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Ten Years Ago: 2007 WCQF Vs. Vancouver, Game 1 - A Dallas Stars Retrospective

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Let’s revisit a classic series together, starting with a 4OT dagger for the ages.

Dallas Stars v Vancouver Canucks, Game 7 Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images

In this summer of tentative anticipation, the lack of a playoff run rings a lingering and sour note in Dallas. (Say that five times fast.) To fill that void, or perhaps just to indulge some nostalgic impulse of mine, it is fitting that we, fans of the Dallas Stars, observe the ten-year anniversary of one of the most remarkable playoff series in the team’s history: the seven-game thriller against the Canucks in 2007.

You know this is not going to be a fun one, but I submit that pain fades with time, making this moment in your fandom absolutely the least painful time ever (so far) to really go back and dig into a series in which the Stars deserved so, so much better. I think.

We’ll take it one game at a time (although this post will be much (much) [much] longer than the rest), mostly because each of these games deserves it. This was quite a series, and not only because of the otherworldly goaltending (but primarily because of the otherworldly goaltending). These were also two very good teams, albeit for very different reasons.

The Series

Dallas was enjoying the last golden hours (though not quite the sunset) of its dominant Tippett years, with some creep of the Dark Times To Come beginning to peek out. Matthew Barnaby was there (he led the team in PIMs that season), and so were Vojtech Polak and Mattias Tjarnqvist. Junior Lessard even played an NHL game, scoring his first NHL goal! He would score one more NHL goal in his career. Do you remember when Junior Lessard was, like, the Stars’ only real scoring prospect? That is what happens when you trade a first-round pick for a Ladislav Nagy.

Krys Barch scored three goals in 26 games that year (no Eakin jokes, please).

In case you still aren’t convinced just how different this team was from today’s instantiation, Jere Lehtinen would lead the Stars with a mere 26 goals that year, while Mike Ribeiro would pace them in points with 59.

You might be thinking that this team really wasn’t all that good after all, and indeed, the Stars finished just 6th in the West this season, but they also won 50 games. The deciding factors? Stellar defense and goaltending (Smith and Turco combined for a 2.23 GAA along with an outstanding 15-7 record in overtime and the shootout (they won nine shootouts that season alone). I am trying to remember what it was like when the Stars were good in overtime and the shootout. I think it was a lot of fun.

So, the Stars were a very good, 107-point team that year, albeit a less dynamic one. Their system was deliberate and relentless, but they were particularly good at the important things, with the 12th- and 11th-ranked power play and penalty kill in the league, respectively. The 80-20 rule and all that, you know.

Vancouver, on the other hand, was team full of burgeoning young talent that had just put up a 105-point season along with the best PK in the league, which was good enough to win the putrid Northwest Division and given them the 3rd seed in the conference. Trevor Linden was playing out the string along with Markus Naslund, while some kid named Roberto Luongo (acquired that summer in a trade with Florida involving Todd Bertuzzi and Alex Auld) was about to play his first career playoff game alongside a fresh-faced Ryan Kesler and the not-yet-despised Matt Cooke and Alex Burrows. The Sedins had led the team in scoring with their typical brilliance, with Daniel’s 36-48-84 line striking quite understandable fear in the hearts of everyone in the offensive zone. That cycle, man.

The Canucks also went 17-7 in overtime that year. But hey, both the Canucks and Stars ended up as lower seeds than the eventual Cup-winners in Anaheim, who amassed 110 points thanks to 14 loser points (but I’m sure Vancouver would grouse about that after being eliminated by Anaheim later in rather embarrassing fashion).

But for all that, the Canucks’ power play was less than intimidating, ranking only 19th in the NHL, which proves to me that dynamic power play quarterback defensemen are kind of important. Sergei Zubov was better than Sami Sahlo or Mattias Ohlund, is what I am saying.

The two other notable players on Vancouver were Brendan Morrison, who I think is Razor’s brother-in-law, and Rory Fitzpatrick, who would have been an All-Star if the NHL were just a little less afraid of their own ineptitude. Then again, the game was hosted by Dallas that year, so maybe it’s best that it was kept free from such nonsense. By the way, Lindy Ruff was the head coach of the East that year, when they lost by a score of 12-9. It would not be the last time he was on the Dallas bench coaching a team without any visible defensive structure.

