Things get measurably harder this afternoon with the East's fourth highest point total coming to town. Tampa Bay has a gaudy +22 goal differential and an impressive 7-2-1 record against the Central Division to bring to the table.
Dallas jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first before extending it to 3-0 in the waning stages of the second period, but went 0-7 on the power play and saw Carolina surge past them in shots with a furious rally in the third period before Cody Eakin eventually salted things away with an empty-netter.
The win pushed Dallas' record to 7-1-2 in their last 10 games, and the "one" was an effort in which they out-shot the Avalanche by a margin of two-to-one. The Stars have out-scored their opponents 31-13 over that ten game stretch.
Five times in the ten games they've held opponents to one or fewer goals. Team defense is the way forward.
That, and Kari Lehtonen, who should be in net barring a surprise from Lindy Ruff at morning skate. After all, the Stars need to steal their playoff spot back from Vancouver, who's collected points at every opportunity since the break.
Martin St. Louis scored twice in Nashville Thursday as the "Bolts" jumped out to a 2-0 lead but the Predators struck back, as the West is wont to do against the East, with three straight power play goals to earn the regulation win.
"We wanted to be in the conversation in March and April," said Jon Cooper, "and you can't let games like this slip . through your fingers."
Tampa Bay took all of the blame for the performance and gave little-to-no credit to the Predators for their efforts after they frustrated the Lightning in typical Trotz-like fashion, allowing Tampa just seven total shots in the final two periods.
"'It was disgracefully embarrassing, that's what that game was," Cooper said. "Two periods, really, really disappointed."
Which is to say that this is a team that has, in short order, already been thoroughly challenged by its coaching staff just days after the Olympic break concluded.
Valtteri Filppula may return this afternoon from an ankle injury. Steven Stamkos is still targeting a possible March 6th return from his broken leg bones.
The Stars have not faced the Lightning since a 2-1 Tampa Bay win on January 20, 2012.
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