The only clear-cut aspect of the game Wednesday between the Dallas Stars and the Columbus Blue Jackets was that Columbus did, in fact, win the game 3-1, claiming the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Beyond that, happenings inside the American Airlines Center created all different shades of disorientation.
As fans filed into the AAC and the players warmed up, the scoreboard already displayed a 1-0 Columbus lead.
The game was the replay of the March 10 game between the teams that was suspended a little more than six minutes into play when Stars forward Rich Peverley collapsed on the bench because of an irregular heartbeat.
Columbus’ Nathan Horton had scored the lone goal March 10. The goal carried over into Wednesday’s reboot, although the game was replayed from the start.
Horton (lower-body injury) was a scratch in Wednesday’s game. So, the first goal of the game came at the 00:00 mark of the first scored by Horton, not actually in the game.
“We fell behind before the game even started, so that didn’t help, but we’re not making any excuses,” Stars captain Jamie Benn said.
The hole became deeper a minute and a half into the game when Columbus’ Artem Anisimov corralled a strange hop off the boards that landed in front of the Stars’ net and deked his way around Tim Thomas, making it 2-0.
Columbus would add insult to injury before the period concluded, when a centering pass by Mark Letestu bounced off the inside of Thomas’ pad and into the goal.
The Stars remain two points ahead of Phoenix for the final wild card spot in the West. Phoenix has three games left, the Stars two, against St. Louis and Phoenix.
“The third goal is one of those ones you don’t want to see go in,” coach Lindy Ruff said. “Tim would want that back. That’s one that hurts you.”
With dead play on the ice and the crowd out of the game, Ruff decided to roll the dice and pull Thomas with around 13 minutes to play, giving the Stars a 6-on-4 advantage while on the power play.
The oddity worked, as defenseman Trevor Daley shoved a rebound past Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky for the Stars’ only goal.
“I just felt it was time to create some energy — create some desperation,” Ruff said.
It wasn’t the first time Ruff had pulled the maneuver. When he was the head coach in Atlanta, Ruff said he pulled a keeper with nine minutes to go when his team was at even strength. Atlanta would go on to win the game in overtime, Ruff said.
The move also created the energy desired, as the Stars outshot Columbus in the third period 18-2, but couldn’t put another one past Bobrovsky before the final horn.