When the Dallas Stars open a season-high eight-game homestand Saturday night with a visit from the Arizona Coyotes, coach Pete DeBoer should feel more confident that his team has solved its brief three-goal-lead problem.
Behind a 4-3-1 winning mark in January, DeBoer and the Stars find themselvesperched atop the Central Division standings, two points ahead of the Winnipeg Jets and seven up on the third-place Minnesota Wild.
But games like Wednesday at San Jose left the coach and his players with the bitter taste after not claiming two points against a team buried in the standings.
The Stars roared to a three-goal lead near the midway point of the game behind goals from Ty Dellandrea, Jason Robertson and Radek Faksa. But they watched the seventh-place Sharks notch five consecutive goals to rally for a 5-3 victory.
"We've got to close that out," said DeBoer, Dallas' first-year coach. "But that's on us. It's not about scoring another goal. It's about not handing them any."
At Los Angeles on Thursday, the trip ended on a high note as the club scored the first three goals again, got 34 saves from backup goaltender Scott Wedgewood and beat the Kings 4-0. Tyler Seguin scored two goals, Robertson added his team-leading 31st and defenseman Esa Lindell also scored.
"He's got one of the toughest jobs in hockey," Seguin said of Wedgewood. "You don't know when you're going to play, you don't play that much. You just practice every day, work your butt off every day, always stay prepared."
Centering Dallas' first line, featuring Robertson and Joe Pavelski, Seguin also added an assist for a three-point showing. Regular top-line center Roope Hintz (upper body) has missed six consecutive games.
Dallas went 2-1-0 on the road trek, moving its record away from home to a sparkling 15-8-4.
Times have not been anywhere nearly that good for floundering Arizona.
The seventh-place club in the Central wrapped up a quick two-game homestand Thursday by falling to the Washington Capitals 4-0. Capitals goalie Darcy Kuemper -- a one-time member of the Coyotes -- recorded his NHL-best fifth shutout and 30th of his career.
The frustration has grown this month for Coyotes under coach Andre Tourigny.
Arizona opened the brief home stay with a 4-3 win in a shootout over the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday. That marked Arizona's first win in the calendar year, ending a nine-game losing streak, with all of the defeats in regulation.
"Our breakouts aren't good enough, our forecheck isn't good enough, our neutral zone forecheck isn't good enough," Tourigny said. "It's not that there's a lack of desire by our players but, for whatever reason, we're not as emotionally engaged and intense."
The Coyotes faced the Capitals without Lawson Crouse, who has a team-best 16 goals. He was absent with an upper-body injury.
Dallas dominated Arizona in the teams' only meeting this season -- a 7-2 pummeling on Nov. 3 -- and the Stars are 14-2-1 in the past 17 matchups.
The clubs will wrap up their season series by meeting two more times -- on the first and last day of March.
--Field Level Media