May 19th, 2008.  Five years, 10 months and 23 days.

That was the night that Nicklas Lidstrom skated the Clarence Campbell trophy on the ice in the American Airlines Center (not really, he wouldn't go near it) and it was the last time the Dallas Stars played beyond 82 games.

Tonight, after dominating one of the best teams in the league (although highly depleted due to injury) by beating St. Louis, 3-0, the Dallas Stars are back in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. 

"I am so damn happy," Lindy Ruff said of his team's performance.  The Stars used their first opportunity to clinch the 8th and final playoff spot as opposed to waiting until the 82nd game against the Phoenix Coyotes this Sunday.  Ruff proclaimed, "We get nothing from that game.  I've just started prep work on the playoffs.  We're gonna give some guys a break who have been racking up big minutes."

The Stars came out tonight and played what have to be considered their best game of the season.  Although there was no scoring in the first period, Dallas maintained consistent pressure and had some special scoring chances against Ryan Miller.  They outshot the Blues, 10-9 but the 10 were very high quality shots that would have given the Stars at least a 2-0 lead on a lesser netminder.  

Then, for one of the first times in recent memory, the Stars put on a clinic during the 2nd period.  Trevor Daley got the Stars on the board first when he finished off a silky move on a breakaway started by the captain, Jamie Benn.  Daley went in on the forehand and just as Miller made his move, Daley flipped over to the backhand and roofed the puck over Miller's glove.  Just 6 minutes later, Dallas struck again, this time with the man advantage.  In what had to be quite honestly one of the sexiest goals I've ever seen, Benn received the puck from Daley who made an amazing move with his body to keep the puck in the zone after the Stars lost the draw.  From tight on Miller's glove side, Benn spotted Tyler Seguin creeping in from the half wall and hit him with a pass through the crease.  Seguin from one of the tightest angles deposited the puck into the back of the net.  The Stars would finish the 2nd period, outshooting the Blues 21-6 and you could sense that the next 20 minutes would be a special crescendo that would rock the AAC 2nd only to the time that Brenden Morrow ended the Sharks playoff run in 2008.

After 60 minutes and the final playoff spot became a formality, Victory Green took on a whole new shade.  The sellout crowd was electric and kept building up to their eruption after the final horn.  In a rare showing of emotion, Benn grabbed a microphone and addressed the crowd as soon as the game was over.

"I just want to thank you all for coming out.  We have the best fans in the league," Benn said.  "We're back in the playoffs and we wanna hear ya' in a week.  Thank you very much and let's go Stars!"

The Dallas Stars will face either the Colorado Avalanche or the Anaheim Ducks in the first round.  One would have to think the savvy Stars fan would rather face their former division foes rather than their current ones.  The Avs just went 6-0-1 prior to tonight's loss to the Sharks without easily their top player in Matt Duchene.  With Anaheim, the Stars can play their typical speed game and when possible get physical with Anaheim's top line consisting of Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry to knock them off their game.  Besides, many of us still hate the Ducks, so it'll be easy to get worked up for a physical series with Anaheim.

However, as Coach Ruff said when asked if he had a preference, no one cares who we play in the first round.

Dallas Stars are IN the first round.  Dallas Stars need 16 more wins.