Mrazek gets 3rd shutout, Hurricanes beat Stars 3-0

The Associated Press

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- The hottest team in the NHL is now in playoff position.

Petr Mrazek stopped 33 shots in his third shutout of the season and the Carolina Hurricanes moved into a wild-card playoff spot with a 3-0 win over the Dallas Stars on Saturday night.

Justin Williams and Brock McGinn scored less than four minutes apart in the first period and Mrazek did the rest, turning aside shot after shot. Micheal Ferland added a power-play goal in the third period.

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The Hurricanes improved to 16-5-1 in their last 22 games, the most wins and points in the NHL in that span. With Pittsburgh's loss to Calgary earlier Saturday, Carolina moved into the Eastern Conference's second wild-card spot.

''I think everybody's got their eye on that,'' McGinn said. ''We want to be in the playoffs. Every period and every game is so crucial for us right now and I think we're doing a good job of showing that.''

The Hurricanes are in a playoff spot for the first time this season. They own the NHL's longest playoff drought at nine seasons.

''We don't talk about it, but everyone knows where we're at,'' Carolina coach Rod Brind'Amour said.

Anton Khudobin made 24 saves for the Dallas. The Stars were shut out for the second straight game, after losing 6-0 to Tampa Bay on Thursday.

Carolina started fast and never looked back. After generating a breakaway and a slew of odd-man rushes in the opening minutes, Sebastian Aho fed Williams on a two-on-one to open the scoring 3:48 in.

Just 3:22 later, McGinn made it 2-0 when he got behind two defenders and scored on a backhand shot off a pass from Justin Faulk from the blue line.

''It's difficult for us to come from behind. It's been proven all year,'' Stars coach Jim Montgomery said. ''Anytime we fall behind it's not a good situation for us. It was an opportunity for our big line to step up and unfortunately they got scored against twice in the first period.''

Dallas progressively took control of the possession and began peppering the Hurricanes net, but Mrazek made highlight-reel save after highlight-reel save, turning away the Stars' scoring chances. After one particularly impressive sequence in which he spread out on the ice to rob Andrew Cogliano of an open net off a rebound, Mrazek banged his chest and pumped his fist as play went on.

''I was very fired up at the end of the first period after that save,'' Mrazek said. ''You try and feel it every night but sometimes you have bad bounces early. I felt like this was my game from the start.''

After another stellar save in the second period on Jason Dickinson's tip-in in front of the net, the crowd began chanting Mrazek's name.

Dallas outshot Carolina 33-27, but Mrazek rendered the differential moot.

''He was amazing,'' McGinn said. ''He kept us in there that whole game. He made some unbelievable saves. We really feed off that and it gives our team a lot of energy.''

NOTES: Williams, Aho and Nino Neiderreiter extended their point streaks to four games for Carolina. ... Ferland played his 300th career game. ... Stars F Blake Comeau (upper body injury) was scratched for the second straight game. He is day-to-day. ... Dallas had been shut out just three times all season, before the back-to-back shutouts.

UP NEXT

Stars: Host the Nashville Predators on Tuesday.

Hurricanes: Host the New York Rangers on Tuesday.

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