By the way, if you’re thinking that Dallas sure has found a way to be in the toughest division almost every year of the last decade, you’d be correct. The Pacific was a juggernaut right up until Dallas left them for the Central, which has been largely fantastic since 2013. Timing is important. Still, all that meant was that Dallas, the better team in the regular season, would not get home ice in a series against Vancouver. Of course, home ice really only matters a ton if the series goes seven games, so what did the Stars care?

The Game

One thing that immediately jumps out to me about the Game 1 lineups is the amount of players in them whose contracts would later become onerous to their team: Robidas, Luongo, Bieksa, Ribeiro, Kesler probably, and whatever ill-advised ten-year deal Vancouver gives the Sedins; we were so innocent back then.

I am also reminded that Jussi Jokinen was recently bought out by Florida, though I still can’t for the life of me understand why. That team is in trouble, methinks.

Also, Willie Mitchell was on the Canucks after a brief stint with Dallas post-deadline the year before. I was never a huge fan of Willie Mitchell.

One thing that, uh, doesn’t jump out to me about these starting lineups is the list of scratches: Eric Lindros (who would play later in the series, so don’t worry), Steve Ott, the undrafted Jon Klemm, the thoroughly forgettable Krys Barch, Niklas Grossmann (as spelled on NHL.com), and the one, the only, Nolan Baumgartner. I like to think I have a pretty good memory for fringe Stars players, but hoo boy, Nolam Baumgartner.

The Canucks scratched Sami Salo and Brent Sopel, if you care. I do not care.

Stars lines, in no particular order:

Ladislav Nagy-Modano-Lehtinen

Jokinen-Niklas-Hagman-Antti Miettinen

Ribeiro-Morrow-Eriksson

Stu Barnes-Jeff Halpern-Joel Lundqvist

Say what you will, but those are some fairly deep forward lines (at the time, at least). Modano and Lehtinen were highly responsible players who could still score (Lehtinen always could score), and Mike Ribeiro had just started to find his groove after Dallas stole him from Montreal for Jaroslav Modry or whatever. Still, looking at that list, you can also see why Dallas jumped at Brad Richards the following season.

On defense, the Stars were sporting Zubov at full strength alongside the Darryl Sydor Reunion Tour, backed by Stephane Robidas and the recently acquired Mattias Norstrom, as well as Trevor Daley and Phillipe “I scored a million goals this year and made the All-Star Team” Boucher.

Marty Turco was in goal, and his playoff history was not great. This series ended up silencing most of his “he can’t handle playoff pressure” critics, although Turco was himself quite the opposite of silent in the All-Star game that year.

Okay, on to the real stuff.

1st Period

Eight power plays were awarded in the first period alone, three of which were due to penalties committed by the 25-year-old Bieksa. There would only be seven penalties called in the next six periods combined (including one apiece by Bieksa, again, and the venerable Matt Cooke). This was, you remember, the wake of the post-2005 lockout NHL: You could make the officials call more penalties, but you could not force them to call them late in a tie game. Officials loved to toss twenty tennis balls among the dogs early on, then promptly develop Rules Amnesia for the Sake of True Hockey as the game wore down.

With all of that havoc, each team would only score a single power play goal. Final line on the power play: VAN, 1-for-8, and DAL, 1-for-7. Goaltending and penalty killing seem helpful in the playoffs.

Another of those penalties, by the way, would be committed by Modano, who had about the most vehement slash of a stick we would see until Jordie Benn went Excavator on Marian Hossa. Modano was a big, strong man, but the crackdown on stick fouls after 2005 was never particularly kind to him.

Vancouver went up 1-0 after Daniel Sedin banked it in off Sydor, who was gamely holding down the Jordie Benn spot in front of Turco. That was the thing about that stupid Sedin cycle: it created so much havoc, pucks could go into the net a myriad of ways. This was my least favorite of those ways.

It strikes me now just how crazy it is to watch Turco’s style after watching Kari Lehtonen and company for the last while. His athleticism was still in its prime, enabling him to make a multitude of great reflex saves on prime Vancouver tip chances in this period. Turco even made a crazy stand-up save at one point, something that would have been anathema to a goaltender just a few years later. You never really appreciate something until the memory has faded a bit and then been reborn, you know?

Dallas would later tie it up 1-1 with a Ribs/Morrow combination on power play. Hm, that seems like a useful sort of power play strategy to use in the playoffs. I wonder if the Stars ever used it again. Oh well, probably not.

The period would end 1-1 despite plenty of chances and brief 5-on-3 for Dallas. Jim Hughson and co. said on the Canadian broadcast that Dallas had scored something like 15 such goals during (I assume) the season. That seems like an astronomical total, so it’s probably not true, but then again, this was 2006-07. Who knows?

