Heika's Take: Stars take care of business – NHL.com

The Stars are taking an important step in the 2022-23 season.
On Thursday, Dallas took a 4-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers and hit the 100-point mark in the standings for just the second time in the past 16 seasons.
And yet, they weren’t too happy.
Bemoaning a slow start and looking to up their intensity level, both players and coaches said there is more to give as the team prepares for the playoffs.
“We took care of business,” said Stars coach Pete DeBoer. “I didn’t like our start, but we kind of reset, came out in the second period, and took control of the game.”
Video: DeBoer on Pavelski’s scoring pace
That part of the game was impressive. With the top three teams in the Central Division starting the night with 98 points, the pressure was on to get a win against a struggling Flyers team. When the Stars started slowly, there was a feeling of disappointment. However, Robertson came up with a huge goal with under two seconds left in the first period and it changed the pace of the game. Not only did the Stars score first, but they also received a huge boost in confidence and momentum. Within the first 11 minutes of the second period, Dallas pushed their lead to 4-0.
“We talked between the first and second and we knew we had to play better and compete harder, and that’s what we did,” DeBoer said.
The Stars had two solid penalty kills in the first period and scored on the power play, which was a huge help. Jake Oettinger was solid in net and that also helped the team generate a little more energy.
“Our first took us a little to get going, but our penalty kill was huge early on, and even in that, our battle level had to go up,” said forward Joe Pavelski, who had a goal and two assists. “We didn’t give them a lot, but we just didn’t generate as much, and we were a little sloppy with the puck. Definitely a big goal by Robo at the end and then we definitely found our game in the second.”
Video: Pavelski on raising the compete level in the playoffs
It was a nice statement for a team who is trying hard to reach a consistent level of play. The past couple of weeks have been hit and miss, so shaping things up in the final five games is a significant goal. Wins over Nashville and Philadelphia are huge to start a three-game homestand, and they lead right into a significant matinee against Vegas on Saturday at American Airlines Center. Dallas then goes on the road for games at Detroit and St. Louis before finishing the season with the Blues at home.
It’s a schedule that should keep the team focused and also provide the possible points to take first place in the Central Division.
Dallas moves to 43-21-14 (100 points), while Colorado beat San Jose, and is now 47-24-6 (100 points) and ahead of the Stars in points percentage with one game in hand. Minnesota lost to Pittsburgh and is now 44-24-10 (98 points). That makes things tight down the stretch, so the Stars should have plenty of motivation.
When asked what the team needs most down the stretch, Pavelski said, “Just the compete level.”
“We understand the system and what we’re trying to do, but then from there the compete level has to be there every night,” he added. “There are no easy games. We’re successful when we support each other and have those layers and stay true to ourselves.”
Thursday was a great example of that. They didn’t have the compete early, but they regained it and took over the game. Obviously, getting a 4-0 lead helps a lot, but Dallas finished with a 30-24 edge in shots on goal and a 60-50 advantage in shot attempts. The Stars had a decided advantage in scoring chances and scored twice on the power play while killing both penalties.
That kind of hockey will win you games.
Jake Oettinger had 24 saves and looked sharp after getting a day off on Tuesday. If the Stars can get some good balance between Oettinger and backup goalie Scott Wedgewood down the stretch, it could be a primary factor in winning games and help assure the team is ready to go when the playoffs start.
“I thought Jake was great. Special teams were good,” DeBoer said. “It was an important game and an important two points.”
All the games are important, and the Stars need to be playing as complete a game as possible. Robertson and Pavelski each scored on the power play and Tyler Seguin and Miro Heiskanen had important passes on each goal. Defenseman Colin Miller chipped in the third goal off assists from Wyatt Johnston and Evgeni Dadonov, and Robertson scored the fourth goal off a perfect steal and assist from Pavelski.
The 38-year-old Pavelski now has 999 career points and getting to 1,000 would be a major milestone. Still, Pavelski isn’t really concerned with that right now.
“It’s been a lot of hockey, good times, and memories,” Pavelski said. “We’re just trying to keep building right now and go from there.”
Johnston has been living with Pavelski during his rookie season and the 19-year-old has 21 goals among 37 points. He is the youngest 20-goal scorer in the NHL this season, while Pavelski is the older. Both are more worried about the number of wins.
“We want to finish at the top, and Saturday is a big game, especially when you look at the standings,” Johnston said of a meeting with the first-place Golden Knights. “We want to finish on top. It’s exciting, battling for positions this time of year.”
Video: Johnston on playing a complete game
In fact, it’s what should give this team the energy to play even better.
“We’ve got to keep winning,” Pavelski said when asked what his thoughts were when they checked opposing scores during the first intermission. “We expect those teams to keep winning, and we’ve just got to find our game. We didn’t generate enough early, the complete level wasn’t high enough and, credit to the guys, we ramped it up a little.”
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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