The Dallas Stars still had a glimmer of hope for a playoff spot when they began play Thursday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets at American Airlines Center. But before the second period was over, their fate had been sealed. A Detroit victory over Nashville eliminated the Stars from the playoffs.
The Blue Jackets, meanwhile, kept their hopes alive with a 3-1 victory over the Stars, who are missing the playoffs for the fifth straight season.
“It’s another tough one for me to swallow,” said Stars defenseman Stephane Robidas. “It’s been a long time since I’ve had the chance to get in the playoffs. The good news, I guess you’ve got to look at the positives, a lot of guys fought until the end. A lot of people thought we were done after the deadline and we kind of made it until this game, we still had a chance to make it.”
The Stars, who were thought to be dead after dealing away Brenden Morrow, Derek Roy and Jaromir Jagr prior to the trade deadline, made a run at a playoff spot thanks to a nice run that included a five-game winning streak. But Thursday’s loss was their fourth straight (0-3-1) and their fifth in the last six games (1-4-1).
“It sucks, it really does,” said Stars forward Eric Nystrom. “You look back at some of the games you just missed out on, that you thought you should have won and these are games that are the first ten of the season, and you end up missing the playoffs by just a few points. It’s amazing how important every game is. It’s frustrating, but we really have improved so much. That’s really a positive.”
The Stars got off to a slow start Thursday, falling behind in the first 19 seconds of the game when Blue Jackets forward Brandon Dubinsky got the puck on net and Cam Atkinson scored on the ensuing scramble.
The Stars drew even with a power play goal at 8:43 of the second period. Erik Cole drove the net, centered the puck and Jamie Benn scored to tie the game at 1-1.
But about five minutes later the Stars’ fate in the playoff race was sealed when Detroit defeated Nashville, 5-2 to eliminate the Stars.
“We kind of found out (after the second period),” said Robidas. “It’s kind of tough not to find out. For us, we still wanted to get the win, because we’re playing in front of our fans and they deserve an honest effort. We just couldn’t do it.”
The Blue Jackets took the lead for good at 7:56 of the third with a power play goal. After a Dubinsky faceoff win, Mark Letestu’s shot from the point deflected off a Dallas stick and past goaltender Kari Lehtonen to put Columbus up 2-1. Atkinson scored on another power play with 1:40 remaining to make it a 3-1 game and keep the Blue Jackets alive in the playoff race.
“We came in here, did our job and we won our game,” Dubinsky said. “We’re going to have to do it again on Saturday (at home versus Nashville).
“It’s going to be a great crowd and a great opportunity and it’s going to be a lot of fun. [Heck] of a job by these guys, six-game road trip, 5-1 against some [darn] good teams, really proud of these guys. The job’s not done but we gave ourselves an opportunity.”
For the Stars, they fell short of their goal of making the playoffs. But they did turn a lot of heads by climbing back into the race when most people thought they were done after moving some big name players at the deadline.
“Since the trade deadline I’m very proud of this group and how hard they competed,” said Stars coach Glen Gulutzan. “I’ve coached 13 years and as a coach you have times where there are some teams who made the playoffs and had little runs, but you weren’t as proud to stand behind the bench. I was very proud. I told the guys I was very proud to stand behind the bench, especially this last month.”
Notes: Rome sits with hip injury that will require surgery
Stars defenseman Aaron Rome did not play Thursday due to a hip injury.
“He’s been battling a hip that needs surgery,” said Stars coach Glen Gulutzan. “We just thought we’d get fresh legs in for the game, a fresh hip.”
With Rome not playing, Jordie Benn was back in the lineup. Benn was paired with Philip Larsen.
Alex Chiasson missed his fifth straight game with a shoulder injury.
Matt Fraser was a healthy scratch.