Stars widen Pacific lead after sinking Canucks

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For most of this season, the Dallas Stars seemed like they were dreaming big merely because they were aiming for a playoff spot. After Tuesday, you’d be foolish to dismiss the team’s chances of taking the third seed.

Dallas came into the night with a tie-breaker lead in the Pacific Division, but logic argued its lead would dissolve. Instead, the Stars legitimized it – first and foremost with a resounding 5-2 victory against the Vancouver Canucks.

Sharks, Coyotes blow it

That wasn’t the only plus for the scrappy team, though, as their closest competition lost to lowly teams. The San Jose Sharks salvaged a charity point from the Edmonton Oilers (3-2 in a shootout), while the Phoenix Coyotes managed to flub another lay-up against Columbus. (The Blue Jackets swatted them away 3-2.)

Stars make a statement

The Stars could have receded in a Northwest trio of road games; instead, they went 3-0 even with Richard Bachman starting against Vancouver. The backup had an excuse to be rusty after playing in just his third game since Feb. 2, but Zack Kassian failed to expose that 24 seconds into the game on a penalty shot.

Dallas is combining fortuitous bounces with underrated talent to defy expectations.Mike Ribeiro doesn’t exactly have a sterling retribution in many circles, but it’s pretty tough to argue with his three-point output tonight.

The Stars’ 7-0-1 streak is a startling counterpoint to the claims that they needed to fully embrace “seller” status at the trade deadline.

Bigger picture

Even with all those good feelings flowing, the cushion isn’t exactly huge. The foreboding Los Angeles Kings kept it from being a perfect evening with a decisive win of their own. The Kings gutted out a 5-4 victory against the Predators in Nashville.

With that in mind, let’s piece together the Pacific puzzle (current West position in parenthesis):

Dallas (3): 77 points with 15 games remaining
Phoenix (7): 75 points with 15 GR
San Jose (8): 74 points with 17 GR
Los Angeles (9): 74 points with 16 GR

Yup, that’s not a large margin of error. Say what you will about the lack of a “truly elite” Pacific team, the division still managed to produce four borderline playoff teams. (Oh yeah, and one scary spoiler team in the Anaheim Ducks.)