The Dallas Stars continued their late season push as they defeated the LA Kings 5-1 tonight at the AAC. For most of the game, they dictated play, especially when taking advantage of the Kings' poor passing/breakouts by forcing turnovers.
Early play brought about bad news first with a quick Kings' goal followed by Kari Lehtonen's exit just past the halfway point of the first period; he did not return due to a "lower body injury." The beginning tilt ended in a 1-1 deadlock as the Stars' Alex Goligoski evened it up.
With the dreaded Stars' second period bringing a parade to the penalty box(including their second double-minor high stick of the game), a very efficient and stifling penalty kill ensured the game remain even through two.
The flood gates opened in the third period with Ray "the Wizard" Whitney leading the way with 2 goals and Vernon Fiddler likewise with 2 goals. Both Whitney and Fiddler had outstanding games making their presence known and filling in vital roles.
Richard Bachman played outstanding after coming in for Kari, stopping 22 of 22 shots faced. The Stars' defense looked the best it has all season while the fore check capitalized on almost every LA mistake.
Cody Eakin and Alex Goligoski had notable performances. Eakin forced many turnovers some of which turned into prime scoring chances. Goligoski's sound decision making and poise are showing to be valuable more and more as the season progresses and were very evident tonight.
The pressing issue on everyone's mind despite this stellar performance by the Stars remains Kari Lehtonen's health. We know Bachman can temporarily fill the shoes of Lehtonen, more so during a mid season push, but the Stars' elite goaltending will be a must if they plan on continuing this hot streak.
I will admit I had this team written off a week ago (as did almost everybody), but with some opportune results yesterday, coupled with the recent hot streak, the Stars find themselves just two points out of a playoff spot.
The Stars have a mammoth game this Friday against the likewise playoff contending Nashville Predators. San Jose will return to Dallas on Saturday for the second night of a tough back-to-back facing the Stars.