With their backs against the wall in Game 6 on Sunday, it seemed like the