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Scared straight: How Stars used freakish effort in rallying to stun Wild

From 'Nightmare on Victory Avenue' to dramatic comeback, Dallas shows what it's made of with statement win

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

DALLAS -- Maybe all the Stars really needed was a good scare.

While the first 13 games of the season have been pretty frightening when you consider what this team wants to accomplish this season, Tuesday was a different kind of horror. Dallas was booed off the ice to end the first period and then dropped three goals behind the Minnesota Wild 15 minutes into the second period.

You could just see the visions of ghosts and goblins flying around American Airlines Center.

 

[READ MORE: Stars turn jeers into cheers in come-from-behind win over Wild]

 

Could a loss spark all sorts of terrible tales of beheadings and dismemberment? Could the stress from a slow start get even more intense? It was a real-life Nightmare on Victory Avenue taking shape.

"We saw our first paper bag head out there in warmup," said Stars captain Jamie Benn. "Boo Birds after the first. That's frustrating, but I guess we deserved it."

While forward Alexander Radulov added: "It sucks, obviously. We're all human, we hear that. They have the all the rights to do that. They came to cheer us, and we didn't do as well as we could do. We get what we deserve." 

Video: MIN@DAL: Montgomery on come-from-behind win over Wild

But out of nowhere, the Stars responded. Led by Radulov and an inspired effort of desperation and determination, Dallas scored six unanswered goals and walked away with its most impressive win of the season. Not only did the Stars beat a Central Division opponent, 6-3, it responded to a challenge that was issued in meetings after a 3-0 loss to Pittsburgh on Saturday.

In playing the way they did, the Stars not only showed the fans what they were made of, they showed themselves.

"I like that. How crazy does that sound?" Radulov said of the boos. "You want to prove to everybody that you play with emotion, with heart. That's what we did today."

It was the kind of performance that could maybe help change a season. Dallas moves to 5-8-1 and drops the Wild to 4-8-0. While the two points are important in the standings, they are just two points in an 82-game season. But what these two points can do is maybe convince the Stars that they are a good team.

This squad has had several team meetings and has not always reacted the right way afterward. But this was the proper response.

"We had just been talking about this [situation] right here, so, let's prove to each other that we can do this," Seguin said. "We had a long meeting (Monday) about it, just about third periods. It hasn't been great, but first shift, second shift, we just kept going, and it's great that we know we can play that way."

Video: MIN@DAL: Radulov fuels Stars' comeback with hat trick

Dallas dominated the final 30 minutes of the game and finished with some incredible team stats. Dallas had a 37-22 advantage in shots on goal, a 61-46 advantage in shot attempts, a 37-23 advantage in faceoffs and a 21-11 advantage in hits. It forced 20 giveaways from the Wild to just 14 for itself.

As much as this was a strange game, it also was the kind of performance the Stars would like to put on the ice on a regular basis.

"Give the players a lot of credit," Montgomery said. "They've been ridden on by everyone in this room, including me. They deserve it when they win."

Add to that the fact the top scorers burst out of season-long slumps. Radulov's four points (three goals, one assist) matched the four points he had in the first 13 games. Joe Pavelski doubled his three points by tallying three on Tuesday (one goal, two assists). Seguin battled illness and finished with a goal and two assists. Radulov was plus-4 with 10 shots on goal, Seguin was plus-four with five shots on goal, Miro Heiskanen was plus-four with five shots on goal.

It wasn't just an oddly played video game spurred on by fear and panic, it was a blueprint for what this team can do if it starts playing with focus and energy.

"We're playing one of the best teams in Colorado in their building next one," Radulov said. "We need the points -- we know that we just have to carry that momentum from this game to the next one and work hard."

Video: MIN@DAL: Radulov on scoring second career hat trick

The Stars have to go to Colorado Friday, return for an early game Saturday against Montreal and then play host to the Avalanche Tuesday. They still are three games behind ".500" in NHL parlance, and they still need to do some work to get back into a respectable playoff spot.

But if you want to ponder positivity for a day, you can say that there is the potential they were scared straight Tuesday.

"We love playing in front of our fans," Montgomery said. "They weren't wrong (booing), and the players sensed it. You want to win them back, because they are great fans."

And that's a message they can carry for more than just a few games.

"We stuck together as a group in here," Benn said. "Players and coaches, from top to bottom, went out there in the third period with a good mindset of just working hard. We got some bounces from it, and good things happened. It was nice to get the fans back on our side, that felt pretty good."

Like the happy ending to a horror movie where the scare is actually kind of fun.

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.

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