By Martin Iheke
As the season winds down, your Dallas Stars are in the fight for their lives to keep their season going beyond April 13th. After losing four in a row, the Stars have quietly won four out of their last five games and are now a point behind the Phoenix Coyotes for the last playoff spot in the West with a game in hand. Last Monday evening, the Stars put away the Winnipeg Jets by the score of 2-1. Forward Ray Whitney opened the scoring with a power play goal in the first period followed by forward Tyler Seguin’s 32nd goal of the season in the second period which too came on the power play. Goalie Kari Lehtonen was outstanding in this one with 32 saves almost getting the shutout. After the game, Whitney talked about the success of the power play in the game going 2 for 4. “Power plays, especially teams in general, will be the difference here in the last eleven games,” Whitney said. “If you’re looking around the league, right now, every game is relatively tight with a lot of games from here on out go to overtime, a lot of three-point games, power plays for us won it, power play for them got them back in it so it’s just kind of how the game is going to be played here the rest of the way,” as he continued.
The Stars were looking to keep the momentum going in Chicago against the Blackhawks the next night but lost, 4-2. Forward Ryan Garbutt had an outstanding game scoring both of the goals for the Stars. Unfortunately, he did not get any help from anybody else on the score sheet.
“You have to play a full 60 minutes consistently, the right way,” Stars forward Jamie Benn said according to NHL.com. “We have three or four more of these back-to-backs. They’re not easy games to play. The last 10 [games] we have aren’t going to be easy. We’re going to have to find a way to stick together and try to get as many points as we can,” as he continued.
Every game down the stretch will be viewed like a playoff game for the Stars. They know they cannot afford to lose too many games and fall further behind the Coyotes for 8th place. The time to win is now more than ever.
With the Coyotes winning at the New Jersey Devils last Thursday night, they moved to five points ahead of the Stars. Luckily for the Stars, they still had two games in hand with one more matchup against Phoenix. They still have to win those games for it to matter. It would have to start against the Nashville Predators who they played at home last Friday night. The Stars did not waste any time by dispatching them, 7-3. Seven different Stars players scored a goal and it did not involve Benn or Seguin. Both defensemen Trevor Daley and Alex Goligoski had terrific games with a +5 rating and combining for five points. This is the type of depth scoring head coach Lindy Ruff has been talking about if this team is to succeed. “We had some good brakes,” Ruff said. “We had a couple put in by their defensemen, but I thought we had enough pucks going in the net and got rewarded for it,” as he continued.
The Stars continued their offensive success the next night at the St. Louis Blues. Rookie forward Colton Sceviour opened the scoring in the first period with his first of two goals in the game. Forwards Cody Eakin and Antoine Roussel scored the other two as the Stars beat the Blues for the second time this month in their building, 4-2.
“It’s not a must-win situation quite yet, but with the teams ahead of us winning games, we’ve got to keep pace,” Sceviour said according to NHL.com. “We were playing a really good team in the second game of a back-to-back with travel and it’s huge to come in here and get a victory. It feels real good right now,” as he continued.
With the Stars win and the Coyotes losing at home to the Minnesota Wild, 3-1, last Saturday, the Stars are now a point back with a game in hand. They are also four points back of the Wild for the seventh spot with a game in hand on them.
The Stars will get back at it on Tuesday night in Washington to take on the Capitals, then travel to play at the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday night. The Stars will conclude their five-game road trip playing at the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday and at the Florida Panthers on Sunday. Now will be the time for the Stars improve their record against the Eastern Conference if they have any hopes of making the playoffs.
4/1 @Capitals 6:00 PM
4/3 @Hurricanes 6:00 PM
4/5 @Lightning 6:00 PM
4/6 @Panthers 4:00 PM