The Dallas Stars find themselves with their backs against the wall after losing game 5 to the Anaheim Ducks on Friday night. They are down 3 games to 2, and have lost the momentum they gained by winning games 3 and 4 at home in very convincing fashion.
They are right where they want to be.
The Stars have been a battling, rallying team that never quit all season long. They play with grit and edge. Their youth creates an indifference to difficult situations. They simply don’t realize they are supposed to lose.
When Ryan Garbutt was given a five minute major and game misconduct for spearing Corey Perry, it felt like the game was over. Not only were they facing 5 minutes of 5 on 4, they lost one of their top penalty killers, and one third of their best defensive line. The line of Antoine Rousell, Cody Eakin and Garbutt has given the Ducks fits. The Ducks simply have no answer for their speed and tenacity.
Corey Perry was a mess in game 4. With Getzlaf out with an upper body injury, he was the sole target of Snap, Crackle and Pop. He finished minus 1, no points and 7 penalty minutes. After being hounded all game by the trio he boarded, Crackle (Eakin) at the 14:59 mark, and then fought Pop (Rousell) less than a minute after coming out of the box, effectively ending his night.
On Friday he used the inexperience of that line against them.
Anaheim was leading 1-0 in a game that the Stars were beginning to take control of after a handful of very effective offensive shifts. Perry came over the boards on a line change around the 9:05 mark. Garbutt was coasting towards the Stars bench and Perry made sure his path was going to intercept Garbutt’s.
Garbutt was holding his stick with both hands and, being a left shot, the blade was facing Perry as he approached.
Perry’s line took him directly into the blade of Garbutt’s stick. Garbutt took that opportunity to leave the blade exactly where it was and hold firm, allowing Perry’s momentum to force the blade in to Perry’s abdomen. Perry’s forward momentum caused Garbutt’s arms to swing backwards. Perry then falls to the ice as if he has been shot in the stomach. The combined action of Garbutt’s arms flailing and Perry collapsing on the ice drew immediate attention from the officials.
Perry then used his experience and wit. He rolled around on the ice clutching at his stomach, giving the appearance that he was seriously injured. The Ducks trainer came out on the ice to provide assistance, and Garbutt was ushered to the penalty box. Then, as Perry continued to lay on the ice, officials took Garbutt from the penalty box and ushered him to his dressing room. 15 minutes of penalties were issued. 5 for spearing and a 10 minute game misconduct. Garbutt has since been fined as well. Perry was back on the ice less than two minutes in to the powerplay.
It was a dumb, youthful play by Garbutt. Stars Head coach Lindy Ruff had this to say after the game:
“There’s some nights we act like a young team. We were a young team tonight.”
That youthful indifference carried them through the kill.
Jamie Benn stalked Getzlaf at the Ducks blueline and Getzlaf whiffed on a clearing pass, allowing Benn to steal the puck and then score on a beautiful breakaway goal. It was one of Jamie’s alpha-male moments that are just incredible to watch.
The Ducks would score 26 seconds later when Rickard Rackell faked a shot that sent Jordie Benn in the wrong direction. Rackell then took two strides to clear himself of the sliding Benn and beat Kari Lehtonen on the short side. It was the only blemish in the kill, as Nick Bonino tripped Jamie Benn at the 12:04 mark effectively making the remainder of Garbutt’s penalty a 4 on 4 situation.
The period ended with the young Stars only a goal down despite giving up a 5 minute power play and losing one of their top 6 forwards for the remainder of the game.
They play throughout the entire game was marred by penalties. The Stars took 6 in total and the Ducks took 7. The two teams rank one and two in average penalty minutes in the playoffs this year.