Dallas Stars Cap November With Improbable Comeback Win


The Dallas Stars capped off Thanksgiving weekend by staging a dramatic, come-from-behind win against the Minnesota Wild on Saturday night.

The early stages of the game were utterly forgettable for a Dallas Stars team that was on the second night of a back-to-back. They had just gutted their way to a shootout win the previous evening against the Vancouver Canucks, and had the haggard look of a team that arrived in Saint Paul, Minnesota in the wee hours of Saturday morning.

The Wild, coming off two consecutive home losses, took the fight to the Stars from the opening face off. Dallas looked a step slow and destined for a long night when Minnesota left wing Thomas Vanek gave the home team a 1-0 lead at the 5:52 mark.

Vanek would figure in on the second Wild goal as well. Stars right winger Valeri Nichushkin coughed up the puck in the offensive zone. The puck made its way to Vanek in transition, who then placed a perfect pass onto the stick of center man Charlie Coyle. Coyle deposited the puck into a yawning net for a 2-0 Minnesota lead.

It didn’t get better in the opening stages of the second period, either. The Stars did nothing on a carryover power play to open the proceedings, and promptly gave up a third goal at the 2:01 mark after center Tyler Seguin misplayed a puck in the neutral zone. The 3-0 deficit carried into the third period. While the Stars’ play improved as the game wore on, it did not translate to goals.

It is notable, though, that Stars’ head coach Lindy Ruff juggled his lines in the second frame. Center Cody Eakin was placed on the top line with Seguin and left winger Jamie Benn. Left winger Patrick Sharp was also placed onto a line with center Jason Spezza. This enabled the Stars to find a spark, and while it didn’t show up in the stat line immediately, the tide started to turn in the Stars’ favor.

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At the three minute mark of the second period, the Wild were outshooting the Stars, 10-9. By the end of the frame, the Stars had tilted the ice in amassing a 26-16 shot advantage. Ruff’s tinkering, as it has all season, breathed life into a flagging, weary team. It would be a harbinger of things to come in a third period that defied explanation.

Stars’ defenseman Alex Goligoski provided a lifeline at the 4:57 mark to cut the lead to 3-1. They would strike again–this time shorthanded–when Eakin intercepted a centering pass in the defensive zone and swept the puck to Benn in transition. The Stars’ captain broke into the offensive zone and laced a wrist shot over the right shoulder of Wild goalkeeper Darcy Kuemper to cut the lead to one.

The comeback was completed when wunderkind defenseman John Klingberg undressed a Minnesota defender at the right point and threw the puck into the traffic in front of Kuemper. The Wild netminder never saw the puck as it settled into the back of the net to tie the game at three goals apiece. Even though Klingberg has had his blunders recently, it is clear that he is evolving from a promising-but-green player into an elite, number one NHL defenseman.

The overtime period saw the Wild control the territorial game for long stretches. But the Stars almost provided the winning tally on two separate counterattacks. The third time would be the charm when Tyler Seguin backhanded a pass from Jamie Benn into the Minnesota net to give the Stars a stunning 4-3 win.

Next: Mavericks Set Record In Win Over Denver Nuggets

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To win on a night when so much went wrong is a monumental achievement on its own merit. The Stars would’ve had every excuse to lie down and live to fight another day. This year’s team doesn’t seem to have that trait about them, though. They tend to remain resilient and poised. They certainly look primed to make the playoffs this season, and while it’s a bit early to deem them “special”, their much improved play is now the rule and not the exception.