DALLAS (AP) — Barely tested through the first two periods, Curtis McElhinney was unbeatable when the Dallas Stars picked up their intensity in the third.
McElhinney made 14 of his 24 saves in the final period for an easy 10th career shutout, and the Carolina Hurricanes beat the Stars 3-0 on Saturday for their fifth win in six games.
“It was a great first two periods, really minimized their shots,” McElhinney said. “It was 10 after two. That’s huge against a highly skilled team.”
Stars coach Jim Montgomery didn’t see much skill from his team.
“Carolina skated us right out of the rink,” he said.
Lucas Wallmark and Justin Faulk scored early in the first two periods to support McElhinney’s second shutout of the season and the Hurricanes’ fourth in 10 games, including 3-0 wins in both games of the season series against Dallas.
“(McElhinney’s) just settling back there,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “You just don’t think it’s going to end up in your net. That’s what we need.
Jordan Martinook added an empty-netter with 2:31 to play.
“That was a great game, really, from start to finish,” Brind’Amour said. “Guys dug in. Everybody’s contributing in some form or fashion right now, and that’s obviously what we need to keep going.”
As a result, the Hurricanes, who began the day one point behind Pittsburgh for the second wild card in the Eastern Conference, remained in the thick of the playoff race.
Ben Bishop finished with 28 saves for the Stars, 1-5-1 in their last seven games but still clinging to a Western Conference wild card position with 21 games remaining.
The Stars were coming off Thursday’s win against St. Louis, when they handed the Blues their only loss in the last 13 games.
“The emotional win against St. Louis sometimes takes a taxing toll,” Montgomery said. “It should galvanize you. It’s disappointing.”
Wallmark’s goal came after Greg McKegg outmaneuvered Dallas’ Taylor Fedun with the puck for a 2-on-1 break. McKegg passed across to Wallmark in the right faceoff circle, and he beat Bishop with a snap shot at 3:14 of the first.
Each team had a good scoring chance later in the period, but Carolina’s Justin Williams hit the left goalpost on a 2-on-1 and the Stars’ Jamie Benn had McElhinney out of position on a breakaway but sent a short backhand into the left post.
The Hurricanes extended their lead to 2-0 at 1:01 of the second, with 4 seconds remaining on a 5-on-3 advantage. Faulk sent a snap shot from the top of the right circle to the upper left corner of the net for his second power-play goal in two games.
“(Faulk’s) been snake-bit all year,” Brind’Amour said. “Just lately, the puck’s been going in.”
Dallas’ Radek Faksa appeared to score with 49 seconds remaining in the middle period, but the goal was waved off because of goaltender interference by Blake Comeau.
“It was goalie interference for sure,” Comeau said. “Blake didn’t get pushed, he just couldn’t stop.”
NOTES: After the game, the Stars acquired F Mats Zuccarello from the New York Rangers for two conditional draft picks. … Hurricanes C Jordan Staal returned to the lineup after missing 27 games with a concussion. “I felt better as the game went on, which I was expecting the opposite. Just kind of got in the flow and the legs going a little bit.” …. Bishop played for the first time since Feb. 4 because of an upper-body injury. … Stars RW Alexander Radulov did not play because of an illness. Jason Spezza moved up to the first line with Tyler Seguin and Roope Hintz. RW Valeri Nichushkin, a healthy scratch in five of the previous eight games, took Spezza’s place skating with Mattias Janmark and Jason Dickinson. … D Ben Lovejoy, acquired in a trade with New Jersey, did not play for Dallas. … The Hurricanes clinched the best February record in their 21 seasons in Carolina. They’re 9-3 with one game remaining; the nine wins is also a team record for the shortest month.