NEWARK, NJ–March hockey, where the inevitability of one’s season begins to creep in. It did so on Saturday for the Devils, whose 3-1 loss to Carolina mathematically eliminated them from postseason contention. On Sunday, the Stars avoided falling victim themselves as they fended off New Jersey 2-1 in overtime.
Tyler Seguin scored 20 seconds into the extra period to give Dallas the victory and for the time being, keep the Stars in contention, albeit by the slimmest of margins.
“Everyday we’re going to come work hard and play with pride and for each other,” Seguin said. “We’re going to play with pride and finish off the rest of the year and work hard and try and win every night.”
For the Stars, the tragic number is one. Their next loss will mathematically eliminate them from postseason contention, though the out of town scoreboard could play a factor in eliminating them before then. In short, running the table would take the miracle of all miracles from the hockey gods.
New Jersey meanwhile entered the contest less than 24 hours removed from their official elimination from contention. And with all eyes on next season and the future to come, it was rookie Blake Coleman who tallied their only goal of the game. His first in the NHL at 11:02 of the first period to give the Devils the early lead.
“I felt like it was a long time coming,” Coleman said. “It’s all you think about when you’re shooting pucks as a kid, giving yourself play-by-play.”
Growing up in Plano, Texas he was a frequent at Stars games. His grandmother, who he said he’d probably give the puck to was the one who got him hooked on hockey when she bought season tickets.
“It was pretty cool to get it against my hometown team,” he said.
The Devils though were unable to close the page on what might have been an otherwise fairy tale game for the Texas native. Ales Hemsky scored at 13:24 on the power play to even the score in the third period.
And then just as a New Jersey rookie had injected life into the game in the first, another sucked it out as defenseman Steve Santini took an ill-advised cross check late in regulation, giving Dallas almost a full power play to open overtime, ultimately resulting in Seguin’s game-winner.
While it was two penalties that helped produce the goals against, head coach John Hynes put most of the blame on the team’s lackluster offense.
“We didn’t generate, work hard enough, manage the puck to get in the offensive zone,” he said. “When you have a 1-0 lead, you have to get the next one.
“We just didn’t do much to try and get the second or third goal and give ourselves a cushion to play.”
For the Devils, Sunday’s loss was the 21st time this season the team has scored one or less goals in a game. Something they’ll try and rectify in the final two weeks of the regular season, but the real remedy might be found in the offseason.
The Devils will host the Jets on Tuesday–a makeup game between the two clubs after the March 14 contest was postponed due to snow. There, New Jersey will try to hold off rookie sensation Patrik Laine, currently tied with Auston Matthews for the rookie scoring and goals lead.