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'We needed a kick in the butt': Stars' anger fuels another comeback win

Dallas overcomes a poor start, storming back with four goals in the third period to stun the Coyotes

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Anger, for lack of a better word, is a good thing.

Especially when it comes to hockey.

It will be parsed as passion or emotion or "want to," after the Stars came back and beat the Arizona Coyotes Sunday, 4-2 … but it was anger. Heck, you could even use a few spicier words if you want to.

The Stars got down right mad in the middle of a tumultuous contest. Mad at themselves for playing so poorly. Mad at officials for not calling a kneeing penalty on Taylor Hall and then calling an interference penalty on Jamie Oleksiak when there was none. Mad at the Coyotes for being themselves.

Video: DAL@ARI: Bowness on Stars' response in comeback win

And yet, it was the best thing that could happen to this team.

They needed to be angry, they needed to be emotional, they needed to be passionate. It makes them better.

 

[PHOTO GALLERY: See all the best shots from Stars' come-from-behind victory over Coyotes]

 

"It's a not easy game," said goalie Anton Khudobin, who made 33 saves and stole another two points in the standings. "It's a battle game, it's a hard game to play, and without passion, without … balls … without character, you can't win hockey games.

"We found a way today."

Video: DAL@ARI: Benn uses skate to help net backhanded shot

Khudobin's athletic, emotional style fit perfectly, as he held off a determined Arizona team that fired 22 shots on goal in the first period. He was quietly spectacular, and yet he allowed two goals and the Stars looked like they were on a path to defeat. Mix in the fact that Taylor Hall had a knee-on-knee hit on Mattias Janmark and sent the scrappy forward out of the game, and it was a pretty deflating experience.

"There was some small talk," captain Jamie Benn said sarcastically of the first intermission dressing room. "We needed a kick in the butt, and we found a way to come back."

The kick in the butt came early in the second period when defenseman Jamie Oleksiak dropped a shoulder and leveled Arizona's Derek Stepan, who was carrying the puck behind the net. Officials wanted to call a major penalty on Oleksiak, but after reviewing the video, couldn't. They gave the big defenseman a two-minute minor for interference, and probably shouldn't have even done that.

It was a clean hit, and the Stars felt vindicated.

Video: DAL@ARI: Khudobin continues to step up for Stars

Of course, they still had to kill off the penalty down 2-0, but they did that and moved forward.

"They got some hits at us early, we didn't like them, the penalty killing did the job, and we just kind of picked it up from there," said Stars interim coach Rick Bowness. "We had a lot of guys that responded. No one was happy and we just responded. It's as simple as that."

But it was how they responded. Janmark returned and ended up logging 11:54 of ice time. Benn finished with seven hits and started a few skirmishes. He was in the penalty box for the last 10 seconds of the game. And the offense fed off of the passion.

After a scoreless second period, Benn set up in front of Antti Raanta and made a slick play to backhand in a goal just 2:18 into the third period. That cut the deficit to 2-1 and seemed to offer just a hint of hope to the Stars. Then, Andrej Sekera activated from his spot on the blueline, carried the puck behind the net, and made a perfect feed back to Alexander Radulov in the left circle. Radulov blasted in a one-timer, and the game was tied with 9:14 remaining.

Video: DAL@ARI: Radulov ties the game with one-timer

It was a fantastic display of what the best players can do when they push themselves. They pushed themselves because they were behind and they needed to respond.

"They just picked up their emotion, they picked up their passion and that carried the play," Bowness said.

 

[MAKING MEMORIES: Seguin, young Stars fan duel in Rock-Paper-Scissors battle during pregame warmup]

 

In fact, they became the better team.

Denis Gurianov, who was pushed up to a line with Roope Hintz, fired a shot at the net. The puck deflected right to Hintz, who tapped in his 13th goal of the season to give Dallas a 3-2 lead. A few minutes later, Janmark made a great hustling play to swipe a puck the distance of the ice into an empty net.

Video: DAL@ARI: Hintz scores on open net in the 3rd

It was sweet justice for the earlier hit on his knee. It was sweet irony for a Stars team that won a big game against an opponent that was very close in the standings.

"It was a character win," Benn said. "We made a big group effort. It wasn't really going our way the first two periods. Dobbi kept us in it, he played a great game and we found a way to play to win."

A way that is not always pretty, but it is kinda fun. Dallas now leads the NHL in games won when trailing after two periods at six. The Stars are a team to be feared at times.

Yet, they also know it's not a good idea to get behind so much.

Video: Stars rally in third to defeat Coyotes

"The second and the third period are how we want to play the game, and the first period wasn't," Bowness said. "That's pretty simple."

Finding consistency, that's not so simple. But the more experiences you have, the more emotion you have, the more anger you can muster … well, the simpler it gets.

"The biggest thing out of this game is we responded and played to our expectations," Bowness said.

Expectations that are going to get even higher.

Don't miss your chance to see the Stars take on the Detroit Red Wings at American Airlines Center on Friday, Jan. 3 at 7:30 p.m. Get your tickets now!

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.

Mike Heika is a Senior Staff Writer for DallasStars.com and has covered the Stars since 1994. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHeika, and listen to his podcast.

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