The Stars have battled a mountain of adversity this season.

They have faced challenges and undergone some huge tests.

But Sunday might have been the most intense and critical exam so far – and Dallas passed with flying colors.

Getting stuck in Chicago after a loss to the Blackhawks because of weather issues on Saturday, the lads in Victory Green had to fly into Colorado on the morning of the game, play one of the top home teams in the NHL, and deal with the knowledge that a loss could really tighten up the standings with just four games left in the regular season.

What’s more, forward Tyler Seguin returned to the lineup after missing a game to get maintenance on some nagging injuries, goalie Jake Oettinger gave up an uncharacteristically soft first goal to end a personal shutout streak of 154:20, and defenseman Esa Lindell missed some time in the second period with a lower-body injury.

And yet, Dallas was able to deal with all of that and carve out a 7-4 win that pushes the team to 49-20-9 (107 points), five points ahead of the second place Avalanche with four contests to go. In the process, they also set the record for the most road wins (26) and points (57) in a single season in franchise history.

It was a statement game if ever there was one.

“One hundred percent, that felt like a playoff game,” said Seguin. “I think you would expect it to be 2-1, but when our two teams come together, there seems to be fireworks. But whether it be 2-1, 1-0 or 7-4, we’ll take it.”

Tyler Seguin speaks to the media after the game

Oettinger is now 7-0-0 in his last seven starts with a 1.58 GAA and .943 save percentage. But when he seemed to whiff on Sean Walker’s floater from the point just 1:59 into the game, there was some doubt that the shaky version of Oettinger might have returned. Instead, he buckled down and his teammates dug in to build him a significant lead. Matt Duchene scored his second goal in the last 18 games to tie things up late in the first period. Then, Jamie Benn scored off a beautiful pass from Lindell to make it 2-1, and the swagger was back for the Stars.

Colorado tied things up in the second period, but then Dallas tallied three unanswered power play goals. Roope Hintz converted a great pass from Joe Pavelski. Seguin converted a great pass from Duchene. And Mason Marchment made several gritty plays by bouncing off the boards, going to the boards and then scoring off of his own rebound.

Marchment scored for just the third time in 23 games, but now has 21 goals on the season. Hintz has been up and down on the scoresheet, but he now has 30 goals on the season and four in the past five games. Seguin has been bravely pushing through a lower body situation that kept him out for 11 games and caused two recent “maintenance games,” including Saturday.

But the veteran forward didn’t miss a beat, and his return to the Duchene line was definitely noticeable. The line finished with four goals on eight shots, and showed just how tough it can be to play against the Stars’ depth.

“Every guy has got their own style of game,” Seguin said. “We complement each other. I thought Mushy had a heck of a game tonight. He was winning puck battles, and Dutchy was being a great player tonight.”

And if that five-goal outburst wasn’t good enough, the Stars had to battle a few unfriendly ghosts from the past. Colorado has twice overcome three-goal deficits to beat Dallas this season and when the score went from 5-2 to 5-4 with 10 minutes remaining in the third, there was a definite fear that if the visitors lost this one, they might be mentally affected going into the playoffs.

“We knew what was at stake,” Duchene said. “We’ve been in that position twice before with them. They have a knack of scoring goals, and we didn’t want that to happen tonight. We did a good job and got a big goal to go up 6-4.”

Matt Duchene speaks to the media after the game

But Oettinger came up big, stopping 14 of 15 shots in the third period, and Wyatt Johnston, along with linemates Benn and Logan Stankoven, worked hard to get an insurance goal with five minutes left. The Johnston goal was a great example of how the Stars understood the situation and didn’t panic. Dallas was pinned in its own end for much of the third period, but the Johnston line earned a faceoff in the offensive end, won possession and then got it to the front of the net.

The 20-year-old Johnston scored his 31st goal of the season, and continues to be a driving force in the line’s balance. He had five shots on goal and added two assists to his personal line. Benn and defenseman Thomas Harley each had three points, as well.

Lindell left the game with a lower body injury, but then returned in the third period and played nine minutes while Nils Lundkvist remained on the bench. It was a sign of how important Lindell is to the team, and also to how rich the coaching staff felt the situation was for Lundkvist.

Again, there was some significant testing going on in Denver.

“I think both teams have had this game circled for a little bit," Seguin said. "We're at that time of the year where you’re just kind of watching the standings and knew the importance of tonight’s game. So, a pretty good hockey game.”

Pretty good indeed.

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.

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