The Dallas Stars had to win Monday night. Heading into Game 3, they were down 2-0 in the series to the Anaheim Ducks, who had the best record in the Western Conference in the regular season. In Game 1, the Stars found themselves down 4-0, but fought back and almost tied the game. The initial deficit was too much to overcome and they lost 4-3. In Game 2, they were down two goals once again in the third period and got the game back to a one-goal margin, but the Ducks once again escaped to win 3-2.
Things looked bleak heading into Game 3, but the Stars, especially goaltender Kari Lehtonen, played with the sense of urgency needed in the playoffs and scored a goal in each period to defeat the Ducks 3-0. Lehtonen’s first ever playoff win came in the form of a shutout and in front of a home town crowd.
During the regular season, the Stars were 23-11-7 at home and they showed that they are far more comfortable playing in their own building. After giving up seven goals in the first two games on the road, the Stars were finally able to shut down Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry and put themselves in a much more comfortable scenario as Game 4 approaches.
When they were playing on the road, the Stars looked timid and seemed rattled by the noise of the opposing crowd, but in Game 3 they played with poise and were able to gain an early lead and keep it throughout, which they failed to do in Game 2. They fed off the Dallas crowd and Ryan Garbutt showed the most emotion of any Stars’ player so far in the series after he scored to put themselves up by three goals in the third period. He fell into the glass as the hometown faithful erupted around him.
Many people aren’t giving the Stars a significant chance to upset the top-seeded Ducks, but captain Jamie Benn, who scored the game-winning goal in Game 3, isn’t going to let his team die. His brother Jordie Benn, who started the season as the team’s eighth defenseman, has worked his way into the top-four rotation and was a crucial piece to shutting down the Ducks’ top scoring lines in the shutout.
The Stars just looked like a different team in Game 3. The line of Antoine Roussel, Cody Eakin and Garbutt, which had been irrelevant in the first two games, looked like it was consisted of three All-Stars in the victory.
If you didn’t think home-ice meant anything in the NHL, the Stars are showing why it does. They have to be extremely confident heading into Game 4. If they can find a way to tie up the series heading back to Anaheim, the next step will be to find a way to carry that emotion into the Ducks’ barn.
Watch Game 4 in person by getting your Stars tickets here.