The Dallas Stars first round playoff series with the Anaheim Ducks is down to a best-of-three. The Stars shook off a 0-2 deficit and rallied to defeat the Ducks, 4-2, at American Airlines Center Wednesday night to tie the series at 2-2.
“We are a confident group in here,” said Stars captain Jamie Benn. “We want to play the same way all the time, if we are up two goals or down two goals. We regrouped and came out with a strong effort in the second and third [periods].”
It was another tough, physical game between the Stars and Ducks. There were 72 hits and 82 penalty minutes in the game, a fight between Stars forward Antoine Roussel and Ducks forward Corey Perry and several scrums, including one at the end of the contest.
“That’s just playoff emotion,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “I really feel like we’re in a playoff series now. The first couple of games didn’t really feel like it, now we feel we’ve got a playoff series.”
The Stars, who trailed 0-2 after the first period, got goals from Jamie Benn and Vernon Fiddler in the second period to tie the game. Cody Eakin scored the game-winner at 6:22 of the third and Alex Goligoski provided an insurance goal a little more than a minute later.
“I just said I wasn’t happy [after the first period]. I thought we got outworked. I thought we weren’t playing smart enough and it was our turn to answer and I think that group in there answered the bell,” said Ruff. “It’s not often we get out worked but there was some situations where some of it was smarts and some of it was getting outworked. I thought after that, the last 40 was as hard as the boys could go. They emptied the tank.”
The Stars not only overcame a 0-2 deficit in Wednesday’s game, but they’ve overcome a 0-2 deficit in the series to send it back to Anaheim all even.
“We still have a lot of work to do and a lot of games left,” said Fiddler. “Both teams have taken care of business at home. Everybody feels comfortable in their building. Anaheim is a tough place to go in and play. They’ve got great players and great leaders, so we know we have our work cut out for us.”
The Ducks were without captain Ryan Getzlaf Wednesday night. He missed the game with an upper body injury. Teemu Selanne was a healthy scratch. And goaltender Frederik Andersen had a rough night, getting pulled in the third period after allowing four goals on 25 shots.
“They came out of nowhere in the second. I think we weren’t ready for their push. They got the momentum off of that,” said Andersen. “I think we had a great first period, we’ve just got to be able to finish the job. When you’ve got a team down like that, you’ve got to be able to finish them off.”
Anaheim opened the scoring at 12:17 of the first when defenseman Bryan Allen scored off a shot from the point to put the Ducks up 1-0.
The Ducks extended the lead to 2-0 almost six minutes later. After Stars defenseman Sergei Gonchar turned over the puck behind the Dallas net, Mathieu Perreault came out from behind the goal line, put the puck on net, got his own rebound, put another shot on from net and it went in the net off forward Patrick Maroon at the 18:16 mark.
The Stars dominated play in the second, outshooting the Ducks 16-3 and scoring twice to tie the game. The Stars got on the scoreboard 24 seconds into the period on a great individual effort by Benn. As he took a faceoff at the Anaheim blue line, Benn pushed the puck into the Ducks zone, won a race to it and then whipped it past Anaheim goaltender Frederick Andersen to make it a 2-1 game.
“Everything is always different. Teams line up different, you kind of just mix it up, go off instincts,” said Benn. “It was lucky enough to get a couple bounces and I found it on my stick and just tried to get a quick shot.”
“That was a great individual effort,” said Goligoski. “That was one of the prettier goals I’ve seen by one person doing it all. He’s been doing that all year. He’s led by example and that’s a huge goal for us.”
The Stars tied it a little more than six minutes later when Fiddler beat Anderson from a sharp angle, slipping the puck past him with a shot from below the left faceoff circle o make it a 2-2 game at 6:33 of the second.
“I was expecting the pass,” said Andersen. “They had a couple of guys coming in toward the net over there. I wasn’t able to trust my D men there and that’s my fault. That’s one I’ve got to have.”
The Stars had back-to-back power play chances later in the period, but couldn’t cash in and the game headed to the third period all even.
Eakin hit the post a little more than a minute into the third period, but then scored off the rush at the 6:22 mark to put the Stars up 3-2. After taking a pass from Antoine Roussel, Eakin slipped by a diving Rickard Rickell at the Ducks blue line and then fired the puck past Andersen from the left circle.
Just 1:22 later the Stars struck again off the rush when Fiddler backhanded the puck to a charging Goligoski, who beat Andersen from the slot to make it 4-2 at 7:44 of the third. The Ducks pulled Andersen after that goal and Jonas Hiller took over in net.
And the score stayed 4-2 the rest of the way, sending the series back to Anaheim for a pivotal Game 5 on Friday.
“It’s starting from scratch. We’ve got to go there and win a game,” said Ruff. “We’ve got to win a game in Anaheim.”
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.