DALLAS — Kari Lehtonen made 26 saves as the Dallas Stars beat the Phoenix Coyotes 2-1 on Saturday night.
Lehtonen, a Finnish Olympian, received plenty of help from the Stars’ defense and from goals by Ray Whitney and Russian Olympian Valeri Nichushkin.
The victory moved Dallas into the eighth and final playoff position in the Western Conference for the first time this season as the teams headed into the NHL’s Olympic break.
The Stars and Coyotes have identical 27-21-10 records for 64 points, but Dallas holds a tiebreaker over Phoenix.
Dallas limited the Coyotes to 27 shots, 13 in the third period. Lehtonen shut them out until Radim Vrbata scored on a power play with 15 seconds remaining.
Whitney scored just 2:10 into the game. Nichushkin scored at 19:26 of the second period, deflecting in a shot by Trevor Daley.
Dallas took the early lead when Whitney carried the puck into the Phoenix zone along the left side, skated into the slot and sent a wrist shot past Coyotes goalie Mike Smith into the upper right corner of the net.
The Stars ended the first period a man up and put three shots on Smith for a 7-4 edge in shots. One of Dallas’ shots was short-handed, as the Stars made it difficult for the Coyotes to get out of their end.
Midway through the second period, Dallas had two good scoring chances, but Smith gloved a high drive by Sergei Gonchar and stopped a tip-in attempt by Jamie Benn in front of the goal.
Nichushkin deflected Daley’s slap shot from the blue line for the rookie’s 13th goal with 34 second left in the second period for a 1-0 lead.
Phoenix successfully killed five power plays, including Dallas’ 5-on-3 advantage for 2 minutes in the third period.
NOTES: Whitney has seven points (four goals, three assists) in his last seven games against Phoenix. . Coyotes D Derek Morris (upper-body injury) was inactive. He was hurt during Phoenix’s victory over Chicago Friday. C Martin Hanzal, who missed that game because of illness, returned against Dallas. . The Stars entered the game allowing an average of 22.9 shots over the previous 10 games, with no more than 28 in any of those. . Vrbata has scored three goals in the last four games. . Saturday’s game was delayed briefly in the second period when linesman Ryan Galloway was upended in a collision with Whitney along the boards. Galloway stayed in the game. . The public address announcer saluted the five Coyotes and three Stars who will be competing in the Olympics. Smith, a former Stars goalie, received almost as strong an ovation as the Dallas players.