Incidentally, I was watching this game at home during a spring break from college. My brother and I spent much of this game on the phone (including all of the last couple of periods, which involved mostly just sharp intakes of breath and mumbles of “Oh, man”), though this was complicated by the fact that his broadcast was about 2 seconds ahead of mine, meaning he had to be careful not to immediately say something that would spoil a play for me.

After the first period, I remember commenting on how incredibly stressful this game was. It’s cute to look back at how naïve I was just 20 minutes into this game.

2nd Period

After Mike Ribeiro stayed out too long on a shift, he took a (weak) slashing call while chasing the play. That set up the Canucks on the power play, where Mattias Ohlund’s stellar power play acumen (as I surely mentioned earlier) came in handy. Taylor Pyatt was parked out in front next to Zubov, and Turco never saw the puck until it flew over his shoulder.

The Ribeiro penalty was unfortunate, but the very next sequence would see a Marty Turco tripping penalty that was, ah, also rather unfortunate. The Stars, however, would see their way to killing off that penalty, bailing out their goaltender for a change. This would not become a pattern in the series.

Trevor Daley, meanwhile, would put the Stars back to level with a wrister from the blue line that, like Turco before him, Luongo never saw, thanks to Loui Eriksson parked in front of the crease. And so it was that Trevor Daley began to show off his dynamic playoff scoring abilities that would bloom seven years later against Anaheim.

Markus Naslund would then hop on the ice and put the Canucks up with a well-placed wrister after the Stars couldn’t clear the zone. Dave Tippett was not pleased with the lazy change of the Canucks, but it turns out that Dave Tippett was and is not in charge of enforcing line changes, so it was 3-2.

Oh, that Matt Cooke penalty I mentioned before? When he stuck his leg out and “tripped” Ladislav Nagy. Just imagine how we would have viewed this had it taken place a few years later in Cooke’s career, eh? Oh well, thankfully the officials were less concerned with knee-seeking back then and just gave him two minutes, which obviously taught Cooke a very stern lesson that he would take to heart later in his career.

Oh, also, Cooke would beg his way off the ice after a Vancouver icing just a minute later, saying his leg was hurt. He would miss some time. Perhaps karma exists?

This is also as good as any place to say that this might well have been Mike Modano’s last playoff series playing on something like an elite level in all facets. Yes, he was absolutely still a weapon in 2008, but watching this game, my goodness. This man could skate, pass, create, and shoot. I forget too easily what it was like to watch him be Mike Modano.

The second period would end with two ominous things: One, a little fracas that hinted at how much these teams would come to loathe each other; two, an apt comment by Jim Hughson that “every time these teams meet, it winds up being a one-goal game.” Maybe Jim Hughson just summed up this series better than any number of these posts will ever do.

3rd Period

Sergei Zubov was amazing and should be in the HHOF, Exhibit 522: He was one of the Stars’ top penalty killers. I still think his reputation from early years in New York and Pittsburgh followed him around (because clearly, those teams were great at evaluating his talents) and kept him from getting the praise he deserved. Zubov was constantly killing penalties (he led the Stars in both PP and SH time on ice in this game) and playing great defense, but his career is often referred to in terms of his nationality and his point totals. The third period began with a Stu Barnes triping penalty that Daniel Sedin helped along, but Zubov and co. successfully killed it off.

Aside: if you want to credit Ken Hitchcock for helping to develop Zubov’s defensive game (and I’m not saying you have to), then one can’t help but be optimistic about what he might be able to do with John Klingberg. Certainly Klingberg is already a fabulous defenseman (his early part of the season notwithstanding), but if Hitch can make him valuable in even more ways, wouldn’t that be something?

[Vin Scully voice] All right, let’s go back to this one.

The Stars would press, but the Canucks’ fourth goal was perhaps the one that convinced the universe to allow that weird Roussel goal against Minnesota in 2016. A Salo shot from the point was deflected off the rear glass by Boucher, and Bryan Smolinski fortuitously found the puck before Turco as it bounced crazily back into the crease for an easy tap-in. It was 4-2 Vancouver halfway through the third, and one would have thought things were winding down.

However, just after that goal, Sergei Zubov brilliantly defused a rush into the Stars’ zone, and the Finnish line rushed back up the ice. Jokinen gained the zone, and a sizzling Nik Hagman shot up high (as were all Nik Hagman shots) was stopped by Luongo, but the rebound was discovered by Antti Miettinen, and suddenly Luongo was looking mortal again. One might, at this moment, remember another Miettinen goal in regulation that led to a crazy multi-overtime game. Neither was pretty, but both led to beauty, after a fashion.

