Antoine Roussel scored the go-ahead goal early in the third period, Kari Lehtonen stopped 26 shots and the Dallas Stars beat the Phoenix Coyotes 3-1 on Tuesday night in a key victory for their playoff hopes.
Shawn Horcoff also scored and Ryan Garbutt added an empty-netter for the Stars, who won their second straight game and moved within one point of Phoenix and two of Vancouver, which holds the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference.
Antoine Vermette scored his eighth goal in nine games and Mike Smith made 37 saves for the sluggish Coyotes, who were thoroughly outplayed in the final two periods.
Tied at 1 entering the third period despite a 31-18 edge in shots, the Stars took advantage of a bad line change and Kyle Chipchura turnover at center ice. The sequence ended with Roussel's wrist shot from between the circles that beat Smith on the glove side at 3:25 for his ninth goal.
That was all the Stars would need in another solid defensive effort three nights after blanking NHL-leading Anaheim 2-0.
With its fifth win in seven games, Dallas struck first as each team entered the final week before the Olympic break looking to separate from the other.
Phoenix sat in ninth place in the West with 62 points and Dallas was 10th with 59. With eight teams going to the playoffs and Vancouver losing at Boston earlier in the evening, Tuesday's meeting and Saturday's rematch in Dallas meant opportunity to create space and clinch the season series.
There was little to distinguish either team. They entered with identical scoring averages (2.82) and save percentages (.909) and equal tendencies for inconsistency. Yet both were coming off impressive wins, with Phoenix knocking off Pittsburgh on Saturday, two days after losing to league-worst Buffalo.
There was also plenty of familiarity. Coyotes coach Dave Tippett once coached Dallas, and several players on each team once played for the other.
Perhaps not surprisingly, there was little to separate the teams in the first period. And while the Stars had better chances early in the second, Vermette continued his hot streak with a breakaway goal midway through the period to put Phoenix ahead.
Vermette won the puck along the boards at center ice and skated in alone, sending a backhander past Lehtonen at 9:18 to make it 1-0. It was Vermette's team-best 21st goal.
Shortly after Vermette nearly scored another breakaway goal while short-handed, and with the Phoenix crowd booing for what it felt should have been a Dallas penalty, the Stars tied it.
Horcoff's no-look backhander from the slot on the power play slipped past Smith with 7:28 left in the second period.
Dallas controlled the final period, with Garbutt's empty-net goal with 26.7 seconds left putting it away.
The Stars improved to 12-2-2 against the Pacific Division, while the Coyotes again failed to win consecutive games for just the second time since mid-December.
NOTES: Vermette's career-best, eight-game point streak matches Shane Doan's for the longest of the season for the Coyotes. ... Vermette (367) and teammate Keith Yandle (359) extended the third- and fourth-longest active consecutive games played streaks in the NHL. ... The fathers of several Stars players are traveling with the team on this trip. Many visited a dude ranch with their sons Monday.