The Dallas Stars, very admirably, battle on.
They've won four of their last five games. Four of five. A beautiful points percentage. But it's after they lost third period leads or ties to Colorado, Winnipeg, Minnesota, Detroit and San Jose in a six-game losing stretch that effectively derailed their season.
Yet, they battle on- Defeating the Flyers in Philly before owning the Hurricanes, despite what the score might have said at the end of the night. They've looked strong on the puck. The penalty killing has been effective. The goaltending has been better in the last two weeks.
But is there enough time? Time to claim that the four teams they must jump are not an insurmountable goal? Fans will fret about such matters. The Stars appear committed to finishing their season strongly no matter the situation- And for that, and all their many entertaining qualities, even in defeat, we must continue to tune in and turn out.
Without John Klingberg the Stars soldiered on with three (other) rookies- And Patrik Nemeth, Jyrki Jokipakka, and Jamie Oleksiak (not technically a rookie, but only 23 NHL games before this season, good enough for me) got the job done, along side the veteran stalwarts of Jordie Benn, Goligoski and Jason Demers.
With so much of their offensive punch this season out in the forms of Klingberg and Trevor Daley, the Stars still got production from the back end in the form of a very fortuitous long-range bid from Demers, and one from Goligoski creeping deep into the slot.
An embarrassment of depth-scoring riches. Still, the Stars hope there's a possibility that Klingberg could be back in tonight. Ruff called him "probably not ready" for the Hurricanes yesterday morning- Meaning there's at least a chance tonight.
Neither of those late goals were on Lehtonen last night in this reporter's opinion- But had they not occurred I'd feel better speculating that Ruff could ride his starter again tonight in a pretty tough spot in Washington. His performance against Philadelphia was necessarily strong. His performance through 54 minutes in Carolina didn't need to be.
Jhonas Enroth or Kari Lehtonen, the Stars will have their hands full trying to keep the energy level high against Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals.
Ovechkin is running away with the goal scoring title. Tyler Seguin paced the league for such a long stretch of the season but thanks to his knee injury sits 14 behind the Russian in Washington. 45 goals and counting- He is on an absolute tear, and is second in the league in overall point production at 70 already, behind only John Tavares.
From CBS Sports:
It is the seventh time in Ovechkin's career that he has scored 45 goals in a single season, making him just the fifth player in league history to reach that mark, joining a list that includes Hall of Famers Wayne Gretzky (9), Mike Bossy (9), Mario Lemieux (8) and Marcel Dionne (8). What makes it even more impressive is the fact Ovechkin recorded his seventh 45-goal season before his 30th birthday, something that only Gretzky and Bossy were able to do (and neither one of them did it again after their 30th birthday. In Bossy's case, that was because he retired after his age 30 season).
So that's, you know, pretty terrifying.
He is on a particularly devastating streak currently, having recorded 1, 1, 2, and 2 goals in their last four games. 31 goals in his last 36 games- Which is absurd. He usually scores. He often times reaches two.
He is the main weapon on a power play that has scored on 6 of its last 11 opportunities- Not a good thing for a team on the second night of a back-to-back, prone to feet-not-moving penalties. So stay out of the box.
They probably also have other players on their team. Let's see who they are...
Dallas managed to outlast, barely, the Capitals at home on January 17th in an offensive slug-fest. Seguin, Cole, Spezza, Roussel and Jamie Benn tallied as the Stars took home a 5-4 decision despite surrendering the entirety of a 3-0 lead before reasserting themselves in the third period.
From Stars PR:
The Dallas Stars travel to Washington, D.C. to face the Capitals on the second night of a back-to-back for the second and final meeting between the two clubs this season. The Stars defeated the Capitals 5-4 on Jan. 17 at American Airlines Center with three current Dallas skaters recording multi-point games including Jyrki Jokipakka (0-2=2), Jason Spezza (1-1=2) and Tyler Seguin (1-1=2). Since the 2008-09 season, Dallas has a seven-game unbeaten streak (6-0-1) against the Capitals and won three straight games at Verizon Center.