Despite a 3-1 loss to visiting Columbus on Wednesday, April 9 in the replay of a game that had originally started on March 10, the Dallas Stars remained in control of their own destiny and maintained a two-point lead over 9th place Phoenix in the Western Conference playoff race.
Dallas (39-30-11 for 89 point) had also defeated visiting Nashville the previous evening, 3-2 in a shootout while the Coyotes were losing at Columbus in overtime.
The Stars-Blue Jackets game was one of the most statistically intriguing games in hockey’s (or any sport’s) history necessitated by Dallas forward Rich Peverley collapsing on the bench at the 6:23 mark of the opening period when his heart stopped in early-March. Fortunately, Peverley was revived and taken to a hospital, with neither team wanted to continue playing. Peverley has since had surgery and will miss the remainder of the season, but he is doing well and is working out with his teammates on a regular basis.
Dallas began the game trailing 1-0 (try using that line at your next social gathering) thanks to a goal by forward Nathan Horton on March 10. (Horton, who was credited with the goal at the 0:00 mark, did not suit up for the makeup game due to a lower-body injury. He will forever be the answer to the trivia question, “what player was credited with scoring a goal without appearing in the game?”).
The NHL decided that the game would be replayed in its (60 minute) entirety, following the blueprint set in 2006 when Detroit and Nashville replayed a game after Detroit defenseman Jiri Fischer had to be revived during a cardiac event.
“That’s a tough way to start a game,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. “We knew we were going to have to manage our ice time and our play, and that was a tough start. When (we gave) up that early goal, I think that took a little life out of our building.”
Columbus, extended its lead to 2-0 with a goal less than two minutes into the game, and scored again later in the period to build a 3-0 lead against Stars’ backup goalie Tim Thomas, who had started back on March 10.
Playing their fourth game in five nights, the Stars finally solved Columbus goalie Sergei Bobrovsky (who made 33 saves on the night) on a 3rd period power play and adding an extra attacker after pulling goalie Thomas, who finished the game with 22 saves. Defenseman Trevor Daley banged home a rebound during a goalmouth scramble for his 8th marker – tying his career high — cutting the Columbus lead to 3-1.
“I just felt it was time to create some energy (and) desperation,” Ruff said of pulling the goalie with more than 12 minutes left. “I thought we got the energy. We got a couple great looks afterwards and we put a little into them and made believers out of the players that last 10 minutes, where probably five of it we played without a goaltender.”
But that was Dallas’s only goal of the night despite pulling Thomas again in the final three minutes of regulation, enabling the Blue Jackets to clinch an Eastern Conference playoff berth.
“I thought the (Stars) could have laid down in the third, (but) they gave it everything they had,” Ruff said. “These guys have not quit for one bit this year. I love the way they fight, and I love the battle we’ve had down the stretch.”
Stars Increase 8th place lead with shootout win over Preds
The Stars added a point to their lead over 9th place Phoenix with a 3-2 shootout win over Nashville on Tuesday, March 8 while the Coyotes were losing a 4-3 overtime verdict in Columbus. Leading scorer Tyler Seguin scored in the fourth round of the shootout, firing a wrist shot over the glove of Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne as Dallas outlasted the Preds by a 2-1 count during the penalty shot exercise.
“We’ve worked hard (to move two points ahead of Phoenix) and we’ve got to close the deal,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “There’s a lot of excitement in that room. Those guys were excited this morning, they were excited before the game and we’ve just got to keep on working.
“There is some fatigue in our game, and some guys feel the pressure,” Ruff added, referring to the Stars’ 21 giveaway in the game. “I’ve already talked to several guys that we need to make plays. If the opposition makes a great play defending us, I’ll live with that, but I don’t want these turnovers.”
Defenseman Alex Goligoski’s 6th marker of the year – his first red light in 15 games — gave Dallas a 1-0 lead less than three minutes into the game. After Nashville tied the score 1-1 less than two minutes into the 2nd period, team captain Jamie Benn regained the lead for the Stars at 2-1 with his 34th goal seven minutes later. The Predators tied the score at 2-2 midway through the third session.
In the shootout, Dallas goaltender Kari Lehtonen stopped two Nashville shooters before allowing a goal. Vernon Fiddler forced forced the extra round with a goal to set the stage for Seguin. “(This win) feels good, but it was one of those games where we let them tie it,” Lehtonen said. “We got it, so we have to be happy.”
“I don’t know if the players were aware of (building their lead over Phoenix),” said Ruff. “We were just focused on what we could do. The schedule is demanding and it gets a little bit worse tomorrow (against Columbus). I’m a little concerned that our energy was good early and the energy began just slipping away. Shifts were getting really short. These guys are giving it everything they’ve got, that’s the impressive part. These guys are going to handle this pressure differently. Some won’t handle it well, some will learn from it. I’m trying to keep them loose and tell them we’ve got to make plays. I know that’s hard when it’s under duress but it’s where we need to be as a team.”
Dallas Stars Player of the Week – Tyler Seguin
The Stars’ leading scorer netted the game-winning goal during the 4th round of a shootout, helping Dallas to a crucial 3-2 victory over visiting Nashville. Seguin also assisted on the Stars’ only goal in a 3-1 loss to Columbus the following evening.