It may not be the way the Dallas Stars drew up their last game at home this season.
Playoffs were the expectation. A collapse the last month of the season, and with too many teams in front of them to try to leapfrog to make the playoffs, the Stars were all but mathematically eliminated from playoff contention heading into tonight’s contest.
But they weren’t going to go softly into that great night.
Dallas scored the only goals of the first two periods and then made that lead stand up – actually extending it in the final 20 minutes for a change of pace – and captured a win on home ice.
At the beginning of the first period, it was a bit surprising that Antoine Roussel hadn’t been squared up in a fight after the last game they played against the Minnesota Wild on Thursday night. Winnik particularly was not a fan of Roussel after his “style” was on display on Thursday night, so most would have likely put the likelihood of Roussel fighting early in the game at fairly high odds.
Winnik and Dubnyk on Antoine Roussel. #mnwild and #dallasstars meet again Saturday pic.twitter.com/1QKaBKkXKj— Michael Russo (@RussoHockey) March 30, 2018
Instead, Dallas let the scoreboard do the talking.
Jason Spezza would score the only goal of the frame after taking a pass from Alexander Radulov, who hit the zone with speed. It was Spezza’s first goal since he scored two versus the Detroit Red Wings at their new arena on January 16th. That’s 28 games between goal scoring, for those keeping track at home.
Dallas would come close a few other times but couldn’t solve Devya Dubnyk again in the period. The Wild came close a time or two, but Dallas held the edge in shots on goal – and, more importantly, on the scoreboard – after 20 minutes.
Dallas looked much the same as they did in the first frame heading into the middle 20 minutes. They added another tally when John Klingberg lasered home a shot after being given the gift of time and space in the slot area. The goal, his 8th of the season, was his second point of the night, and pulled him within one point of tying the lead in blueliner scoring in the league (John Carlson of the Washington Capitals has 65 points to Klingberg’s 64).
While the shots on goal might be closer on paper, the period really felt tilted in Dallas’ favor. It felt like they had the majority of dangerous chances, though Minnesota did register a quality look at Kari Lehtonen on a shorthanded chance.
It wouldn’t be a Stars game without an excitement-filled third period. Radek Faksa came out on the second chance of the period, with the Stars on a penalty kill, and scored a shorthanded goal just 20 seconds into the period. Of course, that goal was negated less than a minute later when Dallas allowed a power play goal to the Wild.
That seems to be the way hockey games go for Dallas of late.
While it may not have been productive frenetic energy, the rest of the period was a very north-south game, with both teams getting chances before forcing a turnover and having to defend. Minnesota came close to scoring twice on plays where the puck got behind Lehtonen, but each time a teammate was there to keep the puck from finding its home (Esa Lindell had the best save in that regard).
Dallas was finally able to take a two-goal lead into the last 20 minutes tonight and turn it into a regulation win. Some will say it’s too little, too late in regards to this season. But in my mind, it was a good way to close out the home schedule of this season in a frustrating year.
They gave their fans a win, in an exciting game, and left a little less bitter taste in our mouth than continuing the suckage of late would have provided.