There was a moment in Wednesday's 4-2 loss to the Dallas Stars where Bruce Boudreau and his Anaheim Ducks just might have lost their hold and control of this series. It wasn't the moment where Cody Eakin outraced Devante Smith-Pelly up the ice and then skated around two other Ducks on his way to scoring the game-winning goal, nor was it the moment when the Ducks allowed two goals early in the second period that quickly tied the score and suddenly changed the complexion of the game and awoke the sleeping giant that is the AAC crowd.
No, it was that moment when Boudreau turned to defenseman Mark Fistric and instructed him to move down to the forwards end of the bench as he desperately attempted to pull goalie Jonas Hiller with over two minutes remaining in the game.
Forget the fact that there was still two minutes remaining in regulation and that teams have shown in the past that's more than enough time to actually erase a two-goal lead -- or at the very least, capable of scoring one goal and making the end of the game just a bit interesting. Tyler Seguin can tell you personally what it's like to see a hockey team score two goals in the final minute of play; he had a first-row view of the Blackhawks accomplishing just that less than a calendar year ago.
Yet there he was, with his team looking at dropping another big game on the road and the series just minutes away from being tied when this happened.
This video comes courtesy of Bob Sturm, and for those adept at lip reading -- and even those that aren't -- can easily figure out what he's saying to the bearded former Dallas Stars defenseman. The full broadcast of the game shows even more of this, but it's tough to find any of this online, so those with DVR's should go back and see just what Boudreau is up to on the bench in those final minutes.
Eventually he gets the goalie pulled and guess what -- Mark Fistric becomes his "extra attacker" as the Ducks ostensibly aim to actually score a goal.
There's a timeout called by the Stars, with Lindy Ruff obviously preparing his team for what he knows is about to happen and sure enough, in the final seconds of the game, the Stars are outright attacked by the Ducks and of course -- Fistric is the ring leader of the action.
Ryan Garbutt isn't even facing a Ducks player while standing in front of his net, and seems intent on not engaging the Ducks in any of the physical antics they wish to get into, but Fistric and company won't be denied. He and Emerson Etem team up on Garbutt with Fistric literally grabbing Garbutt around the head and neck and wrenching him violently to the ice.
You can see what's happening here in the final 30 seconds or so of the Stars Rewind above, as well as the incident before all this when Kyle Palmieri locked up with Trevor Daley and essentially refused to let the defenseman go -- who also was intent on not engaging the Ducks player on the fisticuffs he wished to get into.
Update: Here's the NBC feed of the final minute or so and the aftermath.
Let's not forget the Ducks best player remaining on the roster, Corey Perry, deciding to take himself out of the game in the final minutes with this sadistic jab and hook of Roussel that kicked off a fight he very obviously wanted no part of.
(skip to the :55 second mark)
Once again, this isn't exactly something that's new to hockey -- teams try to start stuff like this all the time, especially when being blown out, in an effort to "send a message" or whatever they feel is necessary to try and grab some momentum heading into the next game.
What's interesting about this is once again, the Ducks seem to be blaming the Stars for any of the physical antics that are cropping up in these games.
Boudreau didn't get into name-calling after the game, but he did have this interesting statement after the game when asked if he expects the physical conflicts to continue:
"I don't see why they'd change unless they take a couple guys out of the lineup."
See...it's not his fault the Stars have some supremely annoying players that are currently doing a magnificent job of shutting down his top line and pulling his team off their game. It's not his fault he was basically forced to put his biggest goons out on the ice in the final minutes rather than focus on actually -- oh, who knows -- tying the game up.
This wasn't the final 20 seconds of the game, this was all during the final three minutes of regulation where he all but threw tying the game to the wind and instead needed to send these darn Dallas Stars a message, so they learn their place and won't do whatever the hell it is they're doing any more.
It's clear that the Stars have gotten into the heads of the Ducks. It's also incredibly clear that Lindy Ruff is now severely outcoaching his counterpart and he's gotten into Boudreau's head as well. Perhaps it's the fact that the Stars coach refuses to get into a war of words with with Boudreau, or that his players continue to show a high regard of inexplicable reverence and respect for the Ducks -- aside from perhaps Trevor Daley -- when talking about the Ducks and what the series is turning into.
You've seen it before, where coaches get upset and rant to the media about the other when it's clear they're putting players on the ice just to go out and hurt someone. In fact, it's happened this season when Boudreau himself was called out for just these sort of tactics and enraged Colorado Avalanche coach Patrick Roy so much he darn near tore the benches apart to get to him.
The Stars coach wants no part of it. He wants to talk about the actual hockey.
"It's just playoff hockey," said Ruff, when asked about the physical altercations. "It certainly feels like a playoff series now."
He also chuckled a bit when saying that.
The Ducks are focused on retaliation and "showing the Stars a lesson" or whatever it is they're telling themselves to justify their actions in Game 4. There isn't a whole lot wrong with what the Ducks are doing, other than the fact the officials seem to not be seeing a lot of it, and it's nothing that hasn't happen before in the NHL or won't happen again. Yet while Anaheim is trying their best to hurt the Stars physically -- the Stars are just as happy to really hurt them where it counts: