The Dallas Stars are on the board. Welcome to the 2014 NHL Playoff party, fellas.
After dropping two close ones in Anaheim the Stars roared back in front of a raucous American Airlines Center crowd to pull within a game of the Ducks with a 3-0 win Monday night, led by the goaltending stylings of one Mr. Kari Lehtonen.
It wasn't always pretty (the Stars were the ones out-shot this time, 37-22) but Dallas received huge penalty killing and a goal per period from Jamie Benn, Valeri Nichushkin, and Ryan Garbutt while frustrating the Ducks deep into the night.
It's the first Dallas Stars playoff victory since May 17th, 2008 at Joe Louis Arena, and the first post-season game played at the AAC since May 19th, 2008. A crowd starving for playoff action did not disappoint.
Dallas now has an opportunity to tie the series at two on Wednesday, where the Anaheim Ducks will be without defenseman Stephane Robidas.
In his last game here Robidas fractured his right leg against the Chicago Blackhawks. In his return tonight he fractured that same leg, above the original fracture, they say, and was taken to the hospital immediately.
So even as we enjoy this one we say a prayer for our friend, who horrifyingly must go through this all over again.
The first period began in a sickeningly familiar way. The Dallas Stars jumped out to a 7-2 lead in shots on goal, were the better team, had the better chances, had a power play chance that went unconverted, and couldn't put the puck in the net.
Then Anaheim attacked relentlessly. They poured 11 straight on Kari Lehtonen, who bounced back from his performance in Anaheim admirably in the early going holding the Stars in it until the late stages of the period despite intense pressure.
Jamie Benn delivered to end the period and the elation of the evening continued into the second period- So did the pounding rain that was Anaheim shots.
The Ducks poured another 17 shots on Kari Lehtonen in the second, amassing 22 total by the midway point and 30 by the time the frame had expired, but a reversal of sorts was in the works.
Anaheim had the quality in the first two games while Dallas had the quantity. As the second wore on it was the Stars with increasing quality (though missed nets) while the Ducks piled up the numbers. Among those opportunities were several near-misses from Valeri Nichushkin, who kept motoring until his shot off a rush found its way through Andersen's legs for the 2-0 lead.
It was working pretty well, so the Stars continued to do what they were doing as the third period began, allowing Anaheim elongated periods of time attacking Kari Lehtonen's net, even requiring a timeout to rest tired players after consecutive icings.
And when they had once again survived the onslaught, they struck, as they had before.
A rush from the Eakin line ended in multiple rebounds attempts off a sprawled Frederik Andersen and Ryan Garbutt was eventually the second, or even third mouse to find that cheese, slipping it under the Duck for the commanding 3-0 third-period lead.
Through it all there was nastiness. There was animosity. There was downright hate as the evening progressed, and though they took some penalties in the creation of those things, the Stars got right under their skin and took Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf out of their skill games.
They'd spend four of the game's final eight minutes killing penalties borne of that frustration. When it was all said and done Ryan Getzlaf would end the game with a single shot on goal and only two total attempted with a -1 rating and an absolutely abysmal night in the faceoff circle winning just 6 of 21.
Corey Perry wasn't much better. Lindy Ruff bet the farm on Cody Eakin, Ryan Garbutt and Antoine Roussel going toe-to-toe with those Anaheim pillars of skill and won tonight, though he mixed Benn and Seguin in there as well.
Having the match-ups he wanted clearly opened new avenues of opportunity for Dallas and the result was higher quality chances overall despite a pretty tight defensive game from Anaheim in the first that threatened to frustrate Dallas.
How those things play out on Wednesday can decide whether or not this series is a short one or a long one.
For tonight the Dallas Stars have received affirmation of what we all suspected after both games one and two- They can absolutely play with that team. That team is not that much better than Dallas.
But Kari Lehtonen, as we say every training camp and before every game, probably needs to be your best player to assure victory. Tonight he was.
See you at the AAC on Wednesday night, where similar excitement will no doubt be had. The Stars are very much alive now, after all.