The Stars rolled into tonight brimming with the confidence a two game winning streak can bring a team. After scoring three late goals to beat the Blackhawks last night, and a long wait on the tarmac in Chicago waiting to get home, the Stars did not look any worse for wear in tonight’s tilt against the Minnesota Wild. The Stars opened the scoring 8:48 into the first period from a Tom Wandell wrist shot, and then Loui Eriksson added his 20th of the season with 2:20 left to play, giving the Stars a solid 2-0 lead heading into the first intermission. The Stars didn’t slow down and Eric Nystrom scored a career-high 16th goal of the year versus his old team 3:53 into the second period. The goal chased Nicklas Backstrom from the Minnesota net and he was replaced with Matt Hackett. The Stars survived some penalty trouble later in the period, and brought a 3-0 lead into the third period. Things were going pretty well for the Stars for the first half of the third, the Stars played stout defense and held the lead, but then referees began to make some, well, let’s just say questionable calls. First it was Steve Ott, who apparently earned a penalty for being thrown to the ice by Cal Clutterbuck. The Stars were holding their own but then yet another minor was assessed on Michael Ryder 1:20 later, putting the Wild on a 5-on-3 that resulted in a predicatable Devin Setoguchi goal. did the madness end there? Nope. With the Ryder minor still being killed, Sheldon Souray was called for a cross check, giving the Wild yet another 5-0n-3, but the Stars came through and killed off the penalties. The Wild’s last gasp for life was thwarted by Tom Wandell, scoring his second goal of the night on the Minnesota empty net, giving the Stars a 4-1 win.
What It Means:
The Stars now hold a grasp on the eighth and final playoff spot, two points ahead of Calgary, Colorado, and Los Angeles and three points behind Phoenix and San Jose for the division lead. Suddenly things look a lot brighter, don’t they? But of course, this could all be derailed by a bad stretch and with the trade deadline fast approaching, the Stars still need to focus on the long term while doing what they can to win games right now. The three game winning streak gives everyone good feelings, from the fans to the men in the locker room, but it is still a long road, and the Stars have probably their toughest test coming up. Lost in all this is Minnesota, they now find themselves five points out of a playoff spot, and are close to falling out of the race altogether. The Stars put together a big win tonight to help bury another contender, making the path to the playoffs a bit less crowded for everyone. Game notes:
- Mike Ribeiro is now riding a six game point streak, playing some of his best hockey of the year when the Stars need it most.
- Kari Lehtonen continues the best season of his career, now winning two straight, giving up just one goal between both games.
- Loui Eriksson became the second Star to hit the 20 goal mark, after Michael Ryder.
Sunday afternoon the Stars will play the first of four games versus the Vancouver Canucks left in the season. This game will really reveal what type of team the Stars are. They simply could not beat the Canucks last year, and if they want to be successful in the playoffs should they make, it needs to start here, winning games against the best in the Western Conference. It’s another matinee home game, so what else are you gonna do on a Sunday afternoon? Get to the AAC and cheer on your Pesky Stars.