The Dallas Stars can't ask for much more. They have their second straight Western Conference title, chemistry is good and their backup goaltender is playing well.
Roman Turek recorded his second career shutout by stopping 21 shots as Dallas beat the Nashville Predators 3-0 Sunday night, clinching the conference.
For Turek, it was his first shutout this season after giving up only one goal in six different victories. He also extended his own unbeaten streak to five games (4-0-1).
Turek and Ed Belfour lead the NHL with a team goals-against average of 2.00. Turek improved his record to 14-2-3 by making big saves early in the third period on Nashville's Tom Fitzgerald and Sergei Krivokrasov.
After the Stars lost 5-1 at Anaheim on Friday night with Belfour in goal, Turek said he was happy that they bounced back.
"The guys played a very good game tonight. They blocked lots of shots. Nashville had 21 shots, but maybe only four or five scoring chances," Turek said.
The Predators were sluggish offensively the entire game. They managed only five shots in the first period and four shots on four power plays. Their best chance to score came in the third as Cliff Ronning skated through the defense on a power play but sent his shot wide left.
The victory gave the Stars 104 points through 73 games, which second-place Colorado couldn't match even if the Avalanche win all of their remaining games.
With nine games left, Dallas also remains on pace for the best season in franchise history. The Stars totaled 109 points last season in winning the Presidents' Trophy.
"Our players really wanted to clinch our conference today, and now the schedule is big-time to our advantage," said Dallas coach Ken Hitchcock, who takes his team home for six of their remaining games. We're really looking forward to that."
Nashville coach Barry Trotz is impressed with the Stars.
"They're the most consistent night in and night out. They're not off very often. There's good reason why they've got the best record in the NHL and why they'll win the Presidents' Trophy," he said.
Joe Nieuwendyk gave Dallas all the scoring it would need at 11:46 of the first period as he scored off the rebound of his own miss at the right post.
Derek Plante added an insurance goal with 5.9 seconds left in the second period, his first since being obtained by Dallas from the Buffalo Sabres at the trading deadline. His slap shot from the slot went through the crook in goalie Tomas Vokoun's right arm and leg.
Fitzgerald called Plante's goal deflating.
"At that point, we were still in the game. We were working hard. We were playing with a lot of emotion. It just wasn't enough," he said.
Modano added his 33rd goal on an empty-netter with 7.4 seconds remaining in the game.
Dallas won the season series three games to one, but it was the Stars' first victory by more than one goal over the expansion franchise.
Vokoun, starting in goal with Mike Dunham out with an injured groin, stopped 31 shots for Nashville.
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