Dallas Stars: 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Jamie Benn and Lindy RuffJerome Miron/USA TODAY SportsStars coach Lindy Ruff said he was proud of the way the team competed and proud of the fans.
DALLAS -- It wasn't a very talkative Dallas Stars team in the aftermath of a late third-period collapse that turned Tuesday into exit interview day rather than Game 7.

After watching his team give up two goals in the final 2:10 of regulation and then the deciding goal less than three minutes into overtime, a disappointed Stars coach Lindy Ruff faced the media.

"It’s tough to lose this series considering how well we played the whole series really," Ruff said. "We had just dominant periods that one thing that was missing was a little bit of finish. You can go back to Game 2 where we were dominating. We could have been the team that scored late. We had a couple of unbelievable opportunities to tie it and we missed those opportunities.

We talked [Sunday] morning about some of our finish. We had it right there at 4-2 with 2 minutes left. But it’s a cruel way. Sometimes hockey’s cruel. It was cruel, really cruel, to a group of guys that worked as hard as they possibly could. There wasn’t one guy that was a passenger."

Credit the Ducks, who didn't stop believing and playing either despite getting dominating in nearly every facet of Game 6. But after allowing Trevor Daley's second goal of the game midway through the second period, the Ducks made a goalie change and didn't let anything else get behind them. Jonas Hiller, taking the place of Frederik Andersen, was solid and kept his team in it. And with the extra skater on the ice and an empty net at the Ducks' end of the arena twice as the game wound down, Anaheim found a way to get the job done.

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Ducks' rally tough for Stars to swallow

April, 27, 2014
Apr 27
11:51
PM CT

DALLAS -- This didn’t really have the makings of any sort of miracle on Texas ice for the Anaheim Ducks.

They were down two goals with a little more than two minutes left in Game 6 against the Dallas Stars, a deficit that had to seem much larger. The Stars had dictated play behind a raucous sellout crowd, and the Ducks had already replaced starting goalie Frederik Andersen with Jonas Hiller. Game 7 on Tuesday night was on everyone's calendars.

Then everything changed.

"I wasn't expecting it to happen," Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau said.

No one was, Bruce.

The first person Boudreau thanked for his team’s three-goal barrage in the final five minutes of game time -- two goals in the last 2:10 of regulation and the winner 2:47 into overtime that gave Anaheim the unlikely 5-4 win -- was Patrick Roy.

Roy? Yep. The Hall of Fame-goalie-turned-coach-of-the-Colorado Avalanche started pulling his netminder earlier than conventional hockey wisdom allowed this season and got results. Perhaps Roy’s way will become conventional wisdom. Boudreau is surely a convert now. When the Ducks found themselves down two goals with just under three minutes left, the coach was watching the ice and waiting for a chance to pull Hiller.

"I knew if we got one, then anything could happen," Boudreau said. "We’ve had a year that everything like this has happened to us. You’re always hopeful and you believe and you’re talking on the bench to believe, but deep down you don’t really think it’s going to happen."

But it did. Nick Bonino scored with 2:10 left in the game with the extra attacker on the ice. You could sense the Ducks bench getting lots of life from it.

"No one was done," Bonino said. "We felt we could come back, considering we have done it all year."

That was the key goal. Because it happened with so much time left, it gave the Ducks a chance to ready themselves for one last burst to tie it.

"It makes a heck of a difference when that happens," Boudreau said. "Two goals and you’re thinking, ‘Yeah, maybe we got a chance,’ and you talk about it, but I don’t know if there’s a lot of belief in it. But when he scored that goal and you looked up at the clock and there’s still two-plus minutes, you go, ‘Hey, we’ve still got an opportunity here.’ That’s when everybody started to get pretty excited, and they probably went, ‘Uh-oh, we better defend and defend,’ and I think we just kept coming and they were nervous about the whole situation."

It made the Ducks the aggressors again. Boudreau pulled Hiller again to put additional pressure on Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen. As the seconds ticked by with half a minute left, bodies started piling up in front of the net. Lehtonen’s stick slid by, ending up where he couldn’t reach it. The goalie tried to cover the net but couldn’t as the puck squirted to Devante Smith-Pelly, who flicked it high over a sprawled Lehtonen.

