Ed Belfour stopped 17 shots behind a brilliant defense as the Dallas Stars clinched a berth in the Western Conference finals with a 2-1 victory over the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday night.
Greg Adams scored on a 2-on-1 break with 2:26 left in the game to clinch the victory, wrapping up their best-of-7 semifinal series in five games.Derian Hatcher scored the Stars' other goal in the first period.
Belfour was on the verge of his fifth career playoff shutout and second of the series, but the Oilers scored on Bill Guerin's goal from the slot with 29 seconds to play. Oilers coach Ron Low pulled goaltender Curtis Joseph with two minutes to go, and Edmonton capitalized on Guerin's seventh goal of the playoffs.
It was Belfour's 43rd playoff victory and improved his record to 8-3 in this post-season.
The Stars will meet the winner of the St. Louis-Detroit series. Detroit holds a 3-1 lead and can wrap things up Sunday afternoon in Detroit.
It's the first time the Stars have reached the conference finals since the franchise moved to Dallas from Minnesota five years ago. The Minnesota North Stars made it all the way to the Stanley Cup finals twice, losing both times.
Edmonton knocked the Stars out of the playoffs with a first-round upset last season. The Stars finished with the NHL's best regular-season record.
Because of Belfour and Oilers goalie Curtis Joseph, the first period had proved crucial for most of the series.
Joseph's shutout of Dallas in game two was the seventh of his playoff career and third of the 1998 post-season.
This game, too, turned into a low-scoring game.
Dallas' first shot on goal didn't come until midway through the first period.
Hatcher, the Stars' captain, scored with 4.7 seconds left in the first period on a wrist shot from the bottom of the right circle.
The goal came 48 seconds after Edmonton's Greg de Vries went to the penalty box for interference, giving Dallas its third power play of the period.
To that point, the Oilers had dominated, outshooting the Stars 8-3. The momentum carried over, and the Stars fired eight straight shots in the first seven minutes of the second period.
Dallas had a 11-4 shots-on-goal advantage in the second period. Edmonton went 9:26 of the second period before its first shot.
Stars left wing Jamie Langenbrunner was scratched before the game with a sore shoulder. Club officials say he'll be evaluated day to day.