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Stars 5, Capitals 0

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WASHINGTON -- The Dallas Stars are beginning to look like a team destined to find a way into that eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Center Dustin Jeffrey had his first two-goal game with the Stars, center Tyler Seguin and left winger Ray Whitney added even-strength goals and Ryan Garbutt scored short-handed, leading the Stars to a 5-0 win over the Washington Capitals on Tuesday night at the Verizon Center.

Goaltender Kari Lehtonen turned aside all 35 shots he faced for his fourth shutout of the season and 26th of his NHL career.

With the win, the Stars (37-27-11) are now 5-1-0 in their last six games, at least temporarily moving ahead of the Phoenix Coyotes and into the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference.

The Coyotes, who are facing the Winnipeg Jets late Tuesday night, now trail the Wild by one point. After Tuesday night's action, the Wild have seven games remaining and the Coyotes six.

The Capitals' playoff hopes are diminishing by the day. They have gone 1-2-3 in their last six games and have fallen three points behind the Detroit Red Wings and two behind the Columbus Blue Jackets in their quest for a wild-card berth in the Eastern Conference.

If the Caps fail to reach the postseason, it will be for the first time in seven years.

Washington right winger Alex Ovechkin, the NHL's leading goal scorer, was held without an even-strength goal for the 16th straight game, the longest stretch of his career.

The Stars opened the scoring 15:08 into the game when left winger Jamie Benn caught a puck out of the air, dropped it to his feet and passed to Seguin at the side of the net for his team-high 33rd goal of the season.

The two teams played cautiously until midway through the second period when the Stars scored twice in a span of 34 seconds.

The play of the night came at 9:16 of the second when Washington defensemen Mike Green and John Erskine got caught flat-footed in their neutral zone, allowing right winger Alex Chiasson and Whitney to get behind them. Stars defenseman Alex Goligoski snapped a 70-foot stretch pass to Chiasson, creating a two-on-none against Washington goalie Jaroslav Halak.

Chiasson passed to Whitney, who waited for Halak to commit, then walked around him for his ninth goal of the season.

The Stars scored on their next shift when Jeffrey crashed the net, outmuscling four Capitals to bang in a Chiasson rebound. That was enough for Washington coach Adam Oates to pull Halak (20 saves on 23 shots) and replace him with Braden Holtby.

The Stars made it 4-0 on Jeffrey's second goal of the game late in the third period and Garbutt finished off the Caps with his 16th goal of the season and second while short-handed.

NOTES: Washington D Jack Hillen and D Patrick Wey sat out Tuesday night's game with upper-body injuries. Hillen was injured March 25 when he collided with Capitals RW Alex Ovechkin. Wey was hurt when he was dropped by a Rich Clune uppercut during a Sunday night fight in Nashville. Veteran D John Erskine and rookie D Julien Brouillette took their places in the lineup and formed a third defensive pairing. ... Two Stars began their NHL careers in Washington. Stars D Sergei Gonchar, 39, was drafted by the Caps in the first round (14th overall) in 1992 and spent nine-plus seasons in DC, logging 416 points in 654 games. Stars C Cody Eakin, 22, was taken by the Caps in the third round (85th overall) in 2009, producing eight points in 30 games for the Capitals. ... The U.S. women's Olympic hockey team, which won a silver medal in the Sochi Games, was in attendance and received a standing ovation. ... The Stars continue their four-game road trip on Thursday night at Carolina, followed by a weekend visit to Tampa Bay and Florida. The Capitals begin a four-game road trip on Friday night in New Jersey, followed by visits to the New York Islanders, the St. Louis Blues and the Carolina Hurricanes.
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