Stars edge closer to clinching by beating Avalanche 4-2

DALLAS -- Jason Dickinson woke up in the minors. He ended the day with his first NHL goal, helping the Dallas Stars move closer to the Central Division and Western Conference titles.

The 20-year-old center scored in his debut, and the Stars topped the Colorado Avalanche 4-2 on Thursday night.

Dickinson was recalled from Texas of the AHL because of injuries to several Stars forwards, including 30-goal scorers Tyler Seguin and Jason Spezza. The game was scoreless until Dickinson backhanded his first NHL shot past Calvin Pickard at 15:13 of the first period.

"I was waking up, getting ready to go to our second rink in Cedar Park," Dickinson said. "It was exciting to miss that practice. Great morning, great wake-up call, and all-around great day."

When Valeri Nichushkin's pass went to Dickinson in front of Pickard, the rookie had one thought:

"Just don't miss," he said.

With one game remaining for each team, the Stars and St. Louis Blues are tied with 107 points, but Dallas would win a tiebreaker with more regulation and overtime wins. Dallas hosts Nashville and St. Louis hosts Washington, both on Saturday night. Nashville and Eastern Conference champion Washington also are in the playoffs, but can't improve their position.

"We've got one more tough game," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. "We've played here at home, and the game's going to mean a lot to us. I think it's something we've worked hard for all year long."

Colton Sceviour and Jordie Benn scored on the power play in the second period, and Antoine Roussel added an empty-net goal with 3:06 remaining for the Stars. Ales Hemsky and Radek Faksa each had two assists.

"I thought (Dickinson) played well for the first NHL game," Ruff said. "He was a little bit fortunate, but I thought that line gave us some good opportunities. Colton played a real good game for us, scored a real nice goal. He had the puck quite a bit."

Francois Beauchemin and Shawn Matthias scored for Colorado in the third period.

Dallas dominated play in the first two periods, outshooting the Avalanche 15-4 in the first and 11-3 in the second.

"I expect more from our guys," Colorado coach Patrick Roy said. "We had some moments in the third period. It clearly was not enough."

The Avalanche have lost seven of their last eight games, and have been eliminated from playoff contention.

The Stars scored twice after Colorado's Erik Johnson received a major penalty for boarding and a game misconduct at 3:07 of the second. Just 36 seconds later, Sceviour took a pass from Patrick Sharp at the left of the net, moved the puck to his forehand and put it past Pickard.

The teams were skating 5-on-3 when Benn sent a slap shot from the top of the left faceoff circle into the upper right corner of the net at 8:05.

Another cheer went up four minutes later when the video board showed Chicago leading St. Louis 1-0 in the second period. The Blues sent that game into overtime, where they won 2-1.

Beauchemin scored at 10:54 of the third period, 2 seconds after an Avalanche power play expired. Following Roussel's empty-netter, Matthias scored with a minute to play.

Pickard finished with 27 saves, while Kari Lehtonen made 17 for the Stars.

Game notes
In addition to Seguin (Achilles tendon injury) and Spezza (illness), the Stars were without forwards Patrick Eaves (mid-body injury), Mattias Janmark (upper body) and Brett Ritchie (lower body). Dallas did get back D Kris Russell, who had missed seven games because of a foot injury. ... Dallas' four goal scorers have a total of 28 NHL goals this season. ... Roy missed the morning skate because of food poisoning. ... Roussel tied his career high with his 29th point. ... Officially, the Avalanche were 0 for 4 on the power play, making them 2 for 26 in the last 11 games. The Stars have successfully killed 46 of 48 power plays over the last 16 games. ... Colorado's lowest shots total this season and the Stars' lowest total allowed were at Dallas on Jan. 23 in an improbable 3-1 victory for the Avalanche.