Stars' critical road trip turns to Calgary
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After earning only one win during a five-game homestand, the Dallas Stars knew their playoff hopes would rest greatly on their four-game road trip through Western Canada.
A crucial 5-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets on Monday to kick off the sojourn was the perfect way to begin, but the second act won't be any easier, as they face the Western Conference-leading Calgary Flames on Wednesday, a club that's licking its wounds after a dispiriting performance in its most recent outing.
"This was an important game for us," Stars goaltender Ben Bishop said after the Winnipeg win. "Obviously, it wasn't the best homestand, and this is a tough road trip. It's nice to get off on the right step. It was a good team win."
"We've been playing well lately, and we just haven't gotten the results, so it's nice to get the results," added Bishop, who recorded the 200th victory of his career. "We'll take it, enjoy it for a minute and get ready for Calgary."
Dallas (39-31-6, 84 points) is holding the first wild-card spot in the West, with a three-point edge on the Colorado Avalanche. Both teams have six games remaining on the regular-season docket. Entering Tuesday, Arizona (six games left) and Minnesota (five) each sat at 79 points.
Calgary (47-22-7, 101 points) is leading the conference and holds a six-point edge on the San Jose Sharks in the Pacific Division with six games remaining, but expect to see some extra anger in the Flames' game. They saw a three-game winning streak snapped on Monday by a 3-0 loss to the last-place Los Angeles Kings.
The Flames fired 42 shots on goal against the Kings, but lacked emotion on a night they could have clinched home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
"We just didn't get to their net," captain Mark Giordano said. "It was one of those nights. We knew they were going to come in and play a really structured game defensively, and that's what they did. They really pack it in, and it was hard to get inside them. We had a lot of shots, but we didn't have enough second and third opportunities."
The mantra going into Wednesday will be to push for those second chances around the net. Falling short in that area is also a reason the Flames have been blanked on the power play in their last seven games and have managed just one goal in their last 25 man-advantage opportunities over 10 games.
"At the end of the day, we've got to play harder, get to the net more, get to the crease to score the dirty ones," center Sean Monahan said. "It's not an easy league to score, and we need to do a better job of getting in front of the goalie's eyes. When you do that in this league, that's when you get rewarded."
The Stars, who also visit the Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks during this trip, have won five straight road games, a perfect time to find their form away from the Lone Star State.
"What I liked is we wanted to play with desperation, and we wanted to win a lot of battles, and we did those things right from the start," head coach Jim Montgomery said of the win over the Jets.
--Field Level Media
Updated March 27, 2019