The Dallas Stars staved off elimination in a resilient way on Saturday night with a double overtime win in Game 5 against the Tampa Bay Lightning. With one win separating them from a tied series and winner-take-all Game 7, they’ll need to continue doing what they do best in Game 6 on Monday.
It’s been 65 days since the Dallas Stars entered the NHL’s bubble hub in Edmonton, Alberta and began preparing for what has become one of the most unique and thrilling playoff runs in franchise history.
And while eight weeks is a long time to live and compete in a bubble (and as the players and coaches said on Monday morning, is an experience that they won’t miss), it’s somehow felt like an even longer journey.
For instance, think back to when the Stars opened round robin play against the Vegas Golden Knights on Aug. 3. Not only does this Dallas Stars team look entirely different than the team that lost a 3-1 lead in the final 20 minutes of that game, but the duration of time since that game feels like an entire season ago.
Maybe that’s because of the team’s impressive turnaround and surge. Perhaps it’s because playoff hockey in the dog days of summer creates an odd, atypical aura. Or maybe it’s just because 2020 is a mind trap and time is an enigma in this altogether unpredictable year.
Regardless, the Dallas Stars haven’t let time slow them down as they continue to defy the odds, push closer to their first Stanley Cup in 21 years, and survive with persistence and resilience.
Such was the case on Saturday night as the Stars won a thrilling Game 5 against the Tampa Bay Lightning to stave off elimination and draw one win closer to their ultimate goal in the Stanley Cup Final.
The game may have required double overtime and there may have been a number of instances where all hope seemed lost, but the Dallas Stars once again found a way to do what they do best: outlast the opponent.
“We enjoy being called underdogs. Every person, really this whole time in the bubble, seeming to choose the other team we’re playing. We relish that, we believe in each other, we’ve got a confident group, and we don’t want to leave the bubble. We’re having fun.” – Tyler Seguin on being counted out
It was a game for the summer of 2019 as two Dallas free agent acquisitions took center stage. Joe Pavelski saved the season with 6:45 to go in the third period with a goal on the doorstep to tie the game at 2-2. And near the midway point of the second overtime, Corey Perry struck in front of the net for his second goal of the game that re-energized the Stars’ Cup hopes for another 48 hours.
“Composure, a lot of experience, passion, drive, guys that have been there and know how hard it is to get to these moments,” Tyler Seguin said of Pavelski and Perry after the win. “They don’t want to have any regrets, and that’s what this is all about. It’s obviously about having fun, and the biggest switch for us tonight was those guys talking in the dressing room about having to go for this.”
And while it was an impressive display of resilience and resistance while sitting on the brink of the ultimate elimination, these efforts are nothing new for the Dallas Stars.
Jamie Oleksiak saved the Stars from a collapse in Game 2 of the First Round with a late game-winning goal against the Calgary Flames. The heroics continued in that series with a Joe Pavelski hat trick goal with 12 seconds remaining to tie the game and send it to overtime, where the Stars would eventually win and even the series instead of falling into a 3-1 hole. And it shone through once again in Game 6 as Denis Gurianov scored four goals to help the Stars shed an early 3-0 deficit and win in a dominant 7-3 finish.
Joel Kiviranta played the hero in Game 7 of the Second Round against the Colorado Avalanche. Anton Khudobin was brilliant throughout the Western Conference Finals and shut down the Vegas Golden Knights as Dallas rolled to a five-game series win, including a two-goal comeback in the final 10 minutes of Game 5 to send the game to overtime and set the stage for Gurianov to end it.
“Every guy is going through something at this time of year, especially the guys that have stepped up. Dowling comes into the lineup tonight and does his job and Caamano has came in. Everyone is ready to get tapped in. That’s just how our identity has been and how we’ve been in this bubble.” – Tyler Seguin on how Stars are dealing with injuries
Resilience, persistence, and battling adversity have been key themes for the Dallas Stars in this run to the Stanley Cup Final. Players have been injured and replaced by black aces ready to step in and do their job. Deficits in games and series have been erased and replaced with commanding leads and victories. And to top it all off, they have been competing in the most important games of the season while living in a confined bubble with no fans present for eight weeks.
And yet, they keep finding ways to stay alive.
