The Dallas Stars have managed to create a gap between themselves and the bottom four teams in the Central Division, and they have the chance to widen the margin this weekend in Canada.
The Western Conference club is locked solidly into a playoff spot with the St. Louis Blues and Colorado Avalanche — familiar opposition that also helps form the division’s upper crust.
Dallas concludes its three-game series through eastern Canada against the Ottawa Senators on Sunday.
Coach Rick Bowness’ squad opened the Canadian swing with a 3-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs, benefitting early from goals by Denis Gurianov and Radek Faksa, then getting the game-winner from Tyler Seguin while on the power play in the third period.
In a game that featured a multitude of Stars storylines, Seguin said plainly, “Pick something,” when it came to discussing the win’s narrative.
“(Roman) Polak for 800 games, (Andrew Cogliano) for 1,000, (Jamie) Benn one goal away from 300,” Seguin said. “I’m in a 17-game goalless slump, and (Jason) Robertson’s first game. So many storylines.”
Throttling one of the highest-scoring clubs while tallying on the man advantage for the sixth consecutive contest would also be featured on Dallas’ list of accomplishments Thursday.
When the teams met in Texas on Oct. 21, backup goalie Anton Khudobin stopped 19 of 20 shots, and Faksa and Joe Pavelski provided the offense as Dallas won for just the third time in the season’s first 11 matches (3-7-1).
Times are better now for Dallas, which was on pace for 52 points after that win during the slow start last autumn.
On Saturday night, Seguin backhanded home a dazzling, highlight-reel dagger past Montreal’s Carey Price as the Stars rallied for a 4-3 overtime win after trailing by three goals.
The Senators have produced only three wins since the Christmas break, and their play over the previous 20 games won’t be earning them league-wide respect anytime soon.
After beating the Buffalo Sabres two days before Christmas, Ottawa has backslid to a 3-10-7 mark under first-year coach D.J. Smith. The only wins were 5-2 over the Calgary Flames on Jan. 18, once again over the Sabres in Buffalo, 5-2, on Jan. 28, and 3-2 over the Arizona Coyotes in Ottawa.
Ottawa fell behind 3-0 just after the first half of Saturday night’s game against Toronto, but battled back to make it a one-goal game. The Senators lost when the Maple Leafs’ Mitch Marner clinched the win an empty-net marker with 1:14 remaining.
Connor Brown scored his 11th, Cody Goloubef his third for the Senators and Craig Anderson relieved Marcus Hogberg in goal after the starter allowed three tallies on 16 shots. Hogberg is expected back in goal against the Stars for back-to-back weekend starts.
In the Eastern Conference standings, the Senators sit above just the Detroit Red Wings — possessors of an NHL-low 32 points.
Smith liked the play of his team and Hogberg in Tuesday’s shutout loss in Denver, but added that the play in the other blue crease was better, as Philipp Grubauer denied all 34 Ottawa shots.
“(Hogberg) played like our team played tonight; that was hard, and he played hard,” Smith said. “He gave us every chance to win. Unfortunately, (Grubauer) was really good down there.”
–Field Level Media