Stars Fall Into 9th Place in West

The Canucks' franchise-record, home-winning streak not only got them back into the Western Conference playoff race, it could also provide a postseason advantage.

Ryan Kesler and Mats Sundin each had a goal and an assist, and the Canucks beat the Dallas Stars 4-2 on Tuesday night for their 10th straight home win.

"No other team has done it wearing a Canucks sweater so it's good to have your name in the record book," said Kesler, who has seven points during a four-game streak. "Ten in a row on home ice, that's not easy to do nowadays."

It's even more remarkable considering it was preceded by a nine-game, home-losing streak. Vancouver was 0-6-3 at GM Place through Jan. 31 and looking like a playoff long shot. But the Canucks haven't lost at home since.

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They broke the mark set in 1992, and have gone 15-3-1 overall to move into a tie with slumping Chicago for fourth place in the tight Western Conference. Now the Canucks have a shot at home-ice advantage in the first playoff round.

"We want to establish something good at home," said Roberto Luongo, who finished with 24 saves. "It's a good momentum builder."

Steve Ott pulled the Stars within a goal eight minutes into the third, but Steve Bernier restored the two-goal cushion with 5 minutes left, finishing off a tic-tac-toe passing play on a 4-on-2 rush after a Dallas defender broke his stick.

Stephane Robidas also scored, and Marty Turco stopped 21 shots as the injury-riddled Stars had a two-game winning streak snapped. Dallas dropped into a ninth-place tie with Minnesota, one point behind Edmonton and Nashville in the West.

"It s tough," said Ott, who added an assist to his career-best 16th goal. "We can't afford right now to come away empty-handed in the points department."

Daniel Sedin scored the other goal for the Canucks, who closed within three points of Calgary for the Northwest Division lead and the No. 3 playoff seed.

"You do glance at the standings once in a while and realize we're getting close to teams ahead of us, so we've just got to keep plugging away," Luongo said.

Vancouver converted both power-play opportunities, and the Stars went 1-for-6 with the man advantage, including a failed 5-on-3 edge early in the third.

"We got power plays, and instead of using that to generate momentum it's taking momentum away from us," coach Dave Tippett said of the Stars' power play that ranks second to last in the NHL on the road (13.5 percent).

The Stars did get one, as Sedin and Robidas traded power-play goals in the first period. Sedin ended a 10-game goal drought when his no-look backhand pass through the crease bounced in off Robidas as he tried to block the shot.

The Dallas defenseman got a break 10 minutes later with a fluttering one-timer from the point that somehow went through a crowd in front, by Luongo, off the post, and in.

The Stars got top-six forward Jere Lehtinen back after he missed six games due to an upper-body injury, but are still missing forwards Brad Richards (broken wrist), Fabian Brunnstrom (upper body), Toby Peterson (foot) and Mark Parrish (head).

"Our power play has definitely struggled," Ott said. "You can say what you want when you've got key guys out the lineup like Richards, but still we have to find a way and get this road power play clicking, especially if we want to stick around for playoff time and do something with it in the playoffs, as well."

Kesler put the Canucks ahead 7 minutes into the second period and helped set up Sundin's insurance goal on the power play less than 4 minutes later.

"He was our most effective player," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said of Kesler.

Sundin, who also earned the second assist on Kesler's goal, one-timed a shot under Turco for his eighth point in eight games. Notes: Richards, third in Stars scoring with 48 points despite missing 14 games because of a broken wrist, practiced for the first time at the game-day skate Tuesday. ... Tippett said Richards could return by the end of the week, ahead of the original 6-to-8 week timeline. ... Brunnstrom also practiced Tuesday and could be among the lineup changes Tippett indicated he'd make for Wednesday's game in Calgary. ... Turco came in with a 17-4-1 record and 1.72 goals-against average in his career against the Canucks. ... Dallas C Mike Ribiero extended his point streak to eight games (four goals, seven assists) with an assist on Ott's goal.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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