Andy Mead/YCJ/Icon SMI)
The Pacific Division has persisted as the tightest and least predictable in the entire league. After a nearly flawless February, the Coyotes have flopped in March, having yet to win a game. While the desert sun has set, the Stars have come out in Dallas, as Jamie Benn, Loui Eriksson, Michael Ryder and Kari Lehtonen have all shined for the division-leading Stars. The Sharks have continued to struggle mightily while the Ducks and Kings continue their pushes to put both Southern California teams in the playoffs for the second time in as many seasons.
Here’s a quick look at the three stars from the Pacific Division for the week of March 2-8.
First Star: Corey Perry, RW, Anaheim Ducks – Perry had four goals and five points in four games, including his leading a frantic rally over Edmonton Monday. He tallied twice in the final 3:20 against the Oilers to steal a game in which the Ducks played poorly through two periods. The previous Friday, he had scored a go-ahead goal against Calgary and then fed Ryan Getzlaf for the game-winner with just 46 seconds left to play. Perry also scored the Ducks’ lone goal in a loss to St. Louis Thursday.
Second Star: Jamie Benn, C, Dallas Stars – Benn turned in a superb all-around effort for the surging Stars, whose 4-0 week kept them atop the Pacific. Overall, Benn had four points, four hits, seven blocked shots and a +5 rating in four games for Dallas. He led the Stars with four blocked shots and set up the game-winning goal against Edmonton last Friday. Benn scored the game-winner and dished out three hits against Vancouver Tuesday in a matchup of division leaders. His goal tied the game at two and his assist on Tomas Vincour’s goal tied it again at three in a shootout win over San Jose Thursday. Loui Eriksson also had another outstanding week, notching two multi-point games and 13 shots on goal.
Third Star: Anze Kopitar, C, Los Angeles Kings – With trade acquisitions Jeff Carter and Mike Richards garnering attention in L.A., the team’s leading scorers since Carter’s arrival have been career Kings, captain Dustin Brown and franchise center Kopitar. They each had three points in three games this past week, with point streaks of six and five games, respectively. Kopitar scored shorthanded, the Kings’ only goal against Columbus on Thursday. He had the primary assist on Trevor Lewis’s game-winning goal against Nashville Tuesday. Kopitar added the empty-net goal that sealed a 4-2 win over Anaheim Saturday.
The Stars will put their four-game win streak and nine-game point streak on the line when they host Anaheim Saturday. San Jose will travel to Phoenix in another Saturday divisional showdown with both teams in desperate need of a win. The Coyotes have lost five games in a row while the Sharks have dropped four straight and 10 of their last 12. The Kings continue their three-game Midwestern trip playing at Detroit Friday and wrapping it up in Chicago Sunday.
Pacific Division Notes
Los Angeles fell 3-1 in Columbus, with recently dealt defenseman Jack Johnson getting the game-winning goal against his former club … Mike Richards has one goal in his last 32 games for the Kings … San Jose captain Joe Thornton had three assists in a critical shootout loss to Dallas Thursday … Stars rookie Tomas Vincour had two goals this past week, including a game-winner, and he added a shootout-winning goal against the Sharks Thursday … Phoenix veterans Shane Doan and Ray Whitney each had three points in the Coyotes 0-4 week … Anaheim split their week 2-2 behind a combined 15 points from Ryan Getzlaf, Bobby Ryan, Teemu Selanne and Perry.