The Dallas Stars are headed to the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs after clinching a postseason berth with a 6-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers Tuesday night at American Airlines Center.
Alexander Radulov led the way for the Stars with a four-point night, recording two goals and two assists. Jason Dickinson, Esa Lindell, Tyler Pitlick, and Blake Comeau also scored, and Anton Khudobin stopped 32 of 34 shots.
Also picking up an assist in Tuesday's game was Mats Zuccarello, who returned to the lineup after missing a little more than five weeks due to a broken arm.
Here are five things to know from Tuesday's game.
1. Wrapping up 'deserved' playoff berth
The Stars needed just one point in Tuesday's game to clinch a playoff spot, but they went one better and got two with the 6-2 thumping of the Flyers, clinching the team's first playoff berth since the 2015-16 season.
"It feels good," said Stars captain Jamie Benn. "We put in a lot of hard work and definitely deserve to be in the playoffs. It was definitely nice to get it done and get it clinched here at home in front of our fans."
"It feels good. Good. To be honest, it's good," added Stars forward Alexander Radulov. "Finally done it. It's nice to do it in front of our home crowd. They deserved it. They were good for us all year."
Tuesday's game had its ups and downs, but the Stars used a strong start and a strong finish to top the Flyers and punch their ticket to the postseason.
The Stars grabbed a 2-0 lead by the 4:14 mark of the first period. Jason Dickinson scored off the rush 1:34 into the game and then Mats Zuccarello set up Esa Lindell, who made a slick between-the-legs redirection into the net at the 4:14 mark.
The Flyers pushed back, getting the better of play for the rest of the period and into the second, tying the game on a goal by Oskar Lindblom at 1:13 of the second and a power-play goal by Shayne Gostisbehere at the 11:13 mark.
But the Stars responded later in the second with two quick goals to take a 4-2 lead.
Tyler Seguin sent a cross-ice pass to Radulov who scored on a backhand shot with the Stars on a power play at the 16:39 mark. Just 2:01 later, with the two sides playing four-on-four, Tyler Pitlick finished off a nice passing sequence that involved Roope Hintz, Lindell, and Miro Heiskanen to push the lead to two goals at the 18:40 mark.
The third period belonged to the Stars. The Flyers didn't help their cause by taking some penalties early in the period, and the Stars put the game away midway through the third with two goals in ten seconds by Blake Comeau and Radulov to extend the lead to 6-2. And the score stayed that way until the final horn, which signaled the Stars (42-31-7-91 points) were officially headed to the playoffs.
"It was important for us doing it in front of our fans," said Stars coach Jim Montgomery. "And for us doing it on our own merit, not someone losing a point to get in. I thought that was really important because when you get into the playoffs, you've got to be able to end series, and this is as much as you could get to replicating that."
Video: Radulov, Stars defeat Flyers to clinch playoff berth
2. Zuccarello makes surprise return
Stars forward Mats Zuccarello returned to the lineup after missing just over five weeks due to a broken arm. Zuccarello wasn't expected to play until this weekend, but he went to see the doctor after Tuesday's pregame skate and got clearance to play.
Zuccarello recorded one assist, one shot on goal and two shot attempts in 18:23 of playing time while skating primarily on a line with Jamie Benn and Roope Hintz.
His assist came on a slick pass to set up Esa Lindell's power-play goal that staked the Stars to a 2-0 lead early in the first period.
"He's the best passer on our team," said Stars coach Jim Montgomery. "He moves the puck around. He makes everyone around him better. Now we have two lines that can get out and score, and we have a third and fourth line that are hard to play against. It brings balance to our squad."
Zuccarello did leave the game midway through the third period with an undisclosed injury (not his arm) and did not return. Montgomery said Zuccarello was held out as a precaution.
Forward Andrew Cogliano also left the game with a lower-body injury. He was held out as a precaution and Montgomery said he expects Cogliano to be fine.
Video: Montgomery on Stars earning postseason berth with win
3. Lindell channels McDavid with nifty goal
Last week, Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid made the highlight reels with his between-the-legs goal against the Stars.
Well, Stars defenseman Esa Lindell took some notes.
Lindell scored a beautiful between-the-legs redirection goal off s nice set up by Mats Zuccarello in the first period that gave the Stars a 2-0 lead.
"I was so close last week when McDavid pulled that, so I guess I learned quickly," Lindell said.
The goal was the 11th of the season for Lindell and his fourth on the power play. Currently, the Stars are using Lindell down low on the power play, in the crease and around the front of the net instead of at the point.
"I really like playing there, so thanks to the coaches for giving me a chance," Lindell said. "I was feeling a bit more loose, playing all over. I've got to help the guys, so I've just got to find that open spot."
"Give credit to (assistant coach) Todd Nelson," said Stars coach Jim Montgomery. "He thought [Lindell] had nice soft hands and the ability to make McDavid plays at the net-front, so we put him there on the power play and he did it."
Video: PHI@DAL: Lindell goes between the legs on deflection
4. Radulov's big night paces Stars
Alexander Radulov continues to be on fire as far as points production.
Radulov tallied two goals and two assists Tuesday, running his goal-scoring streak to four games and his points streak to six games.
Since being scratched for the March 5 game against the Rangers for being late to the morning skate, Radulov has tallied 19 points (12 goals, seven assists) in 14 games.
Radulov now has 70 points (29 goals, 41 assists in 68 games, ranking second on the team in goals, assists, and points.
Video: Radulov's four-point night leads Stars to playoffs
5. Rookie Montgomery makes club history
Jim Montgomery became the third coach in Dallas Stars history (1993-present) to make the postseason in his first full season as head coach, joining Dave Tippett (2003) and Ken Hitchcock (1997). ... The Stars have points in five straight games (4-0-1). ... The Flyers outshot the Stars 34-30. The Stars had a 58-55 advantage in shot attempts. ... Naturalstattrick.com had the high-danger chances 13-11, Stars. ... The Stars were 2-for-6 on the power play and 3-for-4 on the penalty kill. ... Dallas won 35 of 69 faceoffs (51 percent). Tyler Seguin won 14 of 21 faceoffs (67 percent). ... Esa Lindell led the Stars with 23:43 of ice time.
Here is the lineup the Stars used to start the game along with scratches and injuries.
Jason Dickinson - Tyler Seguin - Alexander Radulov
Jamie Benn - Roope Hintz - Mats Zuccarello
Andrew Cogliano - Radek Faksa - Blake Comeau
Mattias Janmark - Jason Spezza - Tyler Pitlick
Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Miro Heiskanen - Roman Polak
Taylor Fedun - Ben Lovejoy
Scratched: Jamie Oleksiak, Julius Honka, Joel L'Esperance, Valeri Nichushkin
Injured: Ben Bishop (lower body), Brett Ritchie (hand), Justin Dowling (upper body), Martin Hanzal (back), Stephen Johns (post-traumatic headaches), Marc Methot (knee surgery)
Video: Razor on mission partially accomplished for Stars
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.
Mark Stepneski has covered the Stars for DallasStars.com since 2012. Follow him on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.