AP Sports Writer
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Pekka Rinne made 28 saves for his fifth shutout of the season, Francis Bouillon scored at 4:28 of the third period, and the Nashville Predators beat the Dallas Stars 2-0 on Thursday night to grab back control of their playoff slot with their third win in four games.
With the win and Detroit losing 2-1 to New Jersey, Nashville moved back into fourth in the Western Conference, a point a head of the Red Wings. Now the Predators need only wrap up the regular season Saturday night at Colorado with a win to start the playoffs at home and finish ahead of Detroit for the first time in franchise history.
Patric Hornqvist had an assist and clinched the win with a goal with 2 minutes left.
The Stars lost their fourth straight in being eliminated. The Stars came in ninth and needed at least a point, but the loss allowed Los Angeles and Phoenix to clinch berths and put San Jose on the verge.
Rinne was back in net for Nashville after sitting out Tuesday night in a shootout win against Minnesota, and he got his NHL-leading 43rd victory by stopping 12 shots in the third.
Kari Lehtonen stopped 29 shots in trying to keep Dallas alive. After Hornqvist's goal, Stars coach Glen Gulutzan took his timeout with 1:29 to go, pulled Lehtonen a few seconds later and then got the man advantage when Mike Fisher put the puck over the glass with 55 seconds left.
Dallas played with much more desperation early against Nashville's 25th sellout crowd this season in the Predators' home finale. Nashville even had Ricky Skaggs playing with the house band for bit of a playoff-atmosphere preview, but the Predators wound up chasing the puck much more often than shooting.
When they did have chances, Lehtonen swatted them away. He came in 14-9-2 on the road this season a win away from a career-high this season and played well trying to give the Stars a chance.
This was the fourth game this season that Nashville went through the first two periods scoreless, and the Predators have won all four. They got the goal they needed shortly after Detroit's loss. Bouillon scored his fourth this season on a backhander from in front off a rebound of Hornqvist's shot, just beating Andrei Kostitsyn to the puck.
Lehtonen stopped a 3-on-1 a couple minutes before Hornqvist padded the lead with a wrister past the goalie's glove.
Notes: Bouillon's goal was his fourth this season and all four have come in the past 13 games for the defenseman. ... Nashville improved to 34-3-4 when scoring first. ... Nashville has 230 goals, tying the 2007-08 team for third-most in franchise history. ... Nashville evened the season series against Dallas 2-2. ... Hornqvist has 79 career goals. ... The sellout was Nashville's eighth straight. ... Rinne has 25 shutouts in 249 games.
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