Confidence is a funny thing.
In the second period Saturday afternoon against the Ottawa Senators the Dallas Stars found themselves well on their way to 30 shots on goal, unsuccessful power play after unsuccessful power play stacking up, and the boo-birds at the American Airlines Center in full force.
They couldn't buy a goal. They were frustrated, and it looked like they might start to unravel.
Then the officials let a play go, you have to admit, a little too long as the puck appeared to be covered by Robin Lehner, and Cody Eakin poked it in to get the Stars on the board.
By the end the Stars led 3-1, continuing their barrage of quality chances deep into garbage time. The swagger came back. The belief that they could move the puck up and down the ice with ease. They had confidence. The trick is holding onto it, now.
Trevor Daley will go down as the hero today after Ray Whitney fed him in front after a flurry of chances for the eventual game winner. Cody Eakin and Colton Sceviour were on the scene again, and that line figured in each of the first two goals.
It ended a 208:42 stretch where Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin were the only Dallas Stars to score.
Those two would have their say in the third period, of course, as a pass from Tyler Seguin to Benn on the left wing was absolutely lazered over Lehner's shoulder for Benn's 30th goal of the season. It's now officially the first 30-goal season of his career, and he has 12 games to add to it.
'13-'14: Benn (30), Seguin (31) Last time #Stars had multiple 30 goal scorers was in '05-'06 with Jason Arnott (32) and Jere Lehtinen (33)— Dallas Stars (@DallasStars) March 22, 2014
Chris Neil had an active night for the Senators, seeming to enjoy slugging Stars already down on the ice, and jousting with Aaron Rome and Ryan Garbutt.
Both teams racked up nine minor penalties and two fighting majors for 28 minutes a piece, allowing for copious special teams play that never saw a conversion, much to Dallas' chagrin.
The early power plays were of the "everything but score" variety. The latter ones in the second period were slowed by their building frustration. Dallas improves their record to 2-5-3 when recording 40 or more shots. The 40th shot this afternoon was Jamie Benn's tally.
Kari Lehtonen was tested sporadically, 27 times in all by the end, and was, as needed, spectacular throughout, sans the blast by Erik Karlsson in the first period. Through the his injury, the success and then downturn by Tim Thomas, Kari's weak return and then another sub-par outing from Thomas, this one looks like a reaffirmation that the goaltending cart is back on the road. But back-to-back sets await.
At the end of the day the Stars did what they had to do to get back on track. When you get a team whose season is all but over, on a five game losing streak, you put them away if you are who you hope you might be. The shenanigans at the end being what they were, the Stars had a relatively complete game on display today, being the aggressor throughout, even if it wasn't always pretty.
75 points finally ticks up to 77. Phoenix has 79. Both teams have 12 games remaining.
If the Stars can equal the Coyotes in the first 11, even if they trail by two points heading into the season finale, they can punch their tickets and take it directly from Dave Tippett and company, likely holding tie-breaking advantage.
The Blackhawks, Blues, and a steady diet of that Eastern Conference that stymies them so readily await.