Revenge has been fulfilled. The Dallas Stars are back on the right track.
Monday night’s 2-1 win over the Winnipeg Jets was exactly what they needed to get some momentum back in their favor. The Stars ended a four-game losing streak by defeating the Ottawa Senators on Saturday afternoon. They desperately needed a follow-up victory against a team also fighting for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Last week, the Jets handed the Stars a demoralizing 7-2 loss in Winnipeg. One of the biggest areas of concern in the game was special teams. They failed to score on the power play and did not look very good with the man advantage while taking six penalties themselves.
They made it a point to turn their play around for this match, their final meeting of the season. The Stars scored on two of their four power plays, but they came close and looked good on the opportunities they did not convert. They were 1-for-3 on the penalty kill, but the one the Jets scored came on a 4-on-3 with less than three minutes left in regulation. They pulled their goalie for a 5-on-3 advantage and scored on a tight-angle rebound to the side of the net.
The Stars played a fast, physical game with a relentless forecheck. Their team defense and puck support helped keep the Jets to the outside for the most part. The Jets did end up with several odd-man rushes, but the Stars had two players skating back each time to help, and the lone defenders took care of most of the rushes themselves. While the Stars did block 17 shots, their best player was easily Kari Lehtonen.
Lehtonen stopped 32 of 33 shots, and he managed to swallow or control his rebounds well throughout most of the game. He fought through screens and came up with big saves when he was needed. He did not have to make many astounding saves, but a few second-chance opportunities near the net and a couple of deflections were turned away with poise and control.
Again, when the Stars needed their heroes to step up, they did. Lehtonen led the way with solid goaltending. Tyler Seguin scored the game-winning goal, and Jamie Benn tallied two assists. Ray Whitney stepped up with a strong performance and opened the scoring with a goal early in the first period.
Dallas ended the season series 3-1-1 against the Jets. More importantly, the win put the Stars one point behind the Phoenix Coyotes in the race for the second Wild Card spot, but the Stars have a game in hand and tiebreakers on the Coyotes.
The Stars played to the strengths of their system, stuck with the game plan that led to success earlier this season and showed why they should not be counted out of the playoff race yet. They will look to repeat their effort and ride the momentum of consecutive wins as they face the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday night.