That is exactly how a team should bounce back from an ugly loss and show what they are capable of.
The Dallas Stars faced the Vancouver Canucks Thursday night in their most critical game since the Olympic break. They had just suffered a lackluster loss two nights before at the hands of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Prior to Thursday’s game, the Stars held the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference with a two-point lead on the Canucks and two games in hand. Dallas burst out of the gates and dominated the Canucks en route to a 6-1 victory and some added cushion in the standings.
Slow starts have plagued the Stars of late, but coach Lindy Ruff challenged the team to start the game strong. He let the team know how critical the game would be to their playoff hopes, and the players responded with a bang. Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn led the Stars to one of their best periods of the season, starting with a goal from Benn only 2:57 into the game. Seguin added two goals to give Dallas a 3-0 lead on eight shots through the first period. By the end of the second period, the Stars ran up a 5-0 lead with both teams having rifled off 17 shots each.
Benn and Seguin are expected to lead the Stars on a nightly basis, and they did exactly that in one of their biggest games of the season to date. Seguin tallied his third hat trick of the season and added two assists with six shots. Benn scored a goal and added two assists on four shots in the game.
Special teams will be critical in Dallas’ playoff push, and they came through against the Canucks. They killed 4-of-5 penalties, and the power play came through going 2-for-5 on the night. Zack Kassian’s boarding major on Brenden Dillon in the final two minutes of the first period may result in a suspension. The Stars took advantage of the five-minute power play and game misconduct to take a commanding 4-0 lead early in the second period.
Kari Lehtonen was sharp in net again for the Stars with 32 saves. He and new addition Tim Thomas will be asked to be stellar down the final stretch of the season. The only goal Lehtonen allowed was an unfortunate bounce off the end boards while he skated behind the net to play the puck. It bounced off Lehtonen’s leg and sat in front of the gaping net for an easy Vancouver goal.
The Stars seemed to be better than the Canucks in all aspects of the game. They showed what they are truly capable of. They displayed the type of game that Ruff and general manager Jim Nill pushed for before the season began. Their zone entries were efficient. Their speed down the boards was intimidating. Their passing was crisp with a good mix of quick, tight passes and long passes to spring the offense. Their puck support was superb, and their defense was suffocating.
The Stars needed the victory not only to gain two points in the standings but to also show the management and fans that they believe in this team. No personnel changes were made besides Thomas and Stephane Robidas, and the team showed why no more changes were necessary. This group has been together the whole season, through incredible winning streaks and a horrific losing streaks. They fought together to get back into the playoff picture, and they are doing what they can to hold on to a playoff spot.
They have battled together all season, and if the first big test of the final stretch is any indication, the Stars have plenty of battle left in them as their quest for the playoffs continues.