With the score 4-3 to Vancouver, the fans in B.C. started a “Tuuuurco, you suck!” chant. This was yet another example of the original, witty chants that hockey has become so famous for. Yessiree, there’s nothing like reverting to 10-year-old levels of humor to really get under a world-class athlete’s skin. (Note to self: update fan handbook with minimum threshold of cleverness required for crowd chants.)

With a lead late in a playoff game, Alain Vigneault had his team in a nice, safe trap. Sending only one forechecker and leaning on his lower lines, Coach Vigneault managed to stop laughing at Bieksa long enough to try to lock the Stars out of the offensive zone.

Unfortunately for the Canucks, they did not count on the Stars’ secret weapon. That is, the Canucks assumed that Ladislav Nagy was every bit as ineffective and disappointing as fans seem to remember him being (he really wasn’t that bad, all things considered). Was Nagy the Ales Hemsky of 2006-07? Perhaps. He certainly wasn’t Brett Hull, which is really what Modano and Lehtinen needed.

In any case, another brilliant Zubov pass led to a nice touch-pass zone entry by Nagy, and his eventual shot just barely trickled through Luongo’s arm to tie the game. And given how much more offense Dallas had been creating for much of the game, it was tough to be surprised. Though, as the series wore on, every goal on Luongo seemed like a surprise.

By the way, Sergei Zubov and Stu Barnes tied for the team lead in playoff points in 2007. Zubov played roughly five of the final four minutes (estimate), while his partner Darryl Sydor’s most notable moment was a giveaway in the final ten seconds that led to a critical Turco save to send the game to

Overtime

While NHL.com has yet to discover the technological capability of remembering shots by period from a game in 2007, the Stars had dominated the third period in terms of volume, outshooting Vancouver something like 15-3.

The Canucks also announced prior to overtime that Matt Cooke had suffered a “groin strain” in his attempt to kneecap Nagy, and would not be returning. It was (and is) hard for me to feel huge waves of pity for this man. Thankfully, the NHL stepped in and prevented Cooke from playing this way for much longer, saving a lot of players from unnecessary injury and sufflolololololol nah, jk, no one did anything and Cooke injured a ton of players, oh well, that’s hockey.

Early in overtime, a shot counter is flashed: Vancouver has not exactly been overwhelming Dallas, score effects notwithstanding:

This was an early sign that, despite giving up four goals, Luongo would probably get First Star of the Game hono(u)rs, should, Vancouver win the game.

Mattias Norstrom would get called for slashing on a classic “you did what players do all the time, but this time it broke a player’s stick” call, and the Canucks had the first power play of overtime. The elite combo of Turco (3) and Lehtinen (2) combined for five zone clears apiece, however, and the Canucks’ chance came to nothing.

The Stars had a nice 3-on-3 chance that didn’t pan out after Stephane Robidas put Alex Burrows out of commission for a while with a hit against the boards. Raise your hand if you feel bad for Burrows. I didn’t think so.

As the first overtime ended, Marty Turco looked more calm and collected than he had all night. The Stars had pressed a bit, but neither goalie had really needed to make a huge save thus far. And so we went on into...

Second Overtime

The early part of overtime is always crazy. An old soccer coach of mine used to say that more goals were scored in the first and last minute of a half than at all other times combined. I don’t know if that’s true, but the Stars’ early chance by Lehtinen after a silky play by Modano tested Luongo for the first time in a while. Boucher came up with a huge rebound chance, but his stick failed him, and the Canucks were able to breathe again.

A broken stick would plague Vancouver next, when Mattias Norstrom absolutely embarrassed an unarmed Ryan Kesler before ripping a shot that Luongo’s glove hand foiled. Norstrom would end up getting his OT heroics in next season, but man, what would have been different if they’d come in 2007 instead? Everything.

And then, just after Jim Hughson was talking about how impressive it was that the young Bieksa was getting trusted with top minutes in effectively his rookie season, ol’ Grumbly Gus went and high-sticked Nagy in the mouth for a two-minute minor—Bieksa’s fourth infraction of the game. Tippett sent Modano-Lehtinen-Nagy-Zubov-Sydor over the boards in an effort to win the game on the power play. They would not succeed, thanks to some ineffective Nagy shots and some nice blocks by Smolinski, but the Stars’ second unit quickly drew a power play of their own after Lukas Krajicek high-sticked Ribeiro, which #63 made abundantly clear to everyone in the town of Vancouver. Would a five-on-three for 40 seconds see the Stars win their first Game 1 of a series since 2001? Tippett called a timeout, and the Stars prepared to do just that, sending a group of Ribeiro, Morrow, Zubov, Modano and Lehtinen out to drive the dagger home.