Tie game. The goal left the sellout crowd of more than 19,000 stunned. It zapped all of the momentum the Stars had worked so hard to obtain. All that was left for Stars coach Lindy Ruff was a pep talk before overtime.

"I told them what I’ve been telling them all year: Refocus. Get ready to play," Ruff said. "The room was upbeat. I told them, 'Pick your heads up and get ready to go.'"

But it was the Ducks who got the best chance early in overtime and buried it. The Stars looked a bit dazed as they skated to shake hands at center ice. Heck, the Ducks looked a little bewildered, too.

"It’s a tough one to swallow," said Stars defenseman Trevor Daley, who was two minutes away from earning the club’s cowboy hat for MVP of the game and joining his teammates for another flight out west. "We felt there were a good three games that we probably had opportunities to win. It wasn’t just tonight. You want to learn from it. We’ve got a young team. We’ve got to move forward."

Lehtonen talked to the media and then sat at his locker, not moving an inch with his pads still on, staring at nothing in particular. Perhaps he was replaying the final three goals that altered the series, hoping for another chance to skate and try to make a save.

For the Stars, Sunday’s late collapse means the season ends earlier than they wanted, though perhaps not earlier than many expected. That won’t make anyone in the organization feel any better for the next few days, maybe months.

"We had it right there at 4-2 with two minutes left, but it’s a cruel way," Ruff said. "Sometimes hockey is cruel. It was cruel, really cruel to a group of guys that worked as hard as they possibly could."

For the Ducks, the win means they put last year’s disappointment behind them. Then, they skated into Detroit with a 3-2 series lead and lost in overtime only to come back home for Game 7 and lose by a goal. It was an early exit after a solid regular season.

Dallas was a few minutes away from those doubts maybe getting into the heads of the Ducks as they prepared for a Game 7. Instead, Anaheim gets a dramatic victory it can use as a building block for a second-round series against Pacific Division rival Los Angeles or San Jose.

The Stars, meanwhile, must use their first playoff appearance in six seasons as a learning experience.

"That’s not the way you want to go through it," Daley said. "With two minutes there, you think you’re going back to Anaheim. But it’s a learning lesson. We learn from it. We learn as a team. There’s a lot of young guys on this team that will be back next year. The playoffs isn’t given to you. It’s tough to get in the playoffs. When you do get the chance, you’ve got to take advantage of it, and we feel like we blew a great opportunity."

The Ducks took advantage and move on in a most unexpected way. It might be a good time for Boudreau to send Roy a thank-you text.

Rapid Reaction: Ducks 5, Stars 4 OT

April, 27, 2014
Apr 27
10:25
PM CT

DALLAS -- The Anaheim Ducks are moving on to the second round of the playoffs after coming back to beat the Dallas Stars 5-4 in Game 6 in Dallas on Sunday.

How it happened: The Stars scored three goals in the first period to take control early. Dallas scored its first power-play goal since Game 2 and Ryan Garbutt's goal with 59 seconds left in the period gave the Stars a two-goal cushion. For the second straight game in Dallas, Ducks goalie Frederik Andersen watched the end from the bench. He was pulled midway through the second period (he was pulled in the third period of Game 4 in Dallas) and replaced by Jonas Hiller for the remainder of the game. Daley's second goal of the game, at 10:33 of the second period, put the Stars up by two goals for the second time. It stayed that way until Nick Bonino scored with Hiller on the bench in favor of an extra skater with 2:10 left in the game. Anaheim pulled Hiller again in the final minute and off a huge scrum in front of the Stars' net, goalie Kari Lehtonen lost his stick and moments later lost sight of the puck. Devante Smith-Pelly found it just outside the crease and floated it top shelf to tie the score with 22 seconds left.

What it means: Anaheim wins the series 4-2, scoring three unanswered goals to do it. The Ducks went through a goalie change, seemingly little momentum and a loud road crowd and found a way to get it done. It also avoids any thoughts of last season, when they lost to Detroit in Game 6 and then fell at home in Game 7 in the first round.

Players of the game: Jonas Hiller and Nick Bonino. He came in midway through the second period and didn't let anything by him. Despite a bunch of scoring chances and play going on in front of him, Hiller kept the Ducks within range, and they used late-third-period heroics to get the game to OT. Without Hiller's steady play in substitute duty, the Ducks aren't in the game to win it in overtime. Bonino scored the third goal of the game to get the Ducks within one and then deposited the winner in overtime.

