It's not easy to shut down the New York Islanders. The Dallas Stars haven't done it since 1992, when they were still the Minnesota North Stars and Jon Casey was in net. So last night's Kari Lehtonen-authored shutout – the 34th of his career – was a nice bit of history as well as a cherry on the cake of a crucial home stand that could see Our Gang clinch a playoff spot today, before they play another game.
Even more, the Stars played the kind of game they'll need to keep playing as they prepare for the postseason, Lindy Ruff told the media:
Coach Lindy Ruff said the Stars' play in a 3-1-1 homestand against five playoff teams in the Blackhawks, Blues, Kings, Lightning and Islanders was important. Not only did it allow the Stars to chase the top seed, it helped them get into a groove that could carry into the postseason.
"We're going to keep working on our game," Ruff said. "The preparation we're doing now isn't just to make the playoffs, it's to try and get in there and win the first round. Then, we'll talk about what we'll do after that."
On a night when John Klingberg returned to the lineup after a six-game injury hiatus, rookie call-ups Radek Faksa and Stephen Johns still grabbed some spotlight as they helped thwart the Isles' powerful forward corps:
"I thought our young guys played a heck of a game," Ruff said. "They had energy, they had physicality. Faksa went head-to-head with [Frans] Nielsen and [Kyle] Okposo, and so did Johns. Okposo is a strong player and creates his own chances, and I thought those guys did an excellent job for us tonight."
That was important during a chess match that was scoreless through 33 minutes. It was also important as the Stars protected a 1-0 lead for another 15 minutes before Eaves scored.
Mike Heika has much more at the Dallas Morning News. [SportsDayDFW]
Today's #MDK action includes a Minnesota Wild-Chicago Blackhawks matchup that could seal the playoffs deal for the Stars. If the Wild don't win, they can't pass the Stars even if they run the table in their remaining games. Here's the full schedule:
- Winnipeg Jets vs. Anaheim Ducks, 2 p.m. Central time
- Wild at Blackhawks, 7:30 p.m. Central time
- Colorado Avalanche at Edmonton Oilers, 8:30 p.m. Central time
Last night on the Western front:
- The St. Louis Blues maintained their gap to the division-leading Stars with Brian Elliott's 3-0 shutout over the Vancouver Canucks. [St. Louis Game Time]
- And the Los Angeles Kings stayed two points behind Dallas in the Western Conference standings and locked down a playoff berth in the Pacific Division as they beat the Boston Bruins 2-1. [Sports Illustrated]
- And a 31-save game from Devan Dubnyk kept the Wild in wild-card contention with a 3-2 shootout victory over the Carolina Hurricanes. [Hockey Wilderness]
Yeah, Tyler Seguin says he's gonna have to go ahead and plan on being ready to play in Game One of the playoffs. [SportsDayDFW]
Mark Stepneski has box scores and more from last night's victory. [Stars Inside Edge]
Don't forget: It's Stars Sunday on The Ticket. Bruce LeVine's and Owen Newkirk's weekly show starts at 11 a.m. Central time on 1310 AM or 96.7 FM. [KTCK on ListenLive]
Ruff reflects on a game in which he pretty much got everything he wanted, except for a power-play goal.
The crowd was on its feet for Kari during the last minute.
And welcome to Razor's fireside chat after another Stars victory left him feeling all warm inside.
Here's a nice statistic to contemplate as the playoffs approach.
Mikko Rantanen has gotten a call-up after a knee injury to Nathan MacKinnon has left the Avs down a forward. [The Hockey News]
Which teams stand to take the biggest hit in an NHL expansion draft? The SI roundtable says the Nashville Predators will face some agonizing decisions over Shea Weber, Roman Josi and other star defenders. [SI]
Andrew Berkshire takes a look at 10 NHL defensemen who excel at zone exits.
Jaromir Jagr received a silver puck from the Florida Panthers to recognize his 1,851 career points, passing Gordie Howe for third on the all-time list, as fellow former Star Jussi Jokinen looked on.
And the definition of "distinct kicking motion" came into play again as the refs went back and forth four times on a Kris Letang empty-netter during the Pittsburgh Penguins' 4-1 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Texas Stars lost a 5-3 lead but picked up a point in a 6-5 OT loss to the Grand Rapids Griffins.
Finally: Be it resolved that hockey players are generally better dancers than singers. The South Carolina Stingrays show off their moves in a new team video – sign up here for your Stanky Leg lessons. #BlameTuba