That was once again apparent on Saturday night as the Stars danced around elimination thanks to belief, confidence, and some determined play by their veterans.
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“With how they play, I don’t know if you can call them old,” Seguin said of Pavelski and Perry. “They seem to have the best endurance of all of us. Joe keeps getting the late goals and Perry played a great game tonight. Well-deserved in overtime.”
Though the Lightning controlled the possession and chances for the majority of regulation and the first overtime, the Stars weren’t fazed. Khudobin made some strong saves in a bounce back performance, Dallas found ways to avoid the penalty box, and a 2-1 deficit late in the game didn’t scare them into submission as Pavelski tied the game late and forced it to overtime.
“When you’re in a situation like that, some desperation and experience comes in,” Jamie Oleksiak said. “I think those guys stepped up big for us. Perry, Pavelski, and guys that have played in key games like that and had their backs against the wall. As a group, we just took it a period at a time. I think that as long as we stay out of the box, we showed that we can play with these guys. When we play our game, the results will come.”
And now, they once again find themselves in need of results as Game 6 approaches.
In terms of stakes, there’s not much of a change from Game 5 on Saturday. If the Stars win, they gain another dose of momentum ahead of a winner-take-all Game 7 on Wednesday. But if the Stars lose, the Lightning will hoist the Stanley Cup and send Dallas home empty-handed.
The only difference is that the Stars are now one win closer to pulling off a comeback from a 3-1 deficit that’s only been achieved once in Stanley Cup Final history (by the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs).
The discussion going into Monday revolves around whether Dallas has another drop of postseason magic left in the tank or if the Lightning will have the effort required to finally end their bid.
Tampa Bay hasn’t lost two games in a row this postseason and the Cup will be in the building, so their motivation is clear and obvious. In the other end, Dallas inched closer to a Stanley Cup Playoffs record with their ninth comeback win (the record is ten) on Saturday night and avoided elimination while also applying another sprinkle of pressure to the Lightning. So, they are creating their own momentum.
“You’re urgent and you need a must-win,” John Klingberg said on Saturday. “You’ve worked so hard to get to the Stanley Cup Final and you’re finally here. You’re doing whatever you can to win the game. It’s just a lot of heart and a lot of belief in this team.”
“We just battle,” Perry added. “We believe in that dressing room. We came here with 51 people and all of those guys in that dressing room believe that we can go out there and get this done. That’s all that really matters.”
Game 6 presents a chance to keep that belief rolling. It’s going to take another clean, but physical effort on the ice that helps them stay out of penalty trouble. It’s going to take players stepping up in the biggest moments and capitalizing when opportunities arise. It’s going to take It’s going to take Anton Khudobin once again playing with precision and energy. It’s going to take black aces and prospects continuing to efficiently fill in for Roope Hintz, Blake Comeau, Radek Faksa, and Stephen Johns, who are all unfit to play in addition to Andrej Sekera, who is a game-time decision.
Most of all, it’s going to take another dose of resilience and perseverance. The series isn’t over, and the Lightning still have to win one more game. The Stars have to win two, but showed that they can win in the face of adversity in double overtime on Saturday night.
“We’ve been a team that’s come back all year long. In the third period and being down in the playoffs, we’ve done the same thing. We didn’t look at it as we’re down 3-1 [in the series]; we looked at it as we could win the game. We kept the focus on all of the details that we have to do better than the games we lost, and we did them last night. When you get in those situations, you can’t worry about facing elimination. You have to worry about taking care of the process of winning that game. We will do the same thing [Monday].” – Rick Bowness on the Stars’ comeback efforts
Their season is on the line, and the Lightning are the most skilled and threatening opponent they’ve faced. But in a year filled with storybook moments and tales of overcoming adversity up to this point, why not add one more chapter and find a way to force a Game 7?
“Whether it’s 2-2 or you’re up 3-1, you still have to go and win the hockey game,” Bowness said. “We kept the focus on that. Take care of the process and the details that give us the best chance to win. The guys certainly did that, so we’ll take the same approach [Monday].”
“We know if we lose, we’re out, it’s over, and they get the Cup,” Bowness added. “But we’re not focusing on that, we’re focusing on how we have to play to win that hockey game.”