DALLAS, TX - MARCH 10: Goalie Kari Lehtonen #32 of the Dallas Stars stops a shot on goal as Bobby Ryan #9 of the Anaheim Ducks looks for the rebound while Mark Fistric #28 of the Dallas Stars defends during the second period of a hockey game at the American Airlines Center on March 10, 2012 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Brandon Wade/Getty Images)

Ryder, Lehtonen Lead Stars To 3-1 Win, Retake Division Lead

Michael Ryder scores two goals and Kari Lehtonen makes huge saves as the Stars win 3-1 and take back the division lead.

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2012 NHL Western Conference Standings: Stars Back Atop Pacific Division, For Now

The Dallas Stars have once again vaulted from the edge of playoff contention to a comfortable third place, thanks to a 3-1 win at Edmonton on Wednesday night. Dallas' 89 points return them the slim Pacific Division lead, ahead of Los Angeles and San Jose, both with 88 points, and both occupying the last two playoff slots in the West, with Phoenix right behind them at 87 points.

The bad news for the Stars is they have the toughest road left - after the win over the Oilers, Dallas has all of its games remaining against playoff teams, including a two-game stretch vs. San Jose that could decide the Pacific, as well as Vancouver, Nashville and top seeded St. Louis.

Western Standings

GP W-L-OT Pts
St. Louis Blues 77 48-20-9 105
Vancouver Canucks 77 47-21-9 103
Dallas Stars 77 42-30-5 89
Detroit Red Wings 77 46-26-5 97
Nashville Predators 77 44-25-8 96
Chicago Blackhawks 77 42-26-9 93
Los Angeles Kings 77 38-27-12 88
San Jose Sharks 77 39-28-10 88
Phoenix Coyotes 77 37-27-13 87
Colorado Avalanche 79 40-33-6 86
Calgary Flames 78 35-28-15 85
Anaheim Ducks 77 33-33-11 77
Minnesota Wild 76 31-35-10 72
Edmonton Oilers 77 31-37-9 71
Columbus Blue Jackets 77 25-45-7 57

For more on the Dallas Stars, check out Defending Big D and SB Nation's NHL page.

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That's A Wrap: Ryder Scores Twice, Stars Win 3-1

Dallas needed to come out in the third period and just play some solid hockey to see this game through. They got a little bit of offense to make that task a bit easier.

Michael Ryder continues his torrential goal scoring pace this season with his second goal of the game just five minutes into the period. Loui Eriksson put in some great work along the boards to win the puck and then he and Mike Ribeiro combined on great passing to a dive cutting Ryder. Ryder had an easy tap in for a goal. Kari Lehtonen had made an incredible save just before that goal as well so great defense was followed by great offense.

The Oilers finally scored their first (and only) goal of the game with 11 minutes left in the game. Kari Lehtonen took a puck to the throat on a Ryan Smyth shot and was stunned for a while. The play continued and ended up on a wide open (and I mean wiiiiide open) Ales Hemsky's stick. Hemsky had an open net to shoot while Lehtonen was still hunched over and had the cheapest of goals.

Dallas managed to get through the rest of the period without any incident. Dallas played a good game but there were big signs of weakness. The defense continues to not cover anyone and they generate some bad giveaways. Edmonton could have easily had four goals if Lehtonen hadn't made some amazing saves.

One small note. The Stars power play is horrendous. It's bad enough to make people vomit and keel over.

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2nd Intermission Report: Stars 2 - Oilers 0

Dallas tallied goal number two five minutes into the period and it was a pretty one. Mike Ribeiro and Loui Eriksson had a two-on-one and through a series of great passes, Ribeiro had pretty much an open net to shoot at. Each guy made a pass that threaded the needle and Ribs didn't miss to put the Stars up 2-0.

The Stars got a chance to get their penalty kill back on track (they let in three power play goals against the Flames). The Oilers have the second best power play in the league and they looked mighty dangerous on both of their chances, but Lehtonen was able to make the stops and had some help from Stephane Robidas. Robidas made a crucial breakup of a pass that was heading towards a wide open forward on the backstep on the Oilers first chance.

Aside from the power play chances, the Oilers didn't get a whole lot on net. The defense is doing well so far in this game.

Reilly Smith found a lot less time this period. He and his line only received one shift in the period from what I can remember. Penalties had a lot to do with that.

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1st Intermission Report: Stars 1 - Oilers 0

A pretty uneventful period was broken by an amazing play by Michael Ryder at the 11:53 mark. He took an innocent pass from Ribeiro and stick dangled his way to glory for his 34th goal of the season. He turned a couple of defenders inside-out before dangling by Devan Dubnyk and calmly putting the puck over him.

Dallas had two power plays in this period but they were ineffective as usual. Edmonton actually had the best chance with a two-on-one breakaway early in the period. Kari Lehtonen was able to make a sliding save to keep the game scoreless.

Reilly Smith got his first NHL action and immediately made a contribution as he had a shot on goal in his very first shift. He looked good with the ice time that he had in the first period and I would hope that he gets more time as the game goes on.

The Stars look okay this period, nothing more, nothing less. There have been some defensive breakdowns, a couple by Sheldon Souray, that led to great chances for the Oilers but Lehtonen was there to save the day.

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Stars Vs. Oilers: Game Preview, TV Info And More

The Stars need to complete a season sweep of the Oilers to keep pace in a Pacific Division race that's coming down to the wire.

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