The Dallas Stars moved another point closer to the top eight in the Western Conference Friday night, running their winning streak to four games with a 5-2 victory at Nashville. The win left the Stars two points out of eighth place with eight games remaining in the season.
“We’re not getting too far ahead of ourselves. Every game is a battle and every day we are focused and we are just trying to claw ourselves into one of those top eight spots,” said Stars coach Glen Gulutzan. “The last couple of weeks the guys have felt people have written them off and we haven’t like that very much. We just keep playing for each other in that locker room.”
With eighth-place Detroit losing in a shootout at Chicago Friday night and ninth-place Phoenix losing in overtime at Calgary, the Stars (20-17-3) could move into the top eight with a win over San Jose at American Airlines Center on Saturday.
“It just seems like everyone is pulling on the same rope. It seems like we’re firing on all cylinders,” said Stars center Vernon Fiddler, who had two assists. “We still have to get better. I don’t think the second and third periods were the greatest, but ultimately we got the two points. We have to worry about San Jose now tomorrow.”
The Stars made the most of their opportunities against the Predators, scoring five goals on just 18 shots. Four different players scored goals and ten different players registered points. Richard Bachman, filling in for the injured Kari Lehtonen, was rocked solid in goal, stopping 26 of 28 shots. Bachman has stopped 48 of 50 shots over the last two games.
“It’s fun to be a part of it whether you are playing or not down the stretch, especially with people counting us out,” said Bachman. “It’s even more fun to be out on the ice playing games, helping guys out and doing my part.”
The Stars got off to a quick start Friday, scoring on two of their first three shots to take a 2-0 lead by the 8:40 mark of the first period.
“We needed these points as much as anyone and we wanted to get on them early,” said Fiddler. “They’ve been struggling a little bit and we know how hard they work. We had some good jump off the start, got a little bit of a lead and built off that all night.”
Fiddler set up Erik Cole, who scored off a blast from the high slot at the 6:04 mark to put the Stars up 1-0.
The Stars made it a 2-0 game a little more than two minutes later with a power play goal. Alex Goligoski sent a pass from the right point to Ray Whitney, who scored off a one-timer from the left circle.
After the Predators scored a power play goal late in the first period to cut the lead to 2-1, the Stars struck early in the second to make it a 3-1 game. Tom Wandell scored off the rush at the 2:28 mark.
Alex Chiasson scored off a nice set up from Ray Whitney at the 11:12 mark to make it a 4-1 game and through two periods, the Stars had scored four goals on eleven shots against Nashville backup Chris Mason, who was making just his fourth start of the season.
Chiasson scored off the rush in the third period to extend the Stars lead to 5-1. It was the fifth goal in five games for Chiasson, who was called up to the NHL just after the trade deadline.
“I think playing with those two guys (Whitney and Jamie Benn) makes it a lot easier on me,” said Chiasson. “I am playing confident right now, that’s for sure. I am just going day by day and see where it goes.”
It was the fifth straight loss for the Predators, who fell to 15-19-8 on the season and are going to miss the playoffs for just the second time in the last nine seasons.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t get a save when we needed it. It was a tough night that way,” said Nashville coach Barry Trotz. “You have four goals in eleven shots. They are fighting for their playoff lives; we are not. They didn’t dominate us. They had eleven shots and four goals.”
*The Stars have outscored their opponents 18-8 during their four-game winnings streak.
*The Stars have won three straight on the road and four of their last five.
*The Stars were 1-3 on the power play. It was their first power play goal in six games.
*Stars forward Vernon Fiddler ran his points streak to five games (2 goals, 7 assists).
*Stars forward Alex Chiasson has points in four straight games (5 goals, 1 assist).
*Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen (groin) missed Friday’s game. He is day-to-day.