The Dallas Stars, responding to the reality that the number of games remaining on the NHL regular season schedule will soon trickle to a precious few, won consecutive games within 24 hours and leaped right back into the thick of the Western Conference playoff race.
Their 4-2 victory at St. Louis on Saturday, March 29 and a 7-3 win over visiting Nashville on Friday, March 28 pulled them to within a point of 8th place Phoenix and four points of 7th place Minnesota. The Stars are seeking their first Stanley Cup playoff berth since the 2007-2008 season.
Dallas improved to 36-27-11 for 83 points, and owns the tiebreaker with a total of 33 regulation and overtime (excluding shootout) wins should they finish the regular season deadlocked with the Wild (31) and/or Coyotes (30).
The win at St. Louis, which opened a crucial five-game road trip and snapped a four-game Dallas road losing streak, was their first triumph away from home since an overtime verdict March 11 against the Blues. It also enabled Stars coach Lindy Ruff to celebrate his 1,239th game behind the bench with a smile, tying him with Bryan Murray for 10th on the career coaching list.
“We need to score goals,” said Ruff. “You’ve got to be able to support your goaltender and make him feel comfortable and I thought (Friday) we did a good job of that and (Saturday), we got the lead and when they scored we answered right away and that was a big part of the game.”
Forward Colton Sceviour (pronounced “see-vee-your”) scored the game’s first two goal, ones early in the 1st period and another midway through the 2nd to give the Stars a 2-0 lead. The rookie netted his 6th of the year by tapping home a corner feed from center Shawn Horcoff, and his 7th of the season and 3rd marker in two nights came on a redirection of Horcoff’s accurate feed from along the right wing boards.
Just 25 seconds after the Blues cut the lead to 2-1 with a power play goal, Cody Eakin netted his 16th of the year and 2nd in two nights when he tipped home a Jordie Benn blue line shot for a 3-1 Dallas lead.
The Stars countered another St. Louis power play goal that made it 3-2 when forward Antoine Roussel scored on a breakaway. The native of Roubaix, France chipped the puck past a Blues defenseman in the defensive zone, used his speed to separate from the blueliner and flipped the disc over St. Louis goalie Ryan Miller’s right shoulder for his 13th of the season and a two-goal lead.
“It’s not a must-win situation quite yet, but with the teams ahead of us winning games, we’ve got to keep pace,” said Sceviour, who tallied three goals (including two consecutive game-winners) and an assist during an earlier eight-game stint with the Stars from Dec. 14-January 2. “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.
“I don’t know if ‘desperation’ is the word,” added Sceviour, who has four goals (three of them in St. Louis) and two assists in 10 games since his March 11 recall from the Texas Stars of the AHL. “That kind of sounds bad, but we feel like these are games we need to win and we feel like we hold our fate in our own hands. These games mean absolutely nothing unless we win them. This is a start and we want to build off it.”
“This was a huge test for us,” goalie Kari Lehtonen said after a credible performance that included 33 saves to improve his record to 29-18-10. “(We faced) one of the best teams in the League after we played Friday night and traveled here (early this morning).”
Stars’ leading scorer Tyler Seguin had his consecutive point streak end at a career-high 11 games (seven goals, 18 points).
13 Players Contribute Points in Victory over Nashville
Trailing 8th place Phoenix by five points, Dallas started its climb back toward a potential post season berth on Friday night, March 28 with a 7-3 victory over visiting Nashville. Seven different players lit the lamp as the Stars registered their third seven-goal game, and their first since a 7-1 victory over visiting Toronto on Jan. 23.
“We’ve had a couple of games in (hand) going into tonight,” said Ruff after 13 of his players contributed at least a point, including a career-high four assists by defenseman Alex Goligoski. “ I said yesterday that we’re just going to worry about playing one game at a time and not look any further than that. We got the game we wanted and now we have to go out and get the game tomorrow (at St. Louis).”
The Stars jumped out in front 1-0 midway through the 1st period when Ryan Garbutt scored his 15th of the season and 3rd goal in his last two games. Skating to the goalmouth, Garbutt deflected a beautiful pass from Roussel along the right wing boards past netminder Pekka Rinne. Center Vernon Fiddler added his 5th of the year five minutes later by one-timing a pass from rookie Sceviour on a 2-on-1 past Rinne for a 2-0 lead.
“We haven’t had the greatest of starts in the last couple of games,” said Fiddler after netting his first goal and point in 12 games. “That was one of our focuses. After we scored the first goal, we wanted to stay on our toes and stay aggressive.”
“I thought we were patient,” said Ruff. “There wasn’t a lot going on really if I looked at the first seven minutes. We were playing the way we wanted to. I thought that part was good. We knew (Nashville) played last night. These back-to-back (games) are a tough turnover for a lot of teams. If you get down (as the Predators did), you try to chase the game, (and then) it usually just gets worse.”
After Nashville cut the lead to 2-1 early in the 2nd period, Sceviour made it 3-1 with his 5th of the year when a shot from defenseman Trevor Daley at the point deflected into the net off the rookie’s skate. The video review confirmed there was no kicking motion.
“I went to the net…..(the shot) was a little inside and ended up bouncing off my foot and in,” said Sceviour, who recorded the first multi-point game of his young NHL career.” Not the prettiest of goals, but I can’t complain.”
Winger Alex Chiasson redirected a Ray Whitney power play shot past Rinne later in the period to make it 4-1. After Nashville scored again, Daley deflected home a Seguin shot for his 7th goal of the season, sixth point in his last nine games, and a 5-2 Stars’ lead after two stanzas.
Rookie forward Valeri Nichushkin (his 14th) and Eakin (his 15th) scored nine seconds apart midway through the 3rd period following a Predators’ goal to finish the night’s goal-getting.
“Obviously, (our) 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 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.”
Ruff was particularly complimentary toward the defensive pairing of Goligoski and Daley. “One of the players said to them, ‘if you were golfing it would have been a really bad round’ because they were five over, (but) that’s a good night when you’re plus-five on the score sheet,” he said with a chuckle. “You’ve seen by ice time these last 30 or 40 games how much we think of that pair and how much of a difference they can make. I thought tonight they made some really good plays for us.”
Lehtonen made 25 saves, improving his record to 28-18-10. Seguin, the team’s leading scorer, extended his consecutive point streak to a career-high 11 games (seven goals, 18 points).
Dallas Stars Player of the Week – Colton Sceviour
The rookie forward very well may be in the NHL to stay this time after netting the Stars’ first two goals in a 4-2 victory at St. Louis, one night after scoring once and setting up another goal as Dallas bested Nashville, 7-3. Both performances were Colton’s first multi-point games in the big time.