It all comes down to this. The Dallas Stars can clinch a spot in the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs with a regulation victory over the Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday night.
How the Stars Got Here
Well, first, the Stars needed to take care of business on Saturday night against the Seattle Kraken. Using three goals in quick succession in the second period, Dallas overcame a 2-0 deficit and held on for a regulation 3-2 win. With that, Dallas knew they would have a chance to clinch on Tuesday if Vegas lost in any fashion to the San Jose Sharks on Sunday.
“We’ll worry about that on Monday,” Rick Bowness said. “Right now, we’re just going to enjoy this because I’m so proud of the guys.”
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All looked well for Vegas late in the game as they took a 4-2 lead with 6:35 remaining. You can assume that most Stars fans went to bed disappointed at that point. However, everything changed late in the game. Nick Bonino scored at the 17:54 mark to bring the Sharks within one and after an excellent keep at the blue line, Timo Meier found the back of the net with only 0.9 seconds left in the game to tie things 4-4.
As if that wasn’t enough drama, San Jose also fought off an overtime 4-on-3 power play and got themselves into a shootout. After five unsuccessful shooters, Sharks forward Thomas Bordeleau found the twine on his first career shootout attempt to give the Sharks a huge 5-4 victory over the Golden Knights.
“Definitely a tough pill to swallow,” Vegas captain Mark Stone said. “We have to win the next game [Tuesday at the Stars]. If we win the next game, you never know what could happen. You can get some help. We’ve gotten some along the way. Really a devastating loss, but we’re still in it. You have to think that way. We have to win a big game on Tuesday to keep our chances alive.”
What the Stars Need to Clinch
The path to clinching a playoff spot is as simple as it has been. In their final three games, they need to gain four points, which can come from wins or Vegas losses. The easiest and most immediate path is a regulation victory over Vegas on Tuesday night in Dallas. If they do this, they will reach that four-point mark in one night and clinch their spot. If the Stars win past regulation or lose on Tuesday, the race will continue at least until Wednesday.
“It’s huge,” Jamie Benn said. “It’s obviously what you want, to not rely on somebody else to do your job. We have a chance to get into the playoffs with a big win so that’s what we’re going to try to do.”
On top of the battle for the final spot, the Stars have also not taken their eye off of the top wild card. Currently, Dallas trails Nashville by one point for that spot. The Preds gained that point in an overtime loss to the Wild on Sunday. The good news for Dallas in this race is that Nashville has a far more difficult remaining schedule.
In their final three games, the Preds play the top two seeds in the West, the Calgary Flames and Colorado Avalanche, before finishing their season with the Arizona Coyotes. Dallas, on the other hand, faces three non-playoff teams in Vegas, Arizona, and the Anaheim Ducks, all on home ice.
“Stay in the moment, that’s it,” Rick Bowness said. “Shift to shift, period to period. You can’t worry about Colorado or Calgary at this point, it is just stay in the moment. The magic number is four. We need to get a win and they lose in regulation and that’s what we are looking at. Whether it is tomorrow night, Wednesday, or if it goes to Friday, it goes to Friday.”
The Stars practiced on Monday, likely for the last time during the regular season. They enter Tuesday’s game with everything on the line and hope to clinch a spot at the end of the night. If not, things will come down to the final two games of the season.
- Bowness hinted that Jake Oettinger is the likely starter on Tuesday
- Vladislav Namestnikov, John Klingberg, and Joe Pavelski all had maintenance days on Monday but should be ready for Tuesday