Things got wild in a matter of seconds for Western Conference teams still trying to get into the NHL playoffs – for those on the ice and those watching at home.
“Interesting. It’s why you play the full 65 minutes,” Dallas Stars head coach Rick Bowness said Monday, a day after playoff-contending teams Vegas and Nashville both gave up last-second goals to lose home games after regulation.
Dallas, which didn’t play Sunday, can now clinch one of the two wild-card spots with a win in regulation at home Tuesday night against the Golden Knights, something Bowness said he realized “right away” after those two strange finishes Sunday night.
“It’s obviously what you want as a player and a team is to not rely on somebody else to do your job,” Stars captain Jamie Benn said.
Vegas, which as an expansion team in 2017-18 went to the Stanley Cup Final, is now in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time in its brief history. The Golden Knights will be without starting goaltender Robin Lehner after the team said Monday he will have season-ending shoulder surgery.
Vegas blew a 4-2 lead in the final 2:06 Sunday night against San Jose, which forced overtime on Timo Meier’s goal with 0.9 seconds left in regulation. The Sharks won 5-4 in a shootout.
That was after Nashville lost 5-4 at home to Minnesota when Dmitry Kulikov scored with 1.3 seconds remaining in overtime.
“A tough one obviously,” Predators defenceman Dante Fabbro said. “But you have to look at some bright sides. We got one point out of it, kind of just got to wipe the slate clean here and focus on Calgary. ... It was definitely a playoff game out there.”
The Stanley Cup playoffs start next Monday. All eight playoff teams for the Eastern Conference are set and things are getting closer in the West.
If Dallas beats Vegas, Nashville could wrap up the other wild-card spot with a win at home against Calgary.
Going into Tuesday night when each team plays the first of three games over four nights to wrap up the regular season, Nashville sits at 94 points, Dallas 93, Vegas 90 and Vancouver 87. The Stars-Predators game on Tuesday is the only head-to-head matchup remaining among that quartet.
The Canucks still have a slim chance to make the playoffs. They would have to win their remaining three games, and Dallas would have to lose its last three in regulation. Vegas, which would have to beat Dallas in that scenario, would then have to lose its final two games at Chicago and St. Louis in regulation.
Dallas is coming off a 3-2 win at home Saturday night over Seattle, a welcome result for the Stars after an 0-3 road trip that included a 6-2 loss at Vancouver and ended with a long, miserable trip home because of extended travel issues.
The Stars practised for only about 15 minutes Monday, and didn’t plan to have a morning skate before the potential clinching game against the Golden Knights, who are 2-0 against Dallas this season. Bowness, who wants his players to be able to rest as much as possible, likened it to trying to close out a playoff series.
“The toughest win in any playoff series is getting that fourth win. And that’s what we’re facing tomorrow,” Bowness said. “These guys know if they lose to us in regulation, they’re out, and it’s the same as in a playoff series. ... The way they lost [Sunday] night, you know, they’re going to be coming at us very, very hard.”