Stat of the game: Three goals were scored in the final five minutes of the game by the Ducks to win it. The Ducks were relentless down the stretch. They pulled the goalie twice to score the tying goals, and then Anaheim got the one shot it needed to win the series.

What's next: Anaheim moves on to the second round and awaits the winner of the San Jose-Los Angeles series. The Sharks and Kings play Game 6 on Monday.
DALLAS -- It was special teams that decided Game 5. Anaheim was 4-for-6 on the power play, while the Stars were 0-for-7. The discrepancy was startling for the Stars, who had held the Ducks without a power play goal since early in Game 1 before the barrage on Friday. Anaheim skated out with a lopsided win and a chance to end the series on Sunday in Dallas.

"We’re going to change that up," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. "It’s not working. The units are going to change. I think we’re getting a little bit of net focus and there’s not enough deception and I think that comes with frustration from not scoring. So that part is going to change."

What exactly that means remains to be seen. Ruff could perhaps move defenseman Trevor Daley to the top unit and see if that helps things work better. Or he could look at breaking up Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, splitting up the two top scorers to even out the first- and second-team units. Or maybe Ruff just wants an overall change of approach, rather than change of personnel.

We'll see. But it was clear the Stars' coach wasn't happy with how the power play unit performed in critical junctures during the first five games of the series. Dallas was 0-for-6 on the power play in Games 3 and 4 (both wins) and has just two goals in 24 opportunities in the series, the second-worst percentage (8.3) in the playoffs. That's nearly half of their regular-season percentage (15.9).

The changes could be just one more way that Ruff is looking ahead, rather than behind. He's never been one to dwell on past games -- good or bad -- choosing to quickly apply lessons and move on.

"This is a whole new experience for a lot of these guys," Ruff said about the playoffs. "I expected some of these bumps. [Friday] night hurt. But we have spent no time on the past and after I leave you guys, she’s all over."

Sunday is the first elimination game for many of these Stars' players and they get a chance to see how they respond in that type of environment. It helps them that the game is at American Airlines Center, where they've won both of their games in this series.

"That’s one thing with experience, you get it from playing and being in those situations," forward Shawn Horcoff said. "We have enough guys in the locker room that have been there before. Everyone that has been there knows that the fourth game is the hardest game to win in a series. The pressure is squarely on them now to come in and win a game in our building, where we have been good. We have to take confidence in the fact that we can play our type of game tomorrow and try to take it to a Game 7, where anything can happen."
DALLAS -- The Anaheim Ducks know all about the precarious position of 3-2 leads in a best-of-seven series. They headed into Game 6 on the road last year in Detroit with a 3-2 lead in the series. But the Red Wings won in overtime and then skated to a Game 7 victory at the Honda Center in Anaheim. It ended a season with high expectations way earlier than planned.

The Ducks don't want a repeat.

"It’s a learning curve," Ducks forward Corey Perry said. "Every year is different. There’s a lot of guys in there that remember last year and what happened. Coming into [Sunday night in Dallas], it’s a huge game. You don’t want to go back home for a Game 7. You want to finish it here and move on. That’s our mindset and that’s the way we got to approach it."

[+] EnlargeAnaheim Ducks
Kelvin Kuo/USA TODAY SportsThe Ducks found their offense in Game 5; they're aiming to keep it clicking in Dallas on Sunday night to avoid a Game 7 at home.
For the Ducks, that means winning in Dallas for the first time in these playoffs. In Games 3 and 4, the power play was held without a goal, Frederik Andersen was pulled in the third period of Game 4 and Ryan Getzlaf didn't play in Game 4 with an aggravated upper-body injury.

But on home ice, it's been a different story. Anaheim scored early in the third period and didn't look back, going 4-for-6 on the power play in Game 5 to put itself one win away from the second round. After winning the Pacific Division and failing to get out of the first round last season, the Ducks are focused on finishing the job now and avoiding a Game 7 in which anything can happen -- and usually does.

"At the end of the day, you learn a lot more from losing than you do from winning sometimes," Anaheim forward Nick Bonino said. "It’s why on our shirts we have ‘Unfinished Business’ and stuff like that. Guys don’t want to shy away from that. It’s something that happened. Something that taught us we need to be better no matter how good we are in the regular season."

Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau just hopes that last year's experience means a big lesson was learned.

"It’s an expensive lesson," Boudreau said. "In that [Game 6], we ended up losing in overtime, but we didn’t play a great game. After we won Game 5, we thought, ‘OK, now we’re going to win because we’re only one game away.' Forgetting to tell that the hardest game to win is the fourth one. When you corner a bear or whatever, they fight the hardest.

"That experience with most of the guys that were here last year, I hope works for [Sunday]. We don’t want to wait for a seventh game if we can help it. Obviously, Dallas wants to push it as far as they can go, because in Game 7s, anything can happen. But that would be the experience we gain from it. That’s sort of the message."
Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau, talking to reporters on Saturday in Dallas, said Stars forwards Ryan Garbutt and Antoine Roussel had “been taking little potshots” the entire series.

“It caught up to them,” Boudreau said. “Both of them took penalties that in the regular season they get away with and the first couple of games, they were getting away with. Like I said, the thing that happened with the spear, sometimes you don’t catch that because it’s in the middle of a line change and there’s chaos there. But I think it was pretty flagrant.”

Boudreau said he “can’t comment” on Garbutt’s fine, which was $1,474.36. That's the maximum allowable by the terms of the collective bargaining agreement.

“I’d love to because there’s a lot of jokes to be made,” Boudreau said. “But I’m not going to say a thing.”

Ducks take care of business in Game 5

April, 26, 2014
Apr 26
2:37
AM CT


ANAHEIM -- The Anaheim Ducks didn’t get lured into bad behavior this time around.

They took the first blow from the Dallas Stars in Game 5 of their Western Conference quarterfinal Friday night -- or more accurately, the first spear from left wing Ryan Garbutt -- and paid the Stars back the best way they know how: scoring a franchise-record four power-play goals en route to a 6-2 victory at Honda Center, giving them a 3-2 series lead.

“It’s about maintaining our focus,” said Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf, who had a goal and two assists to tie his career high for playoff points. “When we got to Dallas last time, we got a little bit revved up and got into some things that weren’t part of our game. Tonight, we did a better job of focusing on what we need to do and we need to do that again next game.”

That would be Game 6 on Sunday in Dallas, where the Ducks have a chance to win just their second playoff series since capturing the Stanley Cup in 2007.

The Ducks not only dominated with their power play, but they also stonewalled all seven power-play situations for the Stars, including a full minute with a two-man disadvantage. Anaheim rookie goalie Frederik Andersen bounced back from two shaky performances in Games 3 and 4 in Dallas to stop 34 shots and give the Ducks time to sort things out on the offensive end.

“We expected that from Freddie,” Getzlaf said. “He wasn’t very impressed with himself after that Game 4 and I thought he did a great job as a young goalie.”

Ducks winger Corey Perry was the recipient of Garbutt’s jab to the midsection as Perry came on the ice and Garbutt went off during the first period, resulting in a five-minute major penalty and a game misconduct for Garbutt. Perry responded with a goal and two assists, which also matched his playoff career high. Perry set up Anaheim's fifth goal after he won the puck with a stiff forecheck and found Getzlaf alone in front of the net.

“Put the puck in the corner and put pressure on them,” Perry said. “That’s the way we want to play and that’s the way we’re successful as a team.”

The Ducks found the more they pressured the Stars, the more Dallas began to wilt.

“At the end of the day, if you sit back, they’re really bound to score at some point,” said Ducks center Andrew Cogliano, who took the puck from the Stars early in the third period and set up Jakob Silfverberg for a 4-2 lead that opened the floodgates. “But if you attack and keep them on their heels, not only are they defending but you have a good opportunity to score.”

And scoring fancy goals is exactly what Anaheim does best.
FRISCO, Texas -- How fast can you grow up in a week?

If you're a father, you know the answer is "way too fast," but what if you're a hockey coach, watching your "kids" perform under postseason pressure?

Dallas Stars coach Lindy Ruff wasn't quite sure what to expect when the playoffs started last week. His team was a bunch of toddlers, learning how to crawl in the postseason. Meanwhile, the Anaheim Ducks were all grown up and ready to make a push toward the Stanley Cup. They looked like the experienced team in Games 1 and 2. They were at home in those games, doing the little things late and taking advantage of Stars mistakes to get a 2-0 series lead. Then, young goalie Frederik Andersen made enough big saves to help his team win.

