Well, take a deep breath. Did it help? No? No, not really. Still, we have to dive into this one before we flush it down the proverbial sports toilet. What in the world happened in this pivotal game five?
The Dallas Stars have been better this series. By quite a bit, the possession metrics and even scoring chances say. At even strength, in particular. What's the formula, then, for beating them if you're the Anaheim Ducks? Avoid it. Avoid even strength while watching a bad Dallas Stars power play flail, then score a few power play goals of your own.
The Ducks get credit for taking advantage of their opportunities tonight, tallying three power play goals as they did. They deserve it. They were better on special teams, and now history says they've got about an 80% or better chance to win this series.
Where they don't get any credit- Where Dallas just handed it to them- Is the circumstances leading to them being on those power plays in the first place. The Stars lost this game in the early going more than Anaheim won it late.
Antoine Roussel makes contact with Frederik Andersen's head. Ryan Garbutt does to Corey Perry what Corey Perry did to Jamie Benn. Those aren't hockey penalties. They're not things that needed to be done in the course of a game. They're not bad luck. They're just bad decision making.
Lovejoy's shove of Alex Goligoski into Andersen that resulted, perplexingly, into another Dallas minor was just icing on the cake. The Ducks didn't just witness, they actually sinned and benefited that time.
Anaheim didn't do anything to get those power plays, but they made them count.
Forgetting that officiating transgression, what happened to Dallas tonight is what happens to NBA teams that live by the three-pointer, if you'll indulge me for a moment. They often times then die by the three-pointer. Dallas decided to make their living in this series by being pesky and driving Anaheim crazy, allowing their speed game to start. For the last three days that narrative has permeated the media to the point of some pretty reckless optimism. The Ducks are losing their minds, we said.
So the Stars continued on that path, but instead of using it wisely to forge success, barreled straight into oblivion before they could even get settled in. They did it to themselves. Their actions. Their decisions. They were living in games three and four because of the ability to drive Anaheim crazy. They died tonight because they stepped over the line, unforced, in a big way.
Outside of that most obvious of story lines, it was more of the same from games one and two. The Ducks scored on their quality opportunities, few and far between though they were in the substantive part of the game. The Stars didn't. A post here, a post there. Two 5-on-3's go by with nothing to show. A wide open Ray Whitney can't tip a slam dunk home. A point blank shot by Seguin from the slot. On it went.
But that power play is the kicker. Anaheim devastated the Stars 21 minutes into the game, just like in game one, and the Stars still had enough chances on the man advantage to come back, and just like it has all year, the power play failed them. Even as Andersen continued to provide shaky backstopping for Bruce Boudreau.
When stretches of even-strength play finally broke out in the second period tonight who had the better of the play? That would be Dallas, of course. Just a little too late, and a silly turnover early in the third doomed a comeback effort that had some steam. Another scoring chance generated unwittingly by spectator Ducks. But they buried it. Credit to them.
Then the Stars lost interest the rest of the way, allowing artificial padding of the score. The substance of the game was in the first period.
Dallas romped at home. The Ducks get the same tonight. The closeness of those first two games may come back to haunt the Stars. There was real opportunity there, and it stings now.
Yet as it did when last they flew back from Anaheim, those long stretches of even-strength dominance should give you confidence that they can get the job done in Dallas on Sunday. If they keep it civil. If they roll the lines and play their game. They can compete. They can skate with that team, there's no question. And if they do that then they will get a fourth shot at besting the Ducks in their building.
In this season that just won't seem to die, maybe the fourth time can be the charm.
It's just heart-breaking to watch these guys do this to themselves. They finally got here and they drew an opponent that's pretty mediocre right now- But they can't put it together. It's all learning and growing, though. For a young team maybe that's enough. That Jamie Benn guy is pretty good, anyway. See you Sunday.