They say you need a few breaks to make it in Hollywood. Apparently you need them in Anaheim too. The Stars have been saying “We just need a couple breaks to go our way” for close to a month now. They finally got one. Make that about five as Dallas held on to win 4-3 in Anaheim against the Ducks.
It’s almost like Dallas needed a punch in the face to realize the game had started, and they got it 7:27 into the first period.
Break #1: Jeff Woywitka scores from 60 feet. His second of the year from just inside the blueline goes in and surprises everyone in the building, especially himself.
The Stars played physical, were smart with the puck and capitalized on scoring chances to take a 2-1 lead. A late goal by notorious Star-killer Lubomir Visnovsky tied the game at two after the first 20 minutes.
Meanwhile in Chicago Break #2: Tampa Bay shuts out Chicago 2-0. One of the teams Dallas is chasing loses a game. In Regulation. Nice.
Again Dallas could have given the game away early in the second period. Back-to-back penalties by Jamie Benn and Tom Wandell gave Anaheim, and their 4th ranked powerplay, a two man advantage for a minute and a half. The Stars played with the desperation and urgency that’s been rarely seen over the past few weeks and killed the penalties off. Brenden Morrow scored to make it 3-2 about five minutes later. Then came another of the breaks.
Break #3: Dallas gets their shot with a 5-on-3 powerplay. And scores.
This puts Dallas ahead 4-2. This gives Dallas some breathing room. This gives Dallas some confidence. Dallas has been in complete control of this game and their hard work is paying off. RESULTS! AT LAST!!
…And then out of nowhere Corey Perry scores a shorthanded goal late in the second period to draw the Ducks within 4-3 and put some doubt back in Dallas’ head. “Can they do this a third time?” The last two games against the Ducks Dallas held a 1-goal advantage only to see Anaheim tie the game late and win it in overtime.
Dallas outshot Anaheim in each of the first two periods and held a 25-15 shot advantage through 40 minutes. But this only translated into a one-goal lead. The game was still up for grabs.
So what does Dallas do in the third period? It stops pressing the attack. It stops being the aggressor. It stops pushing the action and becomes reactionary. Basically it stops doing everything that was successful for pretty much the first time since St. Patrick’s Day and tries to protect the 4-3 lead.
Anaheim outshoots Dallas 12-6 in the final 20 minutes. Still trailing by a goal the Ducks pull the goalie. And all hell breaks loose.
Break #4: An apparent goal by Anaheim to tie the game is waved off. Saku Koivu was skating through the crease and got tangled up with the Stars goaltender. The referee ruled he was unable to make the save and blew the whistle.
A minute later, Break #5: Another goal is waved off! This time an illegal hand-pass was ruled right before the puck went in. The Stars are dodging more bullets than Neo.
The last minute of play is hectic but Dallas, shorthanded and playing 4-on-6, holds onto their 4-3 lead and closes out the game. The Stars earned two much needed points and prevented Anaheim from earning any points and clinching a playoff spot. Dallas won when its goaltending wasn’t great by having top players score (Ribiero with 2 goals, Morrow with 3 points), depth players pitch in (Woywitka’s goal), winning faceoffs (32-of-62) and playing smart (6-3 powerplay advantage).
It’s a great story, hopefully they have enough left in the can for a sequel.
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