The Dallas Stars could very well be on their way to the Presidents' Trophy. First, they have to beat the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday night.
"We needed the confidence boost, especially going into the Detroit game," Stars forward Jamie Langenbrunner said after Sunday night's 4-3 victory over the St. Louis Blues. "We hadn't played well against St. Louis all year, so it was good for us, especially against a possible playoff opponent."The victory gave the Stars a franchise-record 105 points and the lead in the race for the best record in the NHL. The New Jersey Devils, who tied Florida 5-5, are one point back at 104, while the idle Red Wings are third at 103. Each team had three games left.
St. Louis had beaten Dallas in four of the teams' first five meetings, making Sunday night's victory important for the Stars on several levels.
"This was a big hurdle for us mentally," Stars coach Ken Hitchcock said. "St. Louis has been a very difficult team for us to beat."
Pat Verbeek's third-period power-play goal broke a 2-2 tie and the Stars converted three of nine power plays as they bettered the franchise mark of 104 points set last season.
St. Louis rallied from a two-goal deficit to tie the game at 2 after only 42 seconds had been played in the third period on Steve Duchesne's power-play goal.
But a slashing call against St. Louis' Chris McAlpine 30 seconds later gave Dallas a man advantage. Verbeek capitalized eight seconds into the power play when he converted Sergei Zubov's goalmouth pass for his 28th.
Mike Keane scored his 10th at 10:45 of the third to extend the Stars' lead to 4-2. Pavol Demitra's shorthanded goal with 6:28 left, his 20th, pulled the Blues within 4-3.
DEVILS 5, PANTHERS 5: Brendan Morrison scored at 12:16 of the third period to help the Devils salvage a tie with the visiting Panthers.
Morrison scored his fourth goal in five games since his recall from Albany of the AHL on April 2. The rookie wristed a rising shot from the slot past Kirk McLean to close out the scoring.
COYOTES 2, BLACKHAWKS 1: At Chicago, Jeremy Roenick's unassisted goal with 7:20 left led Phoenix.
Roenick, a former Blackhawk, pounced on a bad pass by Chicago defenseman Gary Suter and ripped a 30-foot shot past goaltender Jeff Hackett to break a 1-1 tie.