Dallas Stars center Tyler Seguin (91) celebrates scoring his goal with teammates Alex Goligoski (33), Jamie Benn (14) and Alex Chiasson (12) during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Winnipeg Jets Monday, March 24, 2014, in Dallas.
DALLAS — The Dallas Stars narrowed the game between them and the Phoenix Coyotes for the final wild-card playoff spot in the Western Conference after a 2-1 win against the Winnipeg Jets on Monday night at American Airlines Center.
Dallas now sits just one game behind Phoenix, who lost in overtime 4-3 to the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden earlier on Monday evening. The Coyotes hold a game in hand over the Stars, who have 11 remaining, including their visit Tuesday to Chicago to face the reigning NHL Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks at United Center.
The Stars’ power play was clearly in overdrive, finishing the night at 2-for-4, a solid performance for a unit that had been just 1-for-15 over their previous five games. And that showing on Monday came against a Jets team that heading into that Central Division clash had the NHL’s best road penalty kill, snuffing out opposing power plays an impressive 88.2 percent of the time.
"Over the last 25 games we’re 19 percent (on the power play)," Stars head coach Lindy Ruff said. "We’re generating quality opportunities."
Ray Whitney opened the night’s scoring for Dallas, finding the back of the net on the Stars’ first power play of the night. Tyler Seguin then added to his team-leading goal total in the second with another PP goal to give the Stars some much-needed breathing room.
The only blemish on the record of Dallas No. 1 goaltender Kari Lehtonen on Monday night at the AAC was a third-period goal by Winnipeg’s Bryan Little off a rebound that came as the Jets had pulled goalie Al Montoya for an extra attacker.
"It was really nice to be able to get the two points in regulation," Lehtonen said. "I was able to see the puck well."
Not only did the Stars take both games of their short two-game homestand and in the process, inch ever so closer to the Coyotes for the No. 8 spot, but they also atoned nicely for a 7-2 drubbing at the hands of the Jets at MTS Centre last Sunday.
However, exacting a bit of revenge on the Paul Maurice-coached Jets was not even on the minds of the Dallas players on Monday evening.
"Just the way we decided to play (was the biggest difference)," Stars defenseman Alex Goligoski said. "We were just kind of off our game. The last few games have been good. It was just kind of a refocus thing."
Now an even bigger test looms for the Stars with Tuesday’s visit to the Windy City to face the Blackhawks in their barn.
"It (playing good defense) is the way we’re going to have to play to get into the playoffs," Whitney said. "Every team is going to have to focus on goaltending and defense. We know we can do it. We’re capable of that."