Without another heroic effort by starting netminder (and Vezina finalist) Ben Bishop, this game would have had a much different outcome. However, that’s been the story of the Stars all season. They just find a way to win those close games and make most of the huge efforts of their netminders stand up. Just as they did again tonight.
Nashville came out with complete desperation in their game. That’s to be expected when your season is on the line, as it was tonight. They had to win to force a Game 7 and extend the series. Really, it was treated as a Game 7 by both sides, with John Klingberg stating as much in the post-game that Dallas was treating it that way because they did not want to go back to Nashville in a real Game 7 situation.
As is not uncommon with desperate teams, the Predators were able to strike first. Bishop blocked a shot and the rebound landed right in front of the net, at the feet of Austin Watson. Watson potted the goal up over Bishop and the Stars were facing a one-goal deficit less than six minutes into the period.
They continued to pour on the shots against, though a good chunk of their 19-10 edge in shots on goal after the first period were of a low-percentage, perimeter variety.
The Stars got themselves into a bit of penalty trouble, taking two in the middle frame on their way to giving the Predators four chances tonight to break their 0-for slide. But the penalty kill was more than up to the task, going a perfect 15-for-15 on the kill in the series. Even though people say that special teams are not as big of an advantage come post season because of the perceived lack of calls by referees when compared to regular season play, it was most assuredly a determining factor in this series. A two-goal lead for Nashville off one of those chances, and this game could have ended differently.
Radek Faksa made a glorious move in the defensive zone to skate the puck and chip it out through the neutral zone, even as he was being interfered with (which went uncalled). He opened up a 3-on-1 and dropped the puck over to Blake Comeau, who finished it off to tie the game up in the second period.
Esa Lindell nearly put the Stars up immediately after the Stars finished killing off a late-period penalty that bled over to the start of the third. He hit the post and it was roughly a quarter of an inch from ringing off the post and in instead of out.
Unfortunately, that would be the story for both sides in the last frame as the teams started to trade big scoring chances looking for the go-ahead goal. Bishop and Pekka Rinne put on a goaltender clinic in net, with neither one giving anything up.
It seems fitting that a series in which most expected games to be 2-1 affairs would end exactly like that. Nashville and Dallas headed into overtime tied at just one goal apiece, and it was an absoute battle in the sudden death time. Both sides had grade-A scoring chances, notably a Jamie Benn breakaway in which Rinne made a perfect save to keep the game going.
Eventually, the Stars started to find more room in the middle of the ice to wreak some havoc on the Predators defense. They were rewarded by making that tweak when Tyler Seguin, Alexander Radulov, and Jamie Benn skated into the offensive zone. With those three threats on the ice, and Radulov driving the middle, Klingberg took the puck as the fourth man in and with the help of glorious screens set by his teammates, shot the puck and in to give them the overtime — and series — win.
Klingberg joked after the game that Antoin Khudobin, the Stars backup netminder, was on the bench telling him to shoot low glove side on Rinne. Guess where the puck went in?
Low glove side. As if they drew it up and willed it into fruition.