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Game 63 Afterwords: Penguins Forgot to Lock the Door

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Take that, Cameron Gaunce

Pittsburgh Penguins v Dallas Stars Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Tonight was a gift. Not in terms of draft position, of course, but in terms of viewing experience.

The Stars don’t deserve to win many games these days. Not sans Eaves, not sans philia, not without anything resembling a grizzled beard on the roster. This team is being sanded down, for now, and the rebuilding won’t start until next season. I am not counting Julius Honka, that cornerstone kept in the shed while eight other carpenters held a collapsing corner of a house up for hours with strength alone, until they didn’t.

What happened in This Hockey Game? Well, the 14-20-91 line (I refuse to give it a nickname, but “Beagin” is copyrighted by me just FYI) somehow failed to stop the Crosby line despite the Great Historical Achievments of a Certain Center against The Next One. Oleksiak and Johns threw the body around here and there, which was fun, if rather less helpful than it felt at the time. Antti Niemi (Antti Niemi) made a nice couple of saves on breakaways and chances in alone, and Antoine Roussel scored a game-winning goal against Pittsburgh late in the third period. It was the long, long overdue bookend to that game-winner Angry Jamie Benn scored with Sidney Crosby in the box roughly 24 years ago, if my heart’s math is correct.

Anyhow, the top line was eventually converted to the Superline after the Stars finally decided that goals are better than alleged defense when you are losing. Also, it’s only just possible that Ruff was losing patience with the puck being jettisoned to Pittsburgh every time Benn and Seguin gained the zone, but this is just speculation. Perhaps Jason Spezza just started calling the line changes himself, and everyone was like, “Yeah, you’re basically the coach at this point anyway.” Anything is possible if you believe.

But for all that, it was 21-20-25 who scored the first goal, thanks to a John Klingberg shot off the rush that handcuffed Matt Murray and a sensible putaway by Ritchie. That was the story of the third period, was defensemen carrying the puck. For all the grief we’ve given this team’s transition, Klingberg and Hamhuis shut us up for a few golden minutes with some nice plays up the ice, and Matt Murray’s “definitely not robotic and low on oil” arm cooperated.

Yeah, Jason Spezza’s wrist shot finally showed up again after a nice sequence of play by Dan Hamhuis to get up the ice. Spezza’s shot, again, discombobulated Murray. The wrister doinked off Murray’s collar bone, then bounced in off Brian Dumoulin’s shoulder. With that, the Stars had again erased a 2-0 deficit (they’ve had a lot of those, lately), but for once, the Stars wouldn’t stop at tying the game. Antoine Roussel doesn’t know when to stop.

John Klingberg, though, was the real hero. Seizing upon a loose puck play into the neutral zone by, like, Dan Jancevski or Cameron Gaunce or [the Stars’ only buyout of the last four years, yeah you didn’t remember that, did you?] Klingberg charged into the zone with a purpose, dished off to Roussel, and charged the net. By rights, Klingberg probably should have stolen the goal with a tick of his stick, but Roussel deserves every last dang goal he scores for this team, so I’d say it worked out just fine.

The Penguins lost after a second intermission lead for the first time in like a hundred years or something (math is for wimps, kids). The Stars came back in regulation (as if they could come back any other way) for the first time in, ha ha, let’s not worry about it.

This game was a gift. Every game with Dave Strader calling it is a gift. Every game the Stars win this season is a gift, but somehow, the last couple of wins have meant a lot more. Maybe we’re all getting older and more sentimental, or maybe the gifts are just getting more precious. Maybe both.