– by Adesina O. Koiki
A Lot of Sports Talk editor-in-chief
DALLAS — The second season in the National Hockey League begins on Wednesday and the Dallas Stars may be readier than any other team in the Western Conference to succeed when the chase for Lord Stanley begins in earnest.
Tyler Seguin scored twice in the third period to break a scoreless deadlock in helping to lift the Stars to a 3-0 victory over the Minnesota Wild, Dallas’s fifth win in its last seven games. Ben Bishop, back in the lineup after missing four games with a lower-body injury, made 24 saves in recording his seventh shutout of the season as Dallas, which locked up the first wild card spot in the Western Conference standings, will take on the Central Division champion Nashville Predators in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs starting next week.
“The fun begins now,” said Stars head coach Jim Montgomery, who completes his first regular season as coach of the Stars by leading the team to its first playoff berth since 2016.
The Stars dominated from the outset, outshooting the Wild twofold in the first period, 14-7, only to quadruple the number of shots the Wild had on goal in the second period as they peppered Wild goalkeeper Alex Stalock with 20 shots on goal in the second frame. Amazingly enough, the game remained scoreless until a Stars’ power play early in the third period yielded the game’s first goal, as Seguin took a pass from Alexander Radulov before slapping a shot past Stalock and into the top corner of the net at 2:44 of the third.
Seguin doubled the lead at 8:55 of the period with his team-leading 33rd goal of the year, pouncing on a rebound from a shot by defenseman Jamie Oleksiak and sending a backhand into the net to provide Dallas breathing room.
“The emotion is higher, the hits are harder, and the goals are bigger celebrations,” said Seguin about playing in the postseason. “It’s the best time of the year.”
Bishop’s shutout tied his NHL-career high in a season with seven while allowing him to finish the campaign leading the NHL in save percentage (.934) and ranking second in goals-against average (1.98) behind St. Louis’ Jordan Binnington. Dallas’ defensive unit in front of the Stars’ goalkeepers remained solid, as the Stars have now killed off 15 of their last 16 shorthanded situations.
“I think it was important for [Bishop] to get in there and just know that everything’s working right and he’s ready to go,” Montgomery said about Bishop’s return to the lineup. “That was the most important thing.”
Minnesota, which closed the season 4-9-1 in its last 14 games, will miss the postseason for the first time since 2012.
“It’s a long time until next year,” said Wild head coach Bruce Boudreau. “You never want it to be over. It’s a disappointing moment.”
*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from Saturday’s game, with all photos taken by Dallas-area photographer Ross James. After clicking on the first photo to enlarge the picture, make sure to press the left and right arrow buttons to scroll through the rest of the pictures. There are 24 pictures in total.