SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — One month after being mired in ninth place in the Western Conference, just hoping to squeeze into the postseason, the San Jose Sharks have clinched a ninth straight playoff berth and can now push for home-ice advantage in the first round.
Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski scored goals 30 seconds apart late in the third period to help the Sharks clinch the playoffs in their final home game of the season with a come-from-behind 3-2 victory over the Dallas Stars on Tuesday night.
"There's a sense of relief, but it can't be a sense of relaxation," coach Todd McLellan said. "When we came in we immediately looked at what happened tonight around the league, and there's still a chance for home ice. It would be a nice thing to have."
Raffi Torres also scored for the Sharks, who moved into a tie for fourth place in the West with Los Angeles with two games remaining in the race for home-ice advantage. The Sharks visit the Kings in the season finale on Saturday after playing at Phoenix on Wednesday night.
It's been quite a roller-coaster season for the Sharks, who won their first seven games, lost 17 of the next 23 before going on their current 12-3-1 stretch to save their season.
"It was a crazy year. It's obviously not over yet," Couture said. "Just the 48-game schedule, so many games back to back and inconsistency of the seven-game winning streak, the big losing streak and then the stretch we've gone on now. It's been a weird year. Our main goal from day one was to get into the playoffs. We've done that now so I guess that's all that matters going forward."
Antoine Roussel and Loui Eriksson scored for the Stars, whose playoff hopes were dealt a serious blow. Dallas remains two points behind ninth-place Detroit and three behind eighth-place Columbus in the race for the final playoff spot. The Red Wings have a game in hand over both teams.
The Stars end the season with home games against Columbus and Detroit and need to win both and get help to make the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
"It's very disappointing," defenseman Stephane Robidas said. "We battled hard all night. Since the deadline, everyone had written us off and here we are. I think everyone has shown a lot of character. We needed a point tonight but couldn't get it. It's very disappointing."
Dallas looked as though it would gain two points behind a strong night from Kari Lehtonen but it was all erased in a flash late in the third period.
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