[+] EnlargeShawn Horcoff
Jerome Miron/USA TODAY SportsShawn Horcoff and the Stars seemed to hit their stride in Dallas, while Anaheim goalie Frederik Andersen stumbled.
But Andersen looked nervous and a bit rattled in Dallas. So did some of his teammates. Four games in, and with Game 5 set for Friday night in Anaheim, California, the Stars are doing a lot more than crawling. They seem comfortable in these playoffs, unfazed by the physical play or the pace of the game. In fact, they seem content to push that pace, using their speed to create an advantage. Maybe they're using their inexperience to their advantage, too. The Stars spoke about having fun. They talked about enjoying the moment. But don't take that to mean they're content to simply be here.

There are enough big kids on this team to keep everyone in line, and 35-year-old Shawn Horcoff, fresh off his best game in the series, seemed to be sending a message to his teammates and the media at the Stars' optional practice Thursday.

"Our motto here isn’t just to come into the playoffs and get our toes wet and save it for next year and years after," Horcoff said. "The older guys realize that it’s not that easy. There’s a lot of parity in the league, and it’s tough to make the playoffs. You have to make the most of all your chances, and that’s what we’re trying to do now.

"We’re a team that is gaining experience as we go, game by game. We are learning from our mistakes and figuring out what kind of game we need to play in the playoffs."

Horcoff knows these opportunities don't come around very often. And now that it's a best-of-three series, Horcoff and the Stars believe they can pull off the upset and extend their first playoff appearance in six seasons a little longer.

To do that, the Stars must prove that the type of performance they put forth in Games 3 and 4 at home can translate in Anaheim. The Ducks hope their experience and crowd are enough to seize momentum back from Dallas. But they're facing a different team now, one that isn't likely to be intimidated by the surroundings.

“I think now we’re facing an opportunity where we can create some pressure in their building," Ruff said. "I think some of that apprehension that we had in that first game, a little bit to start the second game, I think that they know what to expect now."

And that's another huge, physical effort from a Ducks team that must figure out who is starting in net and whether captain Ryan Getzlaf can return to the lineup for Game 5. But no matter what the answers are to those questions, the Stars should expect a spirited Ducks effort from the opening faceoff -- and a crowd that will be fired up.

The difference: Dallas won't be surprised by either.

"We’re playing loose here," Stars forward Alex Chiasson said. "There’s a lot of guys here with no playoff experience and we don’t think much. We just go out and play. Hopefully, we can keep that mentality and bring it out there."

It's a team that's growing up quickly.

Dillon, Nemeth game-time decisions

April, 24, 2014
Apr 24
2:36
PM CT
FRISCO, Texas -- Dallas Stars coach Lindy Ruff said Thursday morning that defenseman Brenden Dillon and Patrik Nemeth are game-time decisions for Friday's Game 5 against the Ducks.

Dillon, who has been out since April 11 with a lower body injury, skated again Thursday. Ruff said prior to Game 4 that Dillon was close, so he's even closer now. Nemeth has an upper body injury.

If both play, the Stars could go with the three pairs that they used on the blue line for most of the games down the stretch in the regular season:

Alex Goligoski-Trevor Daley
Jordie Benn-Dillon
Nemeth-Sergei Gonchar

That would leave Kevin Connauton as a scratch, but that's just a guess and only if both Dillon and Nemeth are ready to go.

Stars' captain provides critical spark

April, 24, 2014
Apr 24
10:22
AM CT
DALLAS -- It didn't take long for Dallas Stars captain Jamie Benn to get his team back in the game and the series Wednesday.

[+] EnlargeJamie Benn
Glenn James/NHLI/Getty ImagesJamie Benn's slick goal off a faceoff win helped give the Stars momentum.
After a first period where Stars coach Lindy Ruff said his team was outworked -- and Ruff admitted that it "wasn't often" that his team gets outworked -- Benn took it upon himself to do something.

An early faceoff came just outside the offensive zone with the Stars down 2-0. Benn won it, shoved the puck forward and then rifled a slick wrister past Ducks goalie Frederik Andersen.

"Teams line up different, you kind of just mix it up, go off instincts," Benn said. "It was lucky enough to get a couple bounces, and I found it on my stick and just tried to get a quick shot."

