The Dallas Stars were fighting for their postseason lives headed into March of 2011, barely holding on to the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference. Eight teams were withing six points of one other with only Detroit and Vancouver really able to start pulling away in the conference.
The Stars were just 5-6-2 in the division up to that point and faced a brutal end to the season with most games against Pacific and Western Conference teams who were all fighting the same fight. The Phoenix Coyotes, with 76 points, had a four-point lead over Dallas as they welcomed the Stars to Glendale on the first night of March that season.
Dallas jumped to a 1-0 lead thanks to Tom Wandell goal near the end of the first period with the two teams falling into a stellar defensive battle for the better part of the game. It seemed as if the Stars had put the win away when Jamie Langenbrunner scored with just over seven minutes remaining in regulation, yet the Coyotes roared back in the final minutes of the game to improbably tie the score.
That's when Jamie Benn stepped in.
The Dallas Stars had a big problem with surrendering leads late in a period and late in games that season, something that potentially ruined several Kari Lehtonen shutouts and cost the Stars several very important points in what turned out to be a very close race for the playoffs.
With the Coyotes tying the game with just 38 seconds remaining it seemed the Stars were doomed to yet again let some important points get away from them and surrendering a point to the Coyotes was something that likely would have been incredibly costly. Surrendering the tying goal seemed to be an inevitability with the Stars continually unable to clear the puck in those final minutes and Lehtonen turning away chance after chance.
When Ray Whitney tied the game you could see the air go out of the team and the defeat was evident even in the voices of Ralph & Razor, who seemed to know that holding off that second goal was going to be nearly impossible. Whitney scored on a quick one-timer off a pass from the boards when Benn failed to win a puck battle against Shane Doan.
A hooking call against Radim Verbata, while a bit controversial, gave the Stars new life.
On the ensuing faceoff in the closing seconds of the period, Brenden Morrow and Mike Ribeiro won a tough battle for the puck along the boards before Ribeiro pushed the puck to Loui Eriksson in the low circle. Eriksson out-muscled his man for the puck and pushed into the wide-open slot, where Jamie Benn slammed home a laser shot.
This was in the middle of Benn's incredible heroics in late February and March, when the winger returned from missing 10 games with a shoulder injury. The goal would kick off a stretch of nine games where Benn would score eight goals and put up 14 points, giving his team a fighting chance for the postseason. The Stars would lean heavily on Benn in that stretch of games with the star player averaging well over 22 minutes a game during that tough part of the schedule.
It wasn't enough, however, as the Stars would lose in the final game of the season against the Wild and miss the postseason by just two points. For that one moment, however, when Benn slammed that shot into the back of the net, it felt as if the Stars really did have a magical shot of getting into the postseason tournament yet again.