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Business as usual: Stars outmuscle Coyotes to open homestand

Oleksiak's game-winner helps Dallas stave off Arizona, setting up another important matchup against St. Louis

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

DALLAS -- Jamie Oleksiak scored a goal Wednesday.

It was his second of the season, the 17th of his career, and just the third game-winning goal he has scored while playing 304 NHL games.

And he just took it in stride.

Just like Corey Perry continues to shrug his shoulders at his recent success, and Ben Bishop seems nonplused by a 39-save performance, and Esa Lindell sees no big deal in playing almost 28 minutes.

Head down, trudge forward, play the next one.

Video: ARI@DAL: Oleksiak hammers slap shot past Hill

Welcome to the 2019-20 Dallas Stars.

They did it again Wednesday. They survived a furious push by a hungry bunch of Arizona Coyotes, survived until the game was headed toward an inevitable overtime, and triumphed, 3-2, when Oleksiak found the back of the net with 8:22 remaining in the third period.

Just like they drew it up.

"I thought we played a very controlled game," Stars interim coach Rick Bowness said. "We didn't give up a scoring chance in the third period."

Perry and Radek Faksa each scored power-play goals, Jamie Benn was ejected in the second period for a boarding major penalty he took against Oliver Ekman-Larsson, and the Stars played a pretty much perfect third period to push to 35-19-6, good for 76 points. Bishop stopped 39 of 41 shots on goal, and both he and Bowness said it was pretty much business as usual.

Video: ARI@DAL: Perry taps Hintz's feed home for early PPG

"I thought guys did a great job blocking shots," Bishop said, pointing to both Lindell and Mattias Janmark. "I know Esa at the end of the game kind of saves it, too. Some big shot blocks by everybody. You need that at this time of year and we came up with it tonight."

Bowness said he felt the Stars kept most of the 41 shots out of the high-danger scoring areas, and that the team only was truly under fire for the final 10 minutes of the first period.

"Regardless of what the shots tell you, it's the scoring chances that are more important," Bowness said. "If the shot totals and scoring chances are up, we have issues. If they're shooting from the outside, our goaltender will give them that all day."

Especially when the Stars are winning. They are 5-0-1 in their past six games and they have closed the gap on the Blues, who at one point seemed to have the Central Division title all but wrapped up. Now, when St. Louis comes to American Airlines Center on Friday, Dallas can really talk about possibly getting the top seed in the Western Conference.

Or not.

Video: ARI@DAL: Bowness breaks down Stars' intense victory

"It's a big game. Every game right now is pretty important," Bishop said. "Tonight wasn't less important than the next game. Obviously, you're fighting with your division and you want to climb to the top, but you also want to push yourself away from the bottom. It's a big game, and the next game after that is going to be important, too. That will be a fun one to play with the magnitude of it, but it's just two points at the end of the day."

Which is kind of how the Stars have gotten where they are.

After starting 1-7-1, they battled back one step at a time.

When they changed coaches in the middle of the season, they battled forward one step at a time.

When Perry broke his foot in training camp and suffered a five-game suspension, he simply kept believing in his ability.

Video: ARI@DAL: Bishop discusses 39-save effort in Stars win

Joe Pavelski has worked through some hiccups. Same with Tyler Seguin.

If the Stars have to battle through a potential suspension for Benn because of his major penalty on the Ekman-Larsson hit, the team will certainly do that. It's kind of who they are.

With the score tied 2-2 after two periods and Benn out for the game, the Stars stayed patient, controlled play, and worked hard. Miro Heiskanen made a deft save at the blue line that Alexander Radulov gathered and quickly pushed to Oleksiak in the high slot. Oleksiak stepped forward and slapped a shot past Adin Hill while Pavelski and Janmark created distractions at the net.

And that was pretty much it.

"I had some time with the puck there in the middle of the ice. I saw we had some traffic in front, and I was kind of waiting for it to develop," Oleksiak said. "I just figured get it to the net and hopefully get a bounce or a tip or something. Like I said, it kind of had eyes of its own and went in there. It's a good feeling."

Video: Bishop's 39 saves propel Stars past Coyotes

Y'know, just like any other game.

That philosophy is serving the Stars well right now. They hope to carry it into a pretty big game Friday against the Blues.

And then into the next game … and the next game … and the next game.

It doesn't seem that hard when you don't look too far into the future.

"We don't want our guys to be satisfied," Bowness said. "We haven't done anything yet. We haven't."

Don't miss your chance to see the Stars battle the Blues in a Central Division showdown on Friday at 7:30 p.m. at American Airlines Center. The first 10,000 fans receive a limited-edition Jamie Benn bobblehead. Get your tickets now!

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.

Mike Heika is a Senior Staff Writer for DallasStars.com and has covered the Stars since 1994. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHeika, and listen to his podcast.

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