Jamie Benn has been instrumental since his return
Twenty-four hours ago the Dallas Stars were bemoaning a lacklustre effort in Anaheim, where they only showed up for the second period, going up 3-1, only to throw it away in the last five minutes of the third and allow Lubomir Vishnovsky to complete his hat trick in overtime.
Just for good measure, that was also the first time that had ever happened for a Duck's defenseman.
Fast forward just a little under 24 hours and the Dallas Stars were all smiles again as they managed to escape the Tank with a hard-fought and well-earned 3-2 victory over the San Jose Sharks. It guarantees .625 hockey on this Pacific road trip and could, with a win over the L.A Kings on Monday, give them .875 hockey.
As ever with the Dallas Stars, stats really are more of a side issue. A team is not meant to win so many games by coming out of a deficit going into the third, but the Stars have made it almost habitual to come back and steal the game, and this effort is just another example of that. As it is said in Dallas, it's the intangibles that are prevailing.
Last night's win already had some teething problems. No Richards, no Grossman and now no Jamie Langenbrunner, who was injured in Anaheim. Add to that the Stars were on a back-to-back and the possibility of Kari Lehtonen being fatigued, and it seems that the odds were yet again against the Dallas Stars.
Imagine the lift then when Jamie Benn raced home on the penalty kill and cleanly put it past Antti Niemi for a short-handed goal. This was Benn's third shorty of the season, good for fifth in the league.
Of course, San Jose are incredibly hot at the moment, coming into the game with an 8-2-0 record in the last 10 and an eight-game winning streak. All eyes had to be on Patrick Marleau with six points in five games, four of them goals.
It was that man again who would score on a two-on-one in the second to give the Sharks a 2-1 lead, the first Sharks goal coming from Kyle Wellwood in the first from behind the net that deflected off Jeff Woywitka and past Kari Lehtonen.
Step up Loui Eriksson to slam home the game tying goal in the third to give the Swede his fourth goal in five games, and the teams were tied 12:23 left to play. The goal came from a Mark Fistric shot from the right side of the blue line and bounced off Niemi's pads kindly for Eriksson to put it away.
The period also saw a goal similar in style to Kyle Wellwood's but coming from under-the-radar free-agent signing Jason Williams who came round the back of the net and albeit accidentally appeared to bank it off Niemi and into his goal with 7:12 to play.
The Stars have had problems killing off the end of games, against the Phoenix Coyotes and the Anaheim Ducks they had surrendered leads in the last five minutes, and it appeared that the curse may return when Toby Petersen was sent to the sin bin with only 3:14 left to play. Credit to the Stars then for finally hanging on in a game (something the San Jose Sharks were guilty of earlier this season) and coming away with a vital two points and putting them sixth in the West, third in the Pacific.
Alex Goligoski had four shots and blocked numerous shots for what is undoubtedly his best defensive game of the season. It was Jason Williams' third point in five games and is looking a masterstroke for GM Joe Nieuwendyk in picking him up.
The game also saw the continuation of Loui Eriksson's resurgence and the rise of Jamie Benn as a dominating force in games. Jamie Benn has been outstanding since his return with five points in six, which could so easily have been much more. Its not just about the points he is putting up that is inspiring the Dallas players, its the fight and energy the 21-year-old is showing that is having a marked effect on the Stars.
The San Jose Sharks need not panic after this loss; they will make the playoffs comfortably at the very least and could well still catch the Detroit Red Wings who threw away a 4-1 lead over the Phoenix Coyotes to lose in the shutout. They are still five points ahead of Dallas (who have a game in hand over the Sharks) and are four points ahead of the Coyotes (who have played one more game than the Sharks). They are four points adrift of the Red Wings but have 10 of the next 16 games at home.
The Dallas Stars have guaranteed a successful Pacific road trip and are two points ahead of ninth-placed Anaheim in the West. A win against the L.A Kings on Monday will leapfrog them ahead of the Coyotes, who currently have two more games played than the Texas side. A loss will allow L.A to pass the Stars by a point.
Last night's win was another step for the Stars in making the playoffs for the first time after two nonexistent postseasons. When Grossman and Langenbrunner return, and if Richards' concussion allows him to come back, the Stars should be in good position to carry on the run that has been constructed on the backs of Loui Eriksson and Jamie Benn, who in turn have been buoyed by the fantastic team effort and the goaltending of Kari Lehtonen (who is fifth in saves in the league).
Adam Burish is the man when it comes to intangibles; do not ever underestimate the impact he has on this team. Especially since his return.