For the past month, the Dallas Stars have been given chance after chance to take control of their destiny and secure their spot in the upcoming Stanley Cup playoffs. Time after time, the Stars came up short when they needed a win the most and for the past week we've felt that their season was nearly done. The players appeared to have just lost whatever "it" was that had willed them to win so many close games early in the season and while other teams were making strides, the Stars were falling behind.
Amazingly, the Dallas Stars still had a chance. All they needed to do, was win the final five games of the season. Even if those five games are against supposedly inferior opponents, no one would have blamed you if you didn't believe it was possible for the Stars to run the table.
Especially since running the table meant starting with a regulation win against Anaheim.
You could say that the 4-3 overtime loss against Anaheim a few weeks back was the beginning of the end. In the supposed "biggest game of the year", the Stars lost the lead with just five seconds remaining and had yet to win since. In fact, the Stars looked increasingly worn down and wary, as if that loss was just as big a kick to the gut for the players as everyone in the fanbase felt it had been for them.
It is fitting, then, that the game that hopefully gets the Stars back on track was a big win against those very same Ducks. A win that has breathed new life and new energy into this team, who finally found the desperation and the fight they needed to pull off a much needed victory.
"It's desperation time," said captain Brenden Morrow. "We've been saying that for a week or two now, but realistically looking at the standings and games played and what we have left, we probably have to run the table. It's 60 minutes at a time, and tonight it took 60 minutes. That's what we have to focus on. We're in desperation mode."
The fans have been waiting for that sense of desperation for weeks now, but if it finally shows for the Stars when they still have an outside shot at the playoffs -- then it's better late than never. The Stars were playing at 130% for much of the game, showing the defensive desperation and offensive playmaking that's been missing for the better part of a month. The key to the win, as we've been saying for some time, was that the best players played their best when it mattered most, specifically Morrow and Mike Ribeiro.
"The last three games I couldn't get anything going. I was creating chances but nothing was going in," said Ribeiro. "To come back with big goals like that and Brenden too, I think it is good for our line. We had too. We had to come out today and get that win."
The Stars are going to need a lot of help just to have a chance and any sort of loss from this point forward all but seals their fate. Yet on a night when the Chicago Blackhawks lost and the Stars inexplicably gained two points int he standings with the win, hope was once again alive for the Stars. They'll face the Columbus Blue Jackets tomorrow night at home and if the Stars have learned as much as they said they have, they'll play even harder on home ice.
"There's no quit in our team, we're still in the race," said Stars coach Marc Crawford. "We've just to keep coming out and having performances like this. This was a very deserving win for our team. You make your luck and tonight we played with the desperation that we've been striving for. We need that type of performance and energy in the next game. Huge win for us and hopefully we can get this to snowball."
"It was a great team effort," said Ribeiro. "We are going to push forward. We are going to stay positive in our locker room and believe in ourselves."