The Dallas Stars clinched their first trip to the playoffs in three years Tuesday night, getting two goals and two assists from Alexander Radulov in a 6-2 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday night.
The Stars were just a point shy of the postseason and could have made it with an Arizona loss in a later game.
Instead, they left little doubt with four goals in the final 24 minutes, including a pair 10 seconds apart, for just their third Western Conference playoff berth in 11 seasons.
Jason Dickinson, Esa Lindell, Tyler Pitlick and Blake Comeau also scored for the Stars, who hold the first wild-card spot with 91 points and are unlikely to get into the top three in the Central Division. Dallas last made the playoffs in 2016, losing a Game 7 to St. Louis in the second round.
The Stars missed the playoffs a year ago because of an eight-game losing streak late in the season, the first six of those on the road. This time, they moved to the brink of the postseason by earning seven points on a four-game Canadian swing before coming home to face Philadelphia.
It was a satisfying surge for a club that worked through a tumultuous midseason stretch after team CEO Jim Lites profanely ripped the play of captain Jamie Benn and fellow star forward Tyler Seguin.
The Stars actually held the last playoff spot in the West in late December when Lites used plenty of profanity along with “terrible” and “embarrassing” to describe the way his high-priced forwards were playing while saying the team was underachieving.
First-year coach Jim Montgomery, making the rare transition from college, joined the chorus not long after Lites’ strong words, saying he was trying to end the franchise’s “culture of mediocrity.”
Montgomery’s tone was decidedly more positive after the All-Star break, when the Stars won their first four to finish a five-game winning streak and had another solid run in March to set up the decisive Canadian trip.
Dallas gave up a 2-0 lead in the second on goals from Oskar Lindblom and Shayne Gostisbehere before Radulov put the Stars in front for good late in the second when he took a pass from Seguin and lifted a backhand over Cam Talbot on the power play for his career-high 28th goal.
Radulov scored his 29th, two shy of team leader Seguin and two ahead of Benn, 10 seconds after Comeau’s third-period tally. The six goals tied a season high for Dallas. Seguin and John Klingberg had two assists apiece.
Pitlick, in his second game back after missing 30 with a wrist injury, redirected a pass from Roope Hintz while skating through the slot two minutes later. Dickinson and Lindell, who had a nifty redirect off his blade from between his legs , scored in the first five minutes.
Anton Khudobin, who has played an important role as Ben Bishop’s backup with the Dallas starter missing 16 games because of injuries, made 32 saves. Bishop is expected to return from his latest injury this weekend. Talbot stopped 24 shots.
NOTES: Stars F Mats Zuccarello returned after missing 17 games with a broken arm, recording an assist. Zuccarello was injured in his first game after coming over in a trade with the New York Rangers. He had a goal and an assist in that game against Chicago. … The Flyers, already eliminated in the East playoff race, have lost five of six games. … Radulov is on a six-game points streak, with 10 points (five goals, five assists).
Both teams have their road finales. The Flyers are in St. Louis on Thursday. The Stars visit Chicago on Friday.