Vernon Fiddler’s late season heroics are helping to keep the Stars’ Stanley Cup Playoff hopes on life support. The veteran forward, who re signed with the club prior to this season, helped fuel a recent Dallas reawakening that saw coach Lindy Ruff’s skaters win five of their last six games, including four triumphs during a demanding five-game East Coast swing.
Fiddler, who joined the Stars for the 2011-12 season after stints with Nashville and Phoenix, netted his NHL career high 12th goal of the season on a power play to give the Stars a 4-1 lead in a game it won 4-2 at Washington on Friday, March 13. As a result, the Stars began the week of Monday, March 16 just six points behind the 8th place Winnipeg Jets for the final Western Conference wild card playoff berth.
Fiddler, who tallied 11 goals for Nashville in three different seasons, hustled up ice for a 2-on-1 before positioning himself to the left of Capitals netminder Braden Holtby and patiently awaited a feed from Ales Hemsky before redirecting the puck over the goal line. He also assisted on linemate Colton Sceviour’s first period goal that gave Dallas the lead for good at 2-1.
Fiddler’s goal in the nation’s capital culminated a six-game stretch in which he netted five goals and an assist, a sudden scoring eruption from the 12-year NHL checking line standout that help carry a team missing leading scorer Tyler Seguin for two games and standout defenseman Trevor Daley for the last five.
Fiddler also scored goals in victories over the Islanders and at Philadelphia, and added two more in a 5-4 loss at Tampa Bay. “We knew (the road trip) was going to be a good stretch for us and we wanted to take it 20 minutes at a time,” said Fiddler, whose team connected three times on the power play against the Caps. “That seems to be working for us, and that’s something we’ll stick to. After the (NHL All Star) break, (the players) had a few meetings and talked about details in our special teams. I think it’s just a little bit more awareness and everybody’s a little bit more on the same page. It’s starting to pay off in games for us. Our power play’s been really good, and our penalty kill has taken a leap in the right direction. If you’re going to win games, you’re going to have to have strong special teams, and right now we’re getting it done.”
The Stars began their recent run of success with a home ice 3-2 victory over the Islanders after surrendering the tying goal with 2 seconds left in regulation. After a third period goal and shootout win at Florida, they lost in Tampa Bay. Fiddler’s third period goal helped beat host Philadelphia 2-1, and a 5-3 triumph in Carolina preceded the win in Washington.
Dallas (32-28-10) has 12 games remaining, six of them at home, but they do not play Winnipeg or Los Angeles, against whom they are vying for the final playoff spot.
“I think every game is pretty much a must win from here on out for us,” captain Jamie Benn said. “I think we’re just playing a good team game. Our goalie (Kari Lehtonen) is playing great, and we’ve got a lot of guys stepping up at the right time.”