Heading into this afternoon's tilt against the San Jose Sharks, the Dallas Stars were tied the St. Louis Blues with 97 points and because of a higher ROW, occupied the No. 1 spot in the West. The Sharks were looking to clinch at least the No. 3 spot in the Pacific Division for the playoffs. It's pretty much a done deal at this point - the fourth place Arizona Coyotes are still 15 points behind San Jose. Still, clinching would probably feel better.
Too bad, so sad, Sharks.
Lot of emotion in the game as both teams were coming off huge losses to teams not currently in the playoffs. On Thursday night, the Stars went down 3-1 to the Coyotes and the Sharks lost 6-3 to the Edmonton Oilers. (I'd rather be the Stars on Thursday night, personally, but mileage may vary.) Both teams were looking to bounce back.
So what happened? The chippiest game the Stars have played in a while is what happened.
Antoine Roussel was the name most on the lips of the Sharks broadcast (the broadcast I was left with today). Roussel drew a penalty from former teammate Brenden Dillon early in the first, took two hard hits from Roman Polak and Tommy Wingels in rapid succession, and then slashed Michael Haley in frustration.
After sitting for two minutes for the slash, Roussel then squared off against Wingels and pulled his hair.
Roussel pulled Wingels hair at the end of their fight. The linesman had to pry his fingers away pic.twitter.com/25nHc4Sl9t— Stephanie (@myregularface) March 26, 2016
Maybe Wingels conditioned this morning and Roussel was admiring the texture. Maybe Roussel was just doing what he does best and being a pest. Either way, I'm with him until the hair pulling.
The only score in the first came off a tip in from Mattias Janmark (welcome back, bud!) off a slapshot from Jordie Benn. As the Stars had only 5 shots this period and a whopping 34% CF in 5 v 5, the Stars are super lucky the score wasn't 4-0.
Luckily, Antti Niemi showed up to play against his former team.
And then we're off to intermission.
Roussel continued to chip at the Sharks composure in the second period. Haley ended up with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty while Roussel gets a crosschecking penalty against Tommy Wingels. Roussel was looking to have a repeat of their first period fight but Wingels wasn't having it.
And honestly, this is what you look for in your pests. The Sharks outplayed the Stars through the first two periods but couldn't maintain the necessary composure to get the puck in the net. They also gave up prime power play opportunities, which led to Patrick Sharp finally breaking his goal drought on a power play late in the second.
Before that though, Mattias Janmark had already scored his second of the game when Martin Jones took a walk to Narnia, left the net wide open, and only Tomas Hertl in net for the Sharks.
Okay, it wasn't Narnia, but Jones did bite hard on the threat of Jason Spezza and no one bothered to cover Janmark on the other side of the net.
Either way, despite being outplayed by the Sharks through 40 minutes, the Stars led 3-0 going into intermission.
The Stars tried pretty hard to throw the game in the third, but the Niemi continued to not let them and the Sharks, while able to score 5 v 5 could not manage to score on the three power plays given to them in the last twenty minutes.
The first Sharks goal happened when Niemi left the net to play the puck, Joel Ward came behind and knocked Niemi down. Jordie Benn, for reasons unknown (maybe his controller lost power) centered the puck in front of the empty net, giving Joel Ward (having made sure Niemi wouldn't get back to the net in time) plenty of space, time, and opportunity to score on the entirely empty net. Here's what the end of this paragraph looks like in gif form:
Tomas Hertl scored about two minutes after that off a rush from Joe Pavelski, who also had a pretty chippy game. He and Stars captain Jamie Benn gave each other some nudges from time to time, culminating in a blatant hook from Jamie Benn which ended up with him in the penalty box. Nothing much came after that, and there was no rematch between Jamie and Joe Thornton, unfortunately.
Jones was pulled with two minutes left to go in the game, which in the language of the Stars is just another empty net goal, this time scored by Jamie Benn.
And that's the game. The Sharks could still clinch tonight if the Coyotes fail to get a point against the Flyers. Remember, of course, that the Coyotes are 15 whole points behind the Sharks right now. So even if it doesn't happen today, it'll probably happen soon.
The Stars, meanwhile, hold off the Blues for at least until the end of their game tonight against the Capitals. (We'd still be ahead, we'd just be tied for points again.)