DALLAS — A hopeful lob into the offensive zone turned into a very fortunate bounce to provide the Dallas Stars their opening goal on Saturday. The lucky break is what may be needed to propel the team to a final push toward one of the last playoff spots on offer this season.
Jamie Benn had Dallas’ fortunate first goal of the game as well as an assist as the Stars used a four-goal second period to defeat the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-1 at the American Airlines Center. The win snapped a two-game losing streak, along with putting the team within closer striking distance of fourth place in the Central Division in hopes of being able to defend last season’s Western Conference title in the postseason.
Denis Gurianov, John Klingberg and Joe Pavelski also had a goal and an assist, and it was Klingberg’s goal-bound lob from center ice that troubled Columbus goalkeeper Joonas Korpisalo into parrying the puck into the path of a wide-open Benn, who scored to tie the game at 1-1 at the 12:35 mark of the first period. After that fortunate bounce, the rest of the contest was utter Dallas domination.
“It gets you going. The way we talk on the bench is if we get one, we are going right back after them,” said Stars head coach Rick Bowness. “We want to go right back after them. If they score, we want to go back after them. That’s been the attitude we have always had, and we want to push the pace. Especially when we get a goal, we are going right back after them, and that is what we did tonight.”
Dallas’ four second-period goals came in a 6:30 span, starting with Gurianov’s ninth of the season — set up by Benn — at 10:10. Three minutes later, Pavelski and Klingberg scored 30 second apart to break the game open. Another defenseman, Esa Lindell, scored at 16:40 to complete one of the best periods the up-and-down Stars have had all season.
All five of the Dallas’ goals came on even strength situations.
“I think the results show it, but I think we have been playing pretty good five-on-five for a while,” Klingberg said. “It seems like the puck is going in right now, and we’ve got good, timely goals as well which allows us to get momentum in the game and get a little bit of a breather. It’s not like you are thinking about getting a breather out there, but it’s obviously nice to go up two or three goals.”
Stars goalkeeper Jake Oettinger won his second consecutive start, making 21 saves and only allowing a Vladislav Gavrikov goal six minutes into the contest. Dallas has recorded at least a point in 14 of the 19 games in which Oettinger has recorded a decision.
Columbus has now lost five consecutive games, allowing at least four goals in each of those contests, and have one only one of its 9 games in the month of April. After allowing the Stars’ two goals in a 30-second span in the second, Korpisalo was pulled in favor of Elvis Merzlikins, who proceeded to make 15 saves on 16 shots in relief.
*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from Saturday night’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 27 pictures in total.