The victory – the second straight for the Stars – pulled them to within two points of both eighth place Chicago, which lost 2-1 in overtime at Montreal, and seventh place Anaheim, which was idle. All three teams have three games remaining.
“It goes without saying this was a huge win,” said Stars coach Marc Crawford. “It keeps us alive. It keeps our momentum moving forward. And now we start our preparation for the next game against Colorado almost immediately. You can savor these victories, but not for very long.”
The Stars play their final home game of the regular season Thursday against Colorado and then play at Colorado on Friday and at Minnesota on Sunday.
“Let’s be realists here, we need points,” said Stars forward Steve Ott. “For us to stick in his race it’s definitely not going to be easy and it wasn’t tonight. We need to continue to find ways to win those games.”
The Stars got an early power play goal from Ott, who tipped in a Brad Richards shot from the point 5:00 into the game. The Stars kept the Blue Jackets off the scoreboard the rest of the way and then padded their lead with empty net goals by Loui Eriksson and Brenden Morrow.
Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen, making his 20th straight start, stopped 23 shots for his third shutout of the season.
“It's always nice when you don't let any goals in, especially in a situation like this one where you have to win,” Lehtonen said. “That was good that I was able to do my part and the guys did their part and that usually equals two points.”
But it was a tough two points. After falling behind early, Columbus made a strong push late in the first period and kept the game tight until the final minute.
“We wanted to get a couple goals early, we weren’t able to and it ended up being a very tight game,” said Lehtonen. “We played very well in our own end. There was not anything crazy going on in front of me. That’s good.”
There was one crazy moment in front of the Lehtonen, when the Blue Jackets got a puck by him with 4:43 remaining that would have tied the game. But the goal was negated because Columbus forward Derek Dorsett pushed Eriksson into Lehtonen.
“I didn’t know what really happened,” said Lehtonen. “The only thing I could see is Loui and I don’t think he is going to run over me on purpose. I knew something happened there and I wasn’t even sure the puck went in there at first. It turned out to be a great call for us.”
Columbus coach Scott Arniel was OK with the call.
“At the time I didn't (agree with the call),” Arniel said. “I thought Eriksson had it in his hand, but (Dorsett) did drive him into the goaltender and the goaltender didn't have an opportunity to make the save.”
*Stars defenseman Mark Fistric returned after missing Sunday’s game with an upper body injury.