The first chance came off a Modano one-timer from up high, easy as you like. Modano clearly knew the game plan, and executed his part. Unfortunately, the rebound went to Ribeiro, who was unable to corral it in time to capitalize on a vacant net. The next chance would be a little sloppier, but Ribeiro did get a nice cross-crease pass off, only to see both Morrow and Lehtinen fan on the slam-dunk chance thanks to a bouncing puck (even Canadians can’t keep the ice neat after 80+ minutes of hockey). The puck would be cleared, Bieksa would return, and the Stars’ best chance would disappear. Almost another 60 minutes of hockey would be played as a result. No more penalties would be called.

Midway through the second overtime is when games really get distilled into simple, direct, short plays. Rare is a sustained shift in the other zone, and rarer is a great stretch pass. Instead, you see tired players (and Sergei Zubov) giving it everything for 20-25 seconds (unless you’re Mike Ribeiro) before dumping it or clearing it and going off for a change. But for all that, there were still chances. Stu Barnes got a feed from behind the net, but Luongo’s glove hand was there again. Turco would have to match him at the other end when Daniel Sedin showed up for the first time in a couple of periods.

I forgot how ineffective the Sedins were for most of this game. But then, they won’t remember you for anything but the highlights when all is said and done, right? Tell that to Stu Barnes, certainly, who hit the crossbar off a great feed from Jokinen in the dying seconds of the second overtime. Seriously, this broke my heart. Dallas had really controlled the second overtime (and massively outshot Vancouver again, 12-3), only to see a glorious chance ring off the crossbar. Poor Stu.

Third Overtime

With Burrows and Cooke both sidelined, the Canucks had been looking understandably ragged. However, the third overtime saw them come alive for the first time in a while, and before long, the Sedin line was cycling again, and we were all collectively wringing our hands. Dallas was finally beginning to crack, and even Turco in his prime was but a mortal man, after all.

Compounding the anxiety was the absence of Jere Lehtinen, who was displaced by Miettinen for some early Modano line shifts, but he would return later in the period of what was, by this time, the longest game in Vancouver History.

The third-longest game in Canucks history (as of 2007) was in 1982, when a sprightly young man by the name of Jim scored to beat Chicago.

I wonder what ever happened to that guy?

Anyhow, where we we? Ah, yes, a third OT period in which Dallas was on their heels. There, eight minutes in, was Turco having to make a nice save with the arm once again. Remember when Turco’s glove hand was still fantastic up high? Those were some good times.

Even better times were found in Turco’s puck handling, which was still fresh and sharp even 100 minutes in. It occurs to me that Ben Bishop is coming to Dallas, and that he is a great puck-handling goaltender, too. Will we have another chance to see great, draing puck-handling in overtime by an elite netminder in Dallas again? This is a question I am asking for dramatic but hopefully not entirely hypothetical purposes.

It’s funny, the things you forget with time. I’d completely lost my loathing of the Canucks’ main sweaters this season, which were Orca-themed because of the Orca Bay Sports whatever corporation that owned (and owns) the team. How many modern teams have a logo that solely reflects some arbitrary corporate branding instead of, you know, the actual team name? These are the things you find to hate about a team in a long playoff series.

Players start trying anything at this point. Nik Hagman tried to ram a wrap-around off of Luongo, somehow, but it doesn’t go in, because nothing does. Teams are digging deep now, and it shows. One hard skate and check, and you’re done.

Ribeiro and Eriksson have a two-on-one, but Ribeiro misses wide, and the Canucks rush back the other way, only to have Boucher block a shot with his chest before Turco smothered the puck after it rolled up and bounced off his stick while he was standing up. Things are breaking down. The Sedins have another “tremendous shift” (Jim Hughson’s words), and the Stars look shaken. They have been the better team for a long while, but that doesn’t matter any more. Players have long memories, but not in overtime. You can barely remember your last shift when you’ve been playing for this long.

With 1:52 left, Nik Hagman is fed in the low slot, and he fires. He misses high. You could always hear Hagman’s shots, I remember joking with my brother in the year following this series. Nik Hagman might have been the inverse of Val Nichushkin in his shot height propensity.

