DALLAS – Valeri Nichushkin had a goal and an assist on his 21st birthday, and the Dallas Stars stopped a four-game slide with a 4-2 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Friday night.
Vernon Fiddler, Jason Spezza and Colton Sceviour also scored for Dallas, and Kari Lehtonen made 18 saves. Fiddler's short-handed score into an empty net with 20 seconds left was his 100th career goal.
With about a month left in the season, Dallas, Chicago and St. Louis are locked up in a tough race for the Central Division title. The Stars (39-20-7) and Blackhawks (40-21-5) each have 85 points, and the Blues (37-20-9) have 83.
New Jersey has lost seven of nine. Adam Henrique and Devante Smith-Pelly scored for the Devils, and Cory Schneider had 15 saves before leaving at 2:05 of the third due to an injury. Keith Kinkaid made six saves.
New Jersey remained tied for ninth place in the Eastern Conference, five points away from the second wild card.
Nichushkin scored his ninth goal at 8:01 of the first period. He took a pass from Mattias Janmark in the neutral zone, skated down the right side, crossed in front of Schneider and slid the puck into the lower left corner of the net.
The Devils nearly had a tying goal with 2 seconds left in the first. The puck came to Henrique in front. He tried a backhand, but Lehtonen trapped the puck between his left arm and his side.
The teams exchanged goals in a 71-second stretch of the second.
Henrique tied it at 1 with his 23rd goal at 5:14. Lehtonen was out of position with a scramble near the goal, and Henrique flipped a backhand into the upper right corner.
At 6:25, Janmark set up another goal. Spezza redirected Janmark's pass from the left corner past Schneider.
The lead grew to 3-1 at 11:24 when Sceviour deflected in Alex Goligoski's shot from the top of the slot.
Smith-Pelly's goal came with 4:19 to play. He tapped in Damon Severson's pass across the goalmouth.
NOTES: Dallas D John Klingberg left in the first period because of a lower-body injury. ... Stars LW Patrick Sharp (lower body) went on the injured list. To replace him, Dallas recalled Brett Ritchie from Texas of the AHL. Ritchie fought with New Jersey's Adam Larsson in the second period. ... Henrique has four goals in the last three games, including goals that tied and won (in overtime) Thursday's game at Nashville. ... Spezza has 34 points (eight goals, 26 assists) in 34 career games against the Devils. ... Rookie Janmark had not had more than one assist in any of his first 65 games.