While Artem Anisimov has found another level of play, the Blue Jackets are still trying to find how to keep the pressure on as they chase a playoff spot.
Anisimov scored twice, including a late insurance goal, as Columbus held off a third-period Dallas rally for a 4-2 win over the Dallas Stars.
"Right now might be as good as we've seen him play in a Columbus uniform," Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said of Anisimov, who has scored five times in the last four games. "Two huge goals for us, especially the last one with the way the game was going."
Columbus dug in for its third straight win to climb into a tie for seventh with the Rangers in the Eastern Conference.
"Bob's (Sergei Bobrovsky) our last line of defense and it's a great last line to have," Richards said. "But as a young team going forward and playing with leads, a 3-0 lead, that's where you want to continue to go after teams."
The Blue Jackets are vying for only their second postseason appearance since joining the league in 2000.
Columbus scored on the first shot of the game and bolted ahead on first-period goals by Boone Jenner, R.J. Umberger and Anisimov against backup Dan Ellis. Ellis was shaky early in making his first appearance since Feb. 1.
"It's not easy," Dallas coach Lindy Ruff said of his goalie's long layoff. "I kind of felt for him. The first shot got by him and I think that maybe rattled him a little bit."
At the other end, Bobrovsky finished with 31 saves, one on an open shot by Jamie Benn with 5 minutes left with the Blue Jackets clinging to a one-goal lead. Bobrovsky nimbly tracked loose pucks and shots from near the crease all game to improve to 5-0-1 against Dallas.
Defensemen Alex Goligoski and Trevor Daley had goals early in the third period for the Stars. With the loss, Dallas, which had won five of seven, still sits in eighth place in the Western Conference.
Leading 3-0 entering the final period, Columbus seemed in control even though it had been drastically outshot since taking the big lead near the midpoint of the first. But the Stars finally broke through, scoring about two minutes apart.
Goligoski fired home a rebound on the power play from near the crease, his fourth goal and second in as many games after a 48-game drought. Daley followed with his fifth on a redirection from between the circles off a soft point shot by Sergei Gonchar.
"Sometimes you are going to get hit with some adversity," Ruff said of his team's slow start. "We were knocking on the door and we had a couple of good opportunities."
Dallas kept coming, but Anisimov all but ended it with his 18th at 15:53 on a backhander after circling toward the crease from behind the net with Goligoski on his back.
"We wanted to start fast," Umberger said. "We were prepared for a fast game. They get up and down the ice pretty quick. The first period definitely was the reason we won tonight. Bob held the fort for us the rest of the game."
The Blue Jackets benefited from one stick-handling flub after another by Dallas' defensive corps in the first period.
With a fill head of steam, Jenner sent a long snap shot from the left circle into the far corner above Ellis' outstretched glove for his 11th.
Then the miscues. Aaron Rome then swept the puck off Brandon Dubinsky's stick in the slot to a streaking Umberger, who scored his 17th. Just over four minutes later, the Stars' Jordie Benn cleared the puck into traffic to teammate Cody Eakin, who bobbled it back toward the net to Anisimov. The big center turned and sent a backhander past Ellis to make it 3-0.
"He's just stepping up and making big plays," Umberger said of Anisimov. "You can see he's capable, he's confident right now. He's strong on the puck."
The Stars outshot Columbus 12-1 in the second period but didn't have many prime scoring chances other than two by Tyler Seguin on a power play that Bobrovsky smothered.
"We had a good first and the second wasn't our strongest period," Jenner said. "I thought we did a good job in the intermission of regrouping, knowing we still had the lead. I thought we had good desperation in the third."
Notes: The Stars traded injured D Stephane Robidas to the Ducks on Tuesday for a conditional fourth-round pick. ... Columbus played without injured defensemen Fedor Tyutin and Ryan Murray, both out with lower-body injuries. ... Dallas entered 16-5-3 against the Blue Jackets in Nationwide Arena. ... Dallas C Rich Peverley did not play due to an upper-body injury. ... Stars LW Antoine Roussel become the fourth player from France to appear in at least 100 NHL games.