The Dallas Stars easily passed another test as they cruise toward what they hope will be a lengthy playoff run.
Joe Nieuwendyk scored two third-period goals and Ed Belfour made 27 saves for his 44th career shutout as the Stars halted Anaheim's eight-game unbeaten streak with a 4-0 victory over the Mighty Ducks on Friday night.
"We look forward to playing teams like this," said Stars leading scorer Mike Modano, who notched his 29th goal. "We like to be able to shut down teams like that."
The victory, coupled with Calgary's loss to Carolina, clinched a playoff berth for the Stars.
Dallas has much loftier aspirations, however; the Stars will enter the post-season as the favorite to win the Stanley Cup.
"People know it isn't going to be easy against us," Nieuwendyk said. "Right now we're just trying to fine-tune our game."
The Stars played yet another game without the injured Brett Hull and Darryl Sydor, two of their top five scorers. Once again, it didn't matter.
Belfour boosted his record to 30-10-8 with his fourth shutout of the season and he was assisted by strong work from his defense, which kept the Mighty Ducks' dangerous linemates of Teemu Selanne and Paul Kariya scoreless.
Selanne had a club-record point-scoring streak of 17 games ended Friday night, second-longest in the NHL this season.
"Anytime you can come out even or better against them (Selanne and Kariya), you're in good shape," Stars coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We were able to take advantage of a couple of mistakes by them."
Belfour also exchanged punches with Anaheim's Jim McKenzie after McKenzie slashed and cross-checked Belfour with 4:25 to play. In addition to the double-minor, McKenzie also received a 10-minute misconduct.
Modano and Tony Hrkac scored second-period goals, and Nieuwendyk put the game away with his pair of third-period scores for the Sars, 12-1-2 in their last 15 games.
The Stars moved to 30 games over .500 (42-12-10) for the first time in the franchise's 32-year history and improved to an NHL-best 94 points.
Anaheim had been one of the league's hottest teams, going 7-0-1 in its previous eight games before running into the Stars.
"I thought we played well in the first period but we couldn't get anything on the board," said Anaheim coach Craig Hartsburg. "That's why Dallas has 94 points, because they keep persisting. They're a great team and you've got to match that. We keep talking about learning and this is a good team to learn from."
After the scoreless first period, Modano gave the Stars the lead with his team-high 29th goal. Jamie Langenbrunner flipped a backhand pass as Modano skated up the slot and Modano knocked the puck past Anaheim goalie Guy Hebert at 5:09 of the second period.
Hrkac added his ninth of the season at 10:23 on a rebound.
Nieuwendyk extended his point-scoring streak to nine games on a breakaway at 5:12 of the third period, then notched his 20th of the season at 8:34 to extend the lead to 4-0.
Anaheim had an apparent power-play goal by Selanne disallowed with 13:16 to play because Fredrik Olausson of the Mighty Ducks had a skate in the crease.
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