Superb goaltending and strong team defense allowed the fake Dallas Stars to roar back and tie the fake Stanley Cup Final Wednesday night. A pair of lackluster efforts had put the Stars in a dangerous 2-1 hole, and Tampa Bay threatened to run away with the series. However, a few deft coaching moves, a bit of luck, and an untimely injury gave the Stars an opportunity they would not squander.
First Period: Dal 0 / TB 0
The defensive upper hand was on the other foot to start the game. After being dealt with comfortably for much of the prior two games, the Dallas defense stepped up in a big way. In response to Victor Hedman's impressive height (and even more impressive play), Jordie Benn and Jason Demers elected to play the period Master Blaster style. The tactic clearly befuddled Tampa Bay, who failed to seriously trouble goaltender Kari Lehtonen. In truth, the Stars themselves were a little distracted, with Lehtonen the only player able to register a shot on goal.
Second Period: Dal 1 / TB 1
After waiting nearly half an hour, the Stars finally broke through in the second. Bolts forward Brendan Morrow received the puck deep in his own defensive zone. To the surprise of everyone, Morrow then ripped open his Lightning jersey to reveal a Stars jersey underneath. The goal that followed was purely academic. Understandably, Lightning coach John Cooper launched a furious protest. While he was unsuccessful in getting the goal overturned on the grounds Morrow couldn't technically switch teams mid-game, the innovative young coach was able to convince the referees to call a Too Many Men on the Ice penalty against Dallas. The Stars compounded the error with confusion. Coach Lindy Ruff appeared to give the wrong signal, and instead of calling for a line change, summoned Lehtonen to the bench in the middle of the penalty kill. Alex Killorn hit the empty net to knot the game.
Third Period: Dal 2 / TB 1 - FINAL
The Stars entered the third period ready for business. To avoid further mishap, trainers had attached a harness to both the Stars net and Kari Lehtonen. Demers and Benn's Master Blaster configuration had also been upgraded. Coach Ruff seemed content to forgo a third defensive pair in favor of forming a defensive Voltron composed of Demers, Benn, Patrick Nemeth, and Jyrki Jokipakka. The unconventional tactic largely stymied the Tampa Bay attack save a furious rally in the game's closing minutes. On the other end of the ice Jamie Benn rejoined the series in a big way. The burly winger planted Matt Carle in the third row, forced his way to the front of the net, and gave the Stars both the lead and the win.
The series is now perched on a 2-2 knife's edge heading into Saturday.