As I write this, I am preparing to run a 5K in the morning. This is nothing, for me. Three miles are a casual, fun distance to run, and I am not in my best running shape. But even in the final mile of a relatively easy race, I still know that feeling of pushing, of straining against my inclinations to stop even as it pains me. The pain of quitting must become greater than the pain of pressing on if I am ever to finish a race, I told myself many years ago. The pain of quitting is unfathomable to these players as the third overtime period winds down. They have played an entire 60 minutes of sudden death hockey after having played a wild, 4-4 game to open the playoffs. There is no manual for this.

We often scoff at the insular thinking of athletes and management, but can we ever really know what it means to play in games like this? I watch the players head back into the locker room for the fifth intermission, and I wonder. Maybe all sports journalism should be is the score, some video replays, and a giant “THEY ARE AMAZING” in 50-point font. That isn’t complicated, but it also wouldn’t pay any worse than a lot of journalism already does, at least.

Fourth Overtime

After watching this again, I am reminded that Ladislav Nagy had just about every scoring chance the Stars got in overtime. Such a flurry took place at about halfway, but it was Mattias Ohlund who would get the grade A chance on a rush the other way, only to see Turco get just enough of the shot from the slot to send it over the net.

Mike Modano’s backhand was ridiculous, just in case you’d forgotten. After dishing a perfectly nonchalant feed to Nagy earlier in the 4th OT (Nagy put it right at Luongo’s chest), he did the same again from the wing, only to see Daley, who was jumping up on the rush, unable to fire the golden chance. Modano might have the second-best backhand I’ve ever seen, after Crosby.

That was the difference, ultimately. Dallas got a lot of Very Good Scoring Chances, but it was clear early on that it would take more than just Very Good to beat either of these netminders. Either a Crazy Fluke or a Prime Chance was needed. Dallas, unfortunately, never quite got the latter, and both teams had used their supply of the former in regulation.

Ryan Kesler, by the way, blocked a Daley slapshot with his hand, and probably fractured his finger. I don’t know what it would take for a player to leave the bench in overtime, but apparently it was more than that. This was life or death, even if things that contribute to death were actually happening, instead of just in a metaphorical sense. The body can be disciplined. This game ended up being the sixth-longest in NHL history when all was said and done.

With 7:35 left, a shot counter flashes on screen. Dallas is leading, 75-49. It’s weird to talk about a team “only” facing 49 shots, but yeah. The Stars had made the 4th overtime their own, as they had much of the game. It turns out that they did not, in 2007, award points for for ownership of a particular game, just as they do not award particular games for teams with enough points. The Blackhawks will be playing outdoor games when Toews is scoring seven goals a season and Stan Bowman has to feign rattlesnake bites to put players on LTIR.

Mike Ribeiro could feel the game’s end approaching, and after a crafty zone entry, he would throw the puck towards the net for a tip. Eriksson and Morrow were there, and havoc ensued. These were the sorts of things needed to find an opening, but it wasn’t to be. Luongo found the puck first, and we crept closer to a fifth overtime.

With two minutes to go, Daniel Sedin wafted into the zone against the Stars’ 4th line, and ice opened up. He fired, and hit the post. The crowd moaned in sorrow, “How long, O Sedins?” It would not be much longer. The puck would not leave the zone again.

Exhausted and overmatched, Jeff Halpern and Joel Lundqvist were beated to the front of the net by Henrik Sedin, which is hardly a crime. But tonight, they paid for their misdeeds in the worst way:

The Stars would still push this series to seven games, of course. It’s not like this broke their spirits and led to a sweep. No, I don’t look at this game through the lens of a narrative of “how do you come back from that?” I just look at a game that offered itself up to be taken, but ended up being one of the most elusive ones to win in NHL history. And, ultimately, it was just a hopeful feed off a cycle that a player found before the defense did. No chance for the goalie. But you can’t just say that after a team has its heart ripped out like that.

Jere Lehtinen, where were you? Oh, right; you played the most minutes of anyone not named Boucher or Zubov. I suppose it’s unfair to ask Jere to have been omnipresent, but...well, it certainly would have helped. Luongo’s .950 Sv% in this game did not help.

Game two would still be played, and the Stars would have to treat it like just another game. How they ever could have done that after this one is both unfathomable and the exact reason they are the professional athletes and we are not. They are amazing. This game, painful as it was, is a shining example of just how amazing hockey players were, and are.