Following an exhilarating shootout victory over the Vegas Golden Knights, the Dallas Stars welcomed the Arizona Coyotes to the American Airlines Center on Wednesday night. On the line for the Stars was a chance to clinch the final playoff spot in the hyper-competitive Western Conference. With the clubs win over Vegas on Tuesday night, Dallas only needed one point in their final two games to clinch. On the flip-side, a Vegas loss in Chicago would also accomplish the task for the Stars, spoiling the tie-breaker that Vegas held over the Stars.
For the visiting Coyotes the season had been a drama befitting even the best reality television show. The team is playing its last season in Glendale, preparing to move their operation to the campus of Arizona State University in the fall. The summer can’t come soon enough for a squad that is arguably the worst team in the league and without their best player in Clayton Keller. Arizona came into Dallas with a putrid record of 1-7-2 in their last ten games, their only win against the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday.
For as bad as the Coyotes were this season, a team with nothing to play for against a Dallas Stars team with everything to play for set up for a classic trap game.
First Period Observations:
The Stars came out in the first period and were outplayed for large stretches of the opening five minutes. Arizona held a four-to-nothing shot advantage before the Stars were gifted an offensive zone start with Tyler Seguin & co. on the ice. Seguin ripped the puck back to Esa Lindell, who passed it over to Jani Hakanpaa for a one-time that sailed past Harri Sateri. The goal occurred on the Stars first shot of the game, a shot that would remain the Stars only shot of the game as the game approached the first ten minutes.
The same pace of the game held for the majority of the first period with the Coyotes taking the game to the Stars. The one flaw in the Coyotes game in the first period was their inability to pick-up Stars forwards around their own net. To make matters worse the rebound control of Sateri was sorely lacking. This deficiency in their game would have consequences when Tyler Seguin cashed in on a rebound chance in the blue paint. The puck was funneled towards the net by Jason Robertson, sneaking through Sateri for an easy tap in for Tyler.
The goal for Seguin was his 24th of the season and arguably gave the Stars some wiggle room in a period where the team was not at top form. A problem in the Stars game seemed to be their willingness to let the Coyotes cycle off the wall in the defensive zone. In a clear contrast from the Vegas game, the Stars checking wasn’t as tight and forced Scott Wedgewood to make key stops early.
Dallas would kick-off the special teams portion of the evening on the penalty kill when Radek Faksa was found guilty of a hooking minor. The penalty kill for the Stars looked sluggish while the Coyotes looked dangerous with multiple chances on Wedgewood. The best look of the set came on a pointblank shot courtesy of a defensive breakdown in the Stars structure. Wedgewood calmly stared the puck into his glove, but even with the successful kill the Stars penalty killers looked out of sorts.
The special teams portion of the opening period would culminate with a power-play for the Stars when former Star Antoine Roussel committed a cross checking minor in a post whistle scrum. The Stars would fail to score in the first half of the power-play giving them a chance to carry over the advantage into the second period.
Dallas 2 Arizona 0
Dallas 7 Arizona 14
Second Period Observations:
The beginning of the second period for the Stars would be incredibly eventful. After the expiration of the carryover minor from the first period, Arizona would commit back-to-back penalties giving the Stars a long five-on-three advantage. Shortly after the drop of the puck on the five-on-three Miro Heiskanen uncorked a one-timer from the point that easily beat Sateri.
Following a sluggish first period the Stars were the total opposite in the second. The Stars came out and checked much better throughout the ice, strangling the Coyotes ability to possess the puck. Arizona also helped the Stars build momentum by taking multiple penalties throughout the period. The three-to-nothing lead for the Stars at the end of forty minutes should have been even wider considering the multiple posts that bailed out the Coyotes.
Dallas 3 Arizona 0
Dallas 25 Arizona 21
Third Period Observations
Dallas came out in the third period and for the most part controlled pace of play from the jump. However, the Stars would find their shutout bid come to end when a breakdown in the defensive end allowed the Coyotes to easily move the puck into the slot for an easy goal by Anton Stralman. The goal came while the game was moving along at an uneventful pace for both teams. Dallas mostly out-possessed the Coyotes, but that began to change following the Arizona goal.
Following the Coyotes first goal of the evening, an offensive zone face-off win for the Yotes would quickly result in their second goal of the game. Shayne Gostisbehere would rip a harmless looking shot towards the Dallas goal, only for Wedgewood to misplay the angle and watch the puck slide behind him. The two Arizona goals brought the game within one and stunned a very quiet American Airlines Center. The goals also prompted head coach Rich Bowness to use the teams timeout to resettle things for the next face-off following another flurry of chances for the Coyotes.
After the five minute mark of the third the Stars were unable to keep possession of the puck for long stretches in any zone on the ice. To further complicate matters the Coyotes transition game found new life in the Stars laid back defensive structure. Things would go from bad to worse for the Stars when Michael Raffl was whistled for boarding in the Coyotes offensive zone. The Coyotes would have a chance to completely change the complexion of the hockey game on the power-play and then some when the Stars were whistled again when Ryan Suter cross-checked a Coyote in the slot. The resulting five-on-three for the Coyotes would have immediate ramifications for the Stars when a pretty passing sequence resulted in backdoor feed to Barrett Hayton to tie the hockey game at three. The Coyotes barrage of goals stunned the AAC crowd, which had thinned out a bit after the second period.
For the remainder of the third period the Coyotes would keep sustained pressure on the Stars in all zones. The shots on goal differential in the third period amounted to fifteen for Arizona and three for the Stars. Fortunately for Dallas, regulation would end in a tie which clinched the Stars birth into the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Dallas 3 Arizona 3
Dallas 28 Arizona 36
With the game in the overtime period the Stars would register the first chance on net with a harmless shot from the outside. On their next rush up the ice, the Coyotes crisscrossed the Stars zone and opened up for a shot at Wedgewood. Travis Boyd would find himself all alone in front of the Stars net and took full advantage by placing a rebound shot past the Stars net-minder for the OT winner. The goal by Boyd completed a run where the Coyotes outscored the Stars 4-0 in a span that saw Arizona open up a 16-4 shot advantage.
Dallas 3 Arizona 4 (OT)
- Jamie Benn was short in his post-game when summing up the Stars third period collapse- mentioning that the Stars effectively handed the Coyotes the goals in the third period.
- Head Coach Rick Bowness was similar in his evaluation of the third period and clearly stated the Stars took their foot off of the peddle.
- The loss continues a bit of a trend for a Stars team that has had great difficulty in handling late game leads this season. The Stars have left multiple points on the table with late game collapses and is something that needs to be addressed when the post-season begins.
- Tyler Seguin notched his 24th goal of the season- 21 of his 24 goals have come at even strength this season which is right in line with his normal production in past seasons. The key difference in Seguin’s game is power-play goals- the last time Tyler notched more than 3 in a season on the advantage was in 2018-19 when he recorded 9.
- The Stars playoff birth marks their fourth appearance in the tournament in seven years. In this span the Stars have played the eighth most playoff games, have five series wins, and have advanced beyond the first round each time.
- Dallas has a chance at the seventh wild card spot this week- it would take a Nashville loss to Colorado and a Stars win against the Ducks on Friday to seal it for the Stars. Either way it shakes it out will result in a series rematch against either the Calgary Flames or Colorado Avalanche from the 2020 bubble. The Stars won the Calgary series in six games and the Colorado in a memorable seven games.