The Dallas Stars finished the 2015-16 season with a bang as they sat atop the central division, considered the toughest division in the NHL. This year marked their 8th division championship since the move to Dallas in 1993. The Stars accumulated 109 points in the regular season which earned them second place in the whole league and first in the western conference. The Dallas Stars utilize a high-octane offense that led the league in Goals Per Game (3.23); their scoring proves to be the most dangerous part of Dallas’ game.
The Dallas Stars drew the pesky Minnesota Wild in a divisional Western Conference Quarterfinals matchup. The Wild, who have the lowest amount of points for a playoff team (87), hoped to knock off the Dallas Stars for an upset series win.
The series opened on April 14 in front of a sold out crowd at the American Airlines Center in downtown Dallas. The Stars quickly jumped out to an advantage in shots, but Wild goaltender Devin Dubnyk stood on his head during the first period. As the buzzer rang to signal the end of the first period, the Stars had a huge advantage of 14-2. Dubnyk’s excellence however, could not be maintained as the Stars opened the second period with goals from rookie Radek Faksa and veteran forward Jason Spezza. The second period concluded 2-0 in favor of the Stars. As the third period began, Dallas continued the shooting extravaganza and Patrick Eaves would net a power play goal off a juicy rebound. The Stars would ice the cake and Captain Jamie Benn would net an empty net goal. The final was 4-0 as Stars Goalie Kari Lehtonen throws up a goose egg denying all 22 of Minnesota’s shots.
Back for game two, the Dallas Stars looked for the win to take a 2-0 series lead against the befuddled Wild. The Stars continued to dominate offensively and the Wild’s offensive struggles were showcased even further. The Stars jumped out to a lead early in the second with a goal from agitator Antoine Roussel and would add another in the third from captain Jamie Benn. The Wild scored a goal on the power play close to the midpoint of the third period by defenseman Marco Scandella. The goal had little effect on the atmosphere of the AAC, and enthusiast Will Aberger ’17 even said, “The wild just had no chance,” further lamenting the Wild’s lack of offense. The Stars would hold on for a 2-1 win to take a 2-0 series lead in a best of 7.
The Stars then traveled to the self-proclaimed “State of Hockey” to the Xcel Energy Center for game 3. The Stars jumped out to an early two goal lead both scored by Patrick Sharp but that didn’t last for long as the Stars squandered their early lead by giving up four unanswered goals as the Wild’s offense surfaces (Porter, Haula, Pominville, Koivu). The Stars would however strike back with a goal by Colton Sceviour to come within one, but Pominville did net his second goal of the night on an empty net to put the nail in the coffin. The Wild won game three 5-3 to bring the series to 2-1.
In game 4, the Stars looked to bounce back and claim a 3-1 series lead over the Wild. The game started slowly with tremendous amounts of physicality from both teams as emotions ran high. The Wild got on the board first during the second period as Jason Pominville cleaned up a rebound to beat goalie Antti Niemi. The Stars didn’t stay silent for long as Ales Hemsky unleashed a rocket past Dubnyk on the power play to tie the game at one. The Wild stormed back and Charlie Coyle took advantage of a bad turnover by defenseman Alex Goligoski and scored on the breakaway to bring the game to 2-1. Patrick Eaves of the Dallas Stars answered on the power play again. Eaves made a great deflection of a Kris Russell shot that would penetrate Dubnyk to tie the game at 2. To end the eventful second period Jason Spezza deflected one off of his skate to give the Stars the lead 3-2. That goal held up as the winner in a scoreless third period and the Stars took a 3-1 series lead.
The Stars traveled back to Dallas to take on the Wild in game 5. The Wild jumped out to an early two goal lead with goals from Schroeder and Granlund. The Stars scored towards the end of the first period as Oduya unleashed a laser one timer from the point to beat Dubnyk. A rather uneventful 2nd period would unravel as the Wild held onto a 2-1 lead. The third period started and the Stars receive goals from Benn, Spezza, and Goligoski and the Wild received production from Niederreiter and Koivu. That would not be enough as the teams headed to overtime with the score 4-4. As overtime started, the Stars looked lethargic and the Wild struck five minutes into the extra period with a goal from Koivu. The Stars were unable to clinch the series on home ice and traveled back to Minnesota and eliminated the Wild.
The Stars returned to the Xcel Energy Center and completely dominated the Wild through two periods with goals from, Klingberg, Spezza, Sharp, and Benn. The third period began with a 4-0 Dallas lead but that wouldn’t last for long. The Wild showed extreme desperation in the face of adversity and scored three unanswered goals (Spurgeon (2), Brodin). The Stars answered quickly with a goal from Goligoski to make the score 5-3. Though the Wild wouldn’t be finished there as Pominville netted one to make it 5-4. The Stars eventually held on and the buzzer would halt the onslaught to preserve the Stars 5-4 lead. Avid Stars fan Matt Musso ’17 commented, “My team nearly gave me a heart attack in the third period, but I was glad to see them stick it out and get the dub. I’m looking forward to the series versus the Blues.”
Dallas won the best of 7 series 4-2 to eliminate the Minnesota Wild. The Stars look to continue their winning ways against the resilient St. Louis Blues during the Western Conference semi-finals.