It was a little more than luck. It's the kind of play Benn has made all season, helping lead this team into the postseason and now with an opportunity to knock off the No. 1 seed Ducks, if Dallas can win two of the next three games. It means winning a game in Anaheim, where the Ducks have played well and have won the first two games of the series.

Benn, as he routinely does, was more interested in talking about his team's overall game rather than his own. And he was impressed with the resiliency shown in the series and in Game 4 in particular after a rough first period. Dallas didn't get a shot off in the final 9:21 of the period and it was the Ducks who pushed the action.

"We are a confident group in here," Benn said. "We want to play the same way all the time, if we are up two goals or down two goals. We regrouped in the first and came out with a strong effort in the second and third."

No doubt. Benn provided the spark.

"That goal was really important," Ruff said. "To get us on the board that quickly and get the energy back in this building [was important]. I knew if we could get one early in the second that would probably tip it our way because we’ve always had good push-back from adversity."


DALLAS -- This wasn’t supposed to happen.

Not like this. Not to the top seed in the Western Conference, who skated into Dallas with a 2-0 lead in the series and an opportunity to seize full control.

Sure, the pesky and young Dallas Stars won Game 3. Hey, it was their first playoff game in six seasons. The crowd was fired up and the Stars played desperate. That was to be expected.

But in Game 4, the Ducks came out ready to set a different tone. They were physical. They hit anything on skates. They were aggressive and dictated tempo. They blocked shots and took advantage of scoring opportunities. And they did it all without their captain even in the building. Anaheim left the ice after the first period up 2-0. The Ducks were 40 minutes away from a 3-1 series lead.

Then in 27 seconds, the momentum was gone. With Ryan Getzlaf back in Anaheim getting treatment for a re-aggravated upper-body injury, the Stars’ captain made his presence felt. Jamie Benn won a faceoff just outside the offensive zone, pushed the puck forward and then fired a wrist shot past goalie Frederik Andersen.

The entire tenor of the game and possibly the series changed in that moment. The Dallas decibel level soared inside American Airlines Center and so did the Stars. It was Dallas’ speed that made the Ducks look so slow. And that speed created numerous chances.

“It’s been probably one of our biggest assets the whole year,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. “When we’re skating, we’re a tough team to play against.”

[+] EnlargeDallas Stars
AP Photo/Tony GutierrezCody Eakin and the Stars return to Anaheim with a tied series and all the momentum.


The pressure left the Ducks’ defense wobbly and Andersen unsure. The Stars peppered the 24-year-old goalie with pucks and got one to go in on the short side, a shot from Vernon Fiddler that Andersen has to stop.

“I was expecting the pass,” Andersen said. “They had a couple of guys coming in toward the net over there. I wasn’t able to trust my D-men there and that’s my fault. That’s one I’ve got to have.”

Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau saw it that way too and told backup goalie Jonas Hiller to get ready. But by the time Boudreau made the goalie change, the Stars had added two more goals in the first 7:44 of the third period and had a 4-2 lead, effectively ending the game.

“I really feel like we’re in a playoff series now,” Ruff said. “The first couple of games didn’t really feel like it; now we feel we’ve got a playoff series.”

That wasn’t the Ducks’ plan. They didn’t want the Stars feeling like they were in the series at all. The Stars team that squinted in the bright playoff lights in the first 40 minutes of Game 1 looks like it's enjoying itself now, perhaps wearing sunglasses to cut down on the glare. And Dallas has put all the pressure back on the Ducks, who now have some big questions to answer.

Will Getzlaf be ready for Game 5? Who will be the goaltender?

Those are questions you don't want to have to answer in a 2-2 series. But that’s where things stand now.

Getzlaf went back early with the intent to get treatment and do all he could to be ready for Game 5 on Friday. In typical playoff brinkmanship, Boudreau wouldn’t answer anything directly about the injury. But the Ducks clearly aren’t the same team without their scoring leader -- and team leader -- on the ice. So where is he missed the most?

“Everywhere,” Boudreau said. “He’s one of the elite players in the NHL. You miss him in the offensive zone. You miss him on the boards. You miss him as a leader. You miss him in a lot of ways.”

On the power play, too. The Ducks haven’t scored a goal with the man-advantage in a week, going back to Game 1.

