Dallas Stars clinch top seed in Western Conference by getting to overtime against Blues


DALLAS (AP) — Jason Robertson, coach Pete DeBoer and the Central Division champion Dallas Stars took a breath when the regular-season finale was tied at the end of regulation. Their fans had been cheering throughout those closing seconds.

The Stars clinched the top seed in the Western Conference playoffs with that point they earned for getting to overtime at home against St. Louis. They added another one by winning 2-1 in a shootout Wednesday night.

“It feels like we knew what we had to do,” said Robertson, who scored the only goal in the shootout. “I mean, it’s definitely an accomplishment you should be proud of.”

The last time Dallas was the top seed in the West was 2016, also the year of its previous Central Division title. The Stars (52-21-9) finished with 113 points, the most since their franchise-record 114 in 1998-99 on the way to winning their only Stanley Cup title. They were one win shy of the record 53 set in 2005-06.

Pacific Division champion Vancouver, which would have held a tiebreaker over Dallas, can only reach 111 points with a victory in its regular-season finale Thursday night.

“Once we knew we had the point and the conference clinched, you can relax a little bit,” DeBoer said. “But I think it was important to our group to win the last game. I think we wanted to earn it, and we did that all year. It’s a lot of points, 113 points.”

Just one fewer than the New York Rangers, who finished with the most in the NHL to win the Presidents’ Trophy.

Stars goalie Jake Oettinger made 26 saves in regulation and overtime before stopping all three Blues attempts in the shootout. Robertson, the first shooter, used a nifty backhand to put the puck past Jordan Binnington, who stopped 36 shots.

“I knew we got the point that we needed to in overtime, so in the shootout just trying to do something crazy,” Robertson said. “I’m just having fun out there.”

Dallas won 12 of its last 14 games in the regular season, and Oettinger allowed two goals or less in 10 of his last 11 starts.

The Stars will play either reigning Stanley Cup champion Vegas (98 points) or the Kings (97 points) in the first round of the playoffs. Both have home games Thursday night to finish the regular season. One of them will finish third in the Pacific Division and the other will be a wild card headed to Dallas, where the Golden Knights last season wrapped up the Western Conference Final with a Game 6 victory.

The Stars will have home-ice advantage throughout the Western Conference playoffs after a hard-fought win over the Blues, who had already been eliminated from playoff contention.

“It’s good. It’s great,” said Mason Marchment, who scored Dallas’ only goal in regulation on a sweeping shot in front with 14:49 left in the third period.

“It was an interesting game. I mean, those aren’t easy games to play. And give St. Louis credit, they didn’t mail it in. They showed up and played hard, and Binnington was outstanding,” DeBoer said. “They made us earn it. So I’m glad it’s that kind of game. … You want to play competitive games down the stretch going into the playoffs, and we’ve had a bunch of them.”


AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL

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