This is not how the Dallas Stars planned on ending their weekend.
Locked in a fierce battle with Phoenix for the final wild card spot in the Western Conference, the Stars caught a break on Friday when the Coyotes dropped an overtime loss to Edmonton, the third-worst team in the league. All Dallas had to do was walk into the BB&T Center on Sunday and take care of business to gain a huge, three-point lead over the Coyotes.
NHL playoff picture
Instead, the Stars blew a two-goal lead and the game against the Florida Panthers, the second-worst team in the league. Goals from Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn were for naught, as Florida scored three unanswered goals in the final two periods. Roberto Luongo wasn't too shabby either, stopping 35 of 37 shots.
Of course, Bobby Lu took to Twitter afterwards to say, "You're welcome" to the Western Conference teams chasing Dallas.
Cheeky guy, that Luongo. He had every right to be, after ensuring the Western Conference is mired in chaos for one more week.
All the NHL Scores
Panthers 3, Stars 2
Three Things We Learned
1. The Phoenix Coyotes are alive and well
A Stars win in Florida would've meant the Coyotes' ever-shrinking playoff odds would shrivel even further. But now the 'Yotes and Stars will engage in one heck of a final week. They both play the Blue Jackets and Predators before their fateful meeting in Glendale on the last day of the season, so the final spot is there for the taking. Phoenix must play better against such lower opponents if they want to take advantage of the Stars' slide.
2. The Ducks looked awfully beatable
Last season, Anaheim blitzed through the regular season only to fall quickly in the playoffs. Could the same thing happen this year? It was only one game, but the Oilers gave the Ducks all they could handle in a 3-2 win. A better question is who Bruce Boudreau decides to start come playoff time. Jonas Hiller had a rough Sunday evening, allowing three goals on 27 shots.
3. Pittsburgh has some serious depth
Sidney Crosby. Chris Kunitz. Brooks Orpik. Evgeni Malkin. Olli Maata. All of the Penguins' all-star-caliber players watched from the press box on Sunday while virtually half of their AHL team played in Colorado. And yet the Avalanche struggled to get going against the Pens, only tying the game at 2-2 with three minutes left in the game. Considering how many injuries they've suffered this year, it's no wonder the Penguins have continued to dominate the Eastern Conference. Their backups can bring it.
The one play or moment from Sunday that is going to be making headlines over the next couple of days.
Over the last few weeks, Zac Rinaldo had begun to put his bad reputation behind him in favor of actually contributing with solid hockey. He even scored on Sunday, snapping a long drought and helping the Flyers extend an early lead against Buffalo.
But then he reverted back to his old ways, and it wasn't pretty. When he returns from whatever suspension the league throws on him, should the Flyers embrace him? Philadelphia might have survived his five-minute penalty on Sunday, but those sort of antics could really hurt come playoff time. It'll be interesting to see how coach Craig Berube handles this going forward.
Stat of the Night
In case you were wondering whether the Avalanche miss Matt Duchene already...
Jamie McGinn no goals in nine games. Absence of Duchene hurting him— Adrian Dater (@adater) April 7, 2014