As for the goalie, Boudreau said he’d talk about it with his coaching staff and general manager and decide Thursday. Don’t be surprised to see Hiller in Game 5.

Anaheim had a terrific opportunity to push the Stars to the edge of elimination. Now, the Ducks need to hope that returning home is a key in retrieving some lost momentum. Because there’s no doubt the Stars stole that on Wednesday and will take it with them to California.

Ruff’s right. It’s a playoff series now.


DALLAS – This wasn’t supposed to happen.

Not like this. Not to the top seed in the Western Conference, who skated into Dallas with a 2-0 lead in the series and an opportunity to seize full control.

Sure, the pesky and young Dallas Stars won Game 3. Hey, it was their first playoff game in six seasons. The crowd was fired up and the Stars played desperate. That was to be expected.

But in Game 4, the Ducks came out ready to set a different tone. They were physical. They hit anything on skates. They were aggressive and dictated tempo. They blocked shots and took advantage of scoring opportunities. And they did it all without their captain even in the building. Anaheim left the ice after the first period up 2-0. They were 40 minutes away from a 3-1 series lead.

Then in 27 seconds, the momentum was gone. With Ryan Getzlaf back in Anaheim getting treatment for a re-aggravated upper-body injury, the Stars’ captain made his presence felt. Jamie Benn won a faceoff just outside the offensive zone, pushed the puck forward and then fired a wrist shot past goalie Frederik Andersen.

The entire tenor of the game and possibly the series changed in that moment. The Dallas decibel level soared inside American Airlines Center and so did the Stars. It was Dallas’ speed that made the Ducks look so slow. And that speed created numerous chances.

“It’s been probably one of our biggest assets the whole year,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. “When we’re skating, we’re a tough team to play against.”

[+] EnlargeDallas Stars
AP Photo/Tony GutierrezCody Eakin and the Stars return to Anaheim with a tied series and all the momentum.


The pressure left the Ducks’ defense wobbly and Andersen unsure. The Stars peppered the 24-year-old goalie with pucks and got one to go in on the short side, a shot from Vernon Fiddler that Andersen has to stop.

“I was expecting the pass,” Andersen said. “They had a couple of guys coming in toward the net over there. I wasn’t able to trust my D-men there and that’s my fault. That’s one I’ve got to have.”

Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau saw it that way too and told backup goalie Jonas Hiller to get ready. But by the time Boudreau made the goalie change, the Stars had added two more goals in the first 7:44 of the third period and had a 4-2 lead, effectively ending the game.

“I really feel like we’re in a playoff series now,” Ruff said. “The first couple of games didn’t really feel, now we feel we’ve got a playoff series.”

That wasn’t the Ducks’ plan. They didn’t want the Stars feeling like they were in the series at all. The Stars team that squinted in the bright playoff lights in the first 40 minutes of Game 1 looks like its enjoying itself now, perhaps wearing sunglasses to cut the glare down. And they’ve put all the pressure back on the Ducks, who now have some big questions to answer.

Will Getzlaf be ready for Game 5? Who will be the goaltender?

Those are questions you want to have to answer in a 2-2 series. But that’s where things stand now.

Getzlaf went back early with the intent to get treatment and do all he could to be ready for Game 5 on Friday. In typical playoff brinkmanship, Boudreau wouldn’t answer anything directly about the injury. But the Ducks clearly aren’t the same team without their scoring leader -- and team leader -- on the ice. So where is he missed the most?

“Everywhere,” Boudreau said. “He’s one of the elite players in the NHL. You miss him in the offensive zone. You miss him on the boards. You miss him as a leader. You miss him in a lot of ways.”

On the power play, too. The Ducks haven’t scored a goal with the man-advantage in a week, going back to Game 1.

As for the goalie, Boudreau said he’d talk about it with his coaching staff and general manager and decide Thursday. Don’t be surprised to see Hiller in Game 5.

Anaheim had a terrific opportunity to push the Stars to the edge of elimination. Now, they need to hope that returning home is a key in retrieving some lost momentum. Because there’s no doubt the Stars stole that on Wednesday and will take it with them to California.

Ruff’s right. It’s a playoff series now.

