While it’s too early to be throwing around the term “must win,” the Stars on Friday had a ``really kinda need to win” type of game.

The Nashville Predators are pretty much out of the playoff race and played in Nashville on Thursday. So, with Phoenix starting the night five points ahead in the battle for the final wildcard playoff spot in the Western Conference, Dallas needed to impose its will.

It did enough of that to take a 7-3 victory over the Predators and keep pace in the standings, but it also showed some weaknesses that will have to be repaired before Saturday’s game at St. Louis

"We’ve had a couple of games in our pocket going into tonight. I said yesterday that we’re just going to worry about playing one game at a time and not look any further than that,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. “We got the game we wanted and now we have to go out and get the game tomorrow.”

On the good side, the Stars received goals from seven different players, none of whom were named Tyler Seguin or Jamie Benn. On the bad side, the Stars had some defensive breakdowns and some goaltending moments that might not be good enough in games against better competition.

Dallas moves to 35-27-11 (81 points), and is three points behind Phoenix (36-26-12, 84 points) with one game in hand. Seventh-place Minnesota (37-26-11, 85 points) also is coming into view and is four points ahead of the Stars. The Wild and Coyotes play in Phoenix on Saturday. That means the Stars have a chance to make up ground on at least one of the teams.

But Dallas has to win at St. Louis, home of the NHL’s best team. That’s another reason why Friday’s game was so important. If the Stars are going to climb the standings, they have to win the games they are supposed to win. Coming off a 4-2 loss in Chicago Tuesday, Dallas had a couple of days of rest and simply couldn’t afford to squander an opportunity at home.

“That’s always the focus when a team is coming in off a back-to-back,” said center Vernon Fiddler. “We haven’t had the greatest of starts in the last couple of games. That was one of our focuses. After we scored the first goal, we wanted to stay on our toes and stay aggressive.”

That feeling was important, as the Stars pushed the Predators early with a frantic pace and some pretty intense puck battles. While Nashville had a lot of spirit, that was broken down by some hard-working plays that resulted in Stars goals.

The reassembled line of Antoine Roussel-Cody Eakin-Ryan Garbutt had a strong game, and Garbutt tallied the all-important first goal at the 8:03 mark. That was a sign that the chemistry that had been seen by the trio earlier in the season was easily retrievable. Then, Vernon Fiddler broke a 12-game goal-less drought and tallied his fifth of the season at the 14:05 mark.

“Obviously, us role players want to chip in a little bit more,” Fiddler said. “These are the games where we all need to be chipping in. You see guys like Garbutt and Roussel chipping in, Valeri (Nichushkin) got a goal, and a couple of others from the defensemen, so it’s nice to get some depth scoring. At the end of the day, we have to continue to do that. The big guns need some help with scoring and it helps take a little bit of pressure off them.”