By Martin Iheke
Your Dallas Stars closed out 2014 in style by winning their last three games and opened up 2015 with a statement win over the Minnesota Wild at home. Last Monday night, the New York Rangers came into town having won eight straight games. The Stars wanted to build on the momentum of a huge win that came against the St. Louis Blues the previous Saturday. Early in the first period, the Rangers struck first on the power play when forward J.T. Miller scored his fifth goal of the season. Then shortly after that, Stars defenseman John Klingberg scored his fourth goal of the season, which too came on the power play to tie the game. Forward Ales Hemsky would later put the Stars in front with his third goal of the season, but just a minute later the Rangers would tie the game with forward Kevin Hayes’s fifth goal of the season.
The game would head into the second period with the score tied at 2-2. With just about a minute into the period, Stars forward Antoine Roussel would score his eighth goal of the season which turned out to be the game winner as the Stars would win, 3-2. After the game, Stars forward Cody Eakin talked about ending the Rangers’ eight-game winning streak. “It’s big for us,” he said. “It’s something we needed to do. It was a good test on how we measured up on a good team like that and I think we proved to ourselves to everyone that we are on the right track.”
The Stars continued their winning ways on New Year’s Eve at home against the Arizona Coyotes in a 6-0 shellacking. In his first career NHL game, forward Brett Ritchie scored his first career goal which turned out to be the game winner. After the game, Ritchie talked about his first NHL game. “Yes, it sort of felt like it went pretty quick,” he said. “I didn’t have a night to sleep on it last night. I only found out at 12pm today. I think I sort of looked at it that way and settled the nerves a bit. Obviously, to get a goal halfway through the game there settled me down as well.”
The Stars’ first game of the New Year almost was a carbon copy of their previous game against the Coyotes as they walloped the Minnesota Wild last Saturday night, 7-1. The Stars got contributions from just about everyone including forward Vern Fiddler who had two goals. Rookie defenseman Jamie Oleksiak had his best game as a Dallas Star with three assists, five blocked shots and was a +4 for the game. Everyone is contributing and playing more confidently which is something head coach Lindy Ruff is pleased with. After the game, he talks about why his team has won nine out of their last eleven games which is first amongst Western Conference teams in that span. “I think it’s a lot of different things,” he said. “At times, it’s been real strong goaltending for us. Other games, it’s been real sound on the offense and defense. I think the last couple, we’ve probably played as well in our own end as we’ve played all year. When you spend that little bit of time in your own end, it allows you to go up ice and do some good things.”
Unfortunately, the Stars fell short the next night in Chicago against the Blackhawks as they would lose in overtime, 5-4. They were able to pick up a point to continue to move up in the standings and are currently three points back of the last playoff spot in the West. Not bad after such a rough start to the season.
The Stars will get back after it Tuesday night at home against the Columbus Blue Jackets. After that they will travel to Nashville to face the Predators on Thursday night then head to Denver to take on the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday afternoon.
1/6 vs Blue Jackets 7:30 pm
1/8 @Predators 7:00 pm
1/10 @Avalanche 2:00 pm