. ... The Stars honored former D Sergei Zubov for being part of their 20th anniversary all-time team. Zubov, who played in Dallas from 1996-2009, was a key part of the franchise’s 1999 Stanley Cup team.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)