If the Dallas Stars reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs for a second straight season, they very well may identify their just-completed three-game road trip on the snow driven East Coast as the key catalyst for their late-season playoff surge.
Specifically, the Stars’ 5-3 triumph in Boston on Wednesday was highlighted by two shorthanded goals as they skated with an ill leading scorer and a disqualified forward. The victory enabled them to recover from a 3-2 loss to last-place Buffalo the previous Saturday and earn four of a possible six points, vaulting them to within three points of Vancouver and the Western Conference’s final wild card playoff berth.
“It was a different type of game (with) three shorthanded goals,” said coach Lindy Ruff. “It looked like Boston was making a push when (Stars defenseman Trevor) Daley scored his shorthanded goal (midway through the second period). It kind of turned the momentum back in our favor and I thought we played a pretty smart game after that.
“We’ve had some really tough losses as a team,” Ruff added. “(But) I thought our penalty killing tonight was excellent, and it was excellent in New York (in Sunday’s 3-2 overtime win over the Rangers) when we needed it to be. That’s a big part of our game right now.”
Daley’s shorthanded goal gave Dallas the lead for good, 4-3 when he rushed the length of the ice into the Bruin zone during a double minor penalty to forward Ryan Garbutt, fired a shot on backup goalie Tuukka Rask and hustled in to bury his own rebound midway through the 2nd period. The two shorthanded goals tie Dallas with the Islanders for the NHL lead with eight each.
“Alex (Goligoski, Daley’s defensive partner) was yelling at me, ‘Time, time, time’,” said Daley, whose career high 14 goals rank him second in the NHL behind only Arizona’s Oliver Ekman-Larsson (who has 16). “I was going to turn and whack it, but I had time so I just thought I would test (Bruin goalie Rask) and see what happened.”
Goalie Kari Lehtonen stopped all 11 Boston shots in the third period to finish with 41 for the night, and forward Erik Cole hit an empty net for his 15th of the season to highlight a strong third period performance by Dallas.
The Stars’ first man disadvantage goal of the night gave them a 1-0 first period lead when forward Vern Fiddler intercepted a pass during a five minute Bruin power play and buried a breakaway behind Boston starting netminder Niklas Svedberg for his 7th of the year.
After Boston tied the score on a goal by David Krejci just over three minutes later, Jamie Benn scored twice – his 17th and 18th goals of the season — to give Dallas a 3-1 lead at the first intermission and chase Svedberg.
Patrice Bergeron’s shorthanded tally and another goal by Boston defenseman Dougie Hamilton forged a 3-3 tie for the Bruins in the first seven minutes of Period Two prior to Daley’s game-winner and career-high 14th goal of the season.
“We had a lot of tough situations pretty much the whole game,” said Benn, the Stars captain. “Five-minute power play, four-minute power play, and we had to kill those things and I thought our goalie stood on his head and our penalty kill did a great job. Our backs are against the wall coming down the stretch, and we needed these two points tonight”
The Stars, who did not allow a Bruin power play goal, lost Antoine Roussel to a game misconduct when he was cited for a five minute major for cross-checking Bruin Adam McQuaid in the throat during the opening stanza. Roussel will have a hearing Thursday with the NHL Department of Player Safety.
And leading scorer Tyler Seguin was battling an illness, preventing him from skating at his full effectiveness. “It was a tough one,” said Seguin, who played 18 minutes and launched two shots on goal. “Playing in Boston (his former team), I couldn’t not play. If we were playing somewhere else, maybe I wouldn’t have gone.”