During the All-Star break, Tyler Seguin said that the Dallas Stars would be seen in the playoffs this year. Stars faithful took that with a bit of cynicism considering the way the season has gone to that point: 11th in the West and a 3 point deficit to make up while jumping over several teams.
Tonight, though, the Stars injected a little bit more hope in their chase for the playoffs.
They came out blistering in the first period, managing to put five goals past the goaltending duo of the Maple Leafs and chasing starter Frederik Andersen after he allowed five goals on just eight shots.
Scoring came from all over the roster tonight: Devin Shore, Radek Faksa, Lauri Korpikoski, Brett Ritchie, Jamie Benn and Jason Spezza all recorded tallies. Faksa’s line of Shore and Patrick Sharp set the tone with a speedy shift to start the game, and their hunger and constant drive to the net front led the Stars team’s identity tonight.
It was fun watching the 2015-2016 version of the Stars tonight.
Special teams was a mixed bag. While they were quite efficient converting their lone power play opportunity, they went just 1-for-2 on the penalty kill, an area the Stars continue to struggle in. It allowed the Leafs to creep back into the game as time wore on.
However, the Stars did one thing they haven’t done much of this season: they locked their 6-3 lead down in the third period. While score effects may say that this game was lopsided towards the Leafs, the truth is the Stars evenly matched the Leafs pace and north-south game.
They managed to contain the most lethal threat on the Leafs forward corps in Auston Matthews, holding him pointless in the contest. Dallas did try to sit on their lead in the second period, allowing Toronto to really set the tone in the middle frame.
However, they came out gunning for more goals in the third period with constant drives towards the front of the net — even though they didn’t register but one official shot on goal, the idea of putting the puck out front to try for a rebound off traffic was noticeable. They managed to spend time in the offensive zone and grind the Leafs down in their own end.
Kari Lehtonen made several big saves to keep the Leafs from gaining momentum, making 40 saves on the night. He was even the beneficiary of a kicked-in goal by the Leafs that was immediately waived off and upheld on review by the refs.
This was a nice way to start off the stretch run of games. The question now is whether the Stars can do one other thing they haven’t seemed to be able to accomplish this season: string together wins.