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Stars expand division lead as Pacific teams falter

Mar 9, 2012, 12:58 AM EST

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A surreal week got that much better for the Dallas Stars, whose fortunes look far brighter after a promising night of hockey for them – and the opposite for their divisional opponents.

Sharks shootout

Most directly, the Stars won against the San Jose Sharks for the first time this season by prevailing 4-3 via the shootout. It wasn’t easy and there were silver lining moments for San Jose, but the bottom line is that Dallas is strongly entrenched as the division leader.

(The Sharks’ pluses: they generated a charity point, Joe Thornton had three assists, Joe Pavelski scored a goal and Patrick Marleau responded to his pal Jeremy Roenick’s criticisms by finding the net.)

Blown opportunities

The Stars can delight in the fact that the other Pacific Division squads either stayed idle or took a step back too.

Following in the footsteps of the Phoenix Coyotes, the Los Angeles Kings dropped a regulation game to the lowly Columbus Blue Jackets. It’s probably not melodramatic to say that the Kings may very well remember that loss with significant regret.

Speaking of the Coyotes, Dave Tippett’s team dropped another should-be-victory; this time, it was against the Minnesota Wild. The only bright side is that they salvaged a point, losing 3-2 in a shootout.

Least importantly, the Anaheim Ducks also lost in regulation as the St. Louis Blues prevailed 3-1.

Pacific outlook

Want a view of the division now that the night is over? Check out the standings, with the teams’ current Western spots in parenthesis.

Dallas (3): 79 points with 14 games remaining
Phoenix (7): 76 points with 14 GR
San Jose (8): 75 points with 16 GR
Los Angeles (9): 74 points with 15 GR
Anaheim (12): 68 points with 14 GR

As you can see, just about every Pacific team seems to have a shot at the division title or at least a playoff spot, with the likely exception of the Ducks. The Stars have certainly distanced themselves with tonight’s action, but it’s still likely to be a photo finish – and a thriller in that.

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