Rapid Reaction: Stars 4, Ducks 2

April, 23, 2014
Apr 23
9:51
PM CT
DALLAS -- The home team remains perfect in this first-round series as the Dallas Stars tie the series up with a 4-2 win in Game 4. Some quick thoughts:

How it happened: Dallas controlled the final 40 minutes, scoring four unanswered goals -- two in the second and two in the third -- to turn a 2-0 deficit into a two-goal advantage. Cody Eakin scored on the rush early in the period, firing a wrist shot over Frederik Andersen to give the Stars their first lead of the game. Minutes later, Vernon Fiddler made a terrific backhand pass to Alex Goligoski, who didn't miss. That was all Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau needed to see of Andersen as Jonas Hiller replaced him midway through the final period.

The Ducks dominated the first period, holding the Stars without a shot for the final 9:21 of the period and getting two goals to take a 2-0 lead into the dressing room. But the Stars owned the second period. It took Stars captain Jamie Benn 27 seconds to get his team on the board, pushing the puck forward off a faceoff win and snapping one past Andersen. About six minutes later, Fiddler squeezed one over Andersen's shoulder on the short side to tie it.

What it means: Dallas has turned this into a best-of-three series by protecting their home ice in Games 3 and 4. The Ducks still get two of those three games in Anaheim, but the Stars will fly out on Thursday with the momentum.

Player of the game: The Stars' role players were the difference on Wednesday, led by Fiddler. He attacked the net, was physical when he needed to be, won some key faceoffs, blocked three shots and had a goal and an assist. That's a full game and a good one.

Stat of the game: 16-3. That was the shots on goal advantage for the Stars in the second period, when the momentum shifted. Shots can be a misleading stat, but the Stars just peppered the Anaheim net. They kept the puck in the offensive zone and the Ducks couldn't seem to get it out. The game went the Stars' direction from that point forward.

No captain: Ryan Getzlaf was scratched with an upper-body injury and flew back to Anaheim on Wednesday afternoon to get treatment. Rickard Rakell was inserted in Getzlaf's place. The Ducks listed Getzlaf as day-to-day and, by flying back and getting treatment, they are hopeful he will play in Game 5 on Friday.

What's next: Game 5 is Friday at 10:30 p.m. ET in Anaheim. And the Stars' win guarantees they'll be a Game 6 back in Dallas on Sunday.
Dallas Stars defenseman Brenden Dillon will not play in Wednesday's Game 4 against the Anaheim Ducks at American Airlines Center, but could play in Game 5 in Anaheim on Friday.

Dillon, who suffered a lower body on April 11 against St. Louis and hasn't played since, went through morning skate on Wednesday a day after participating in his first full practice.

"Brenden is getting closer," Stars coach Lindy Ruff told reporters Wednesday morning. "He had a good day yesterday, he had a good day today. I would anticipate that if we get him a good practice tomorrow and get him a good workout today that there is a good chance he could play on Friday."

Kevin Connauton has taken Dillon's place, but Dillon's absence has meant more time on the ice for the top defensive pair of Trevor Daley and Alex Goligoski.

Memo to Stars, Ducks: Shut up and play

April, 22, 2014
Apr 22
10:00
PM CT
DALLAS -- OK, that's enough chitchat. Let's just shut up and play already.

Both of you.

That goes for you, Anaheim. Yeah, I'm talking to you, too, Dallas. (Feels like a conversation I have weekly at home with my kids.)

It's not that the verbal volleys after Game 3 weren't fun. Who doesn't love a good argument every once in a while?

But, come on. Didn't everyone know things would get more physical with Dallas desperate and the playoffs back in Texas for the first time in six years?

The Ducks felt the Stars crossed that invisible, yet real physical "line" in regard to captain Ryan Getzlaf, the guy with the facemask guarding his lacerated jaw. The Stars felt they were simply playing a desperate, physical game, one they saw played effectively by Corey Perry in Game 1.

You're both right. And you're both wrong.

Antoine Roussel shouldn't have kept going at Getzlaf after the linesmen broke the scrum up near the end of the second period Monday. He landed a couple of punches after the bell. But it's not as if Getzlaf didn't get a good punch at the face of Roussel, either, as everything started.

Desperate teams sometimes do things that aren't particularly nice in those hard areas of the ice. The Stars were hoping to get the Ducks' captain off his game. They wanted to rattle him, and those around him, a bit. The facemask was just the tool to do so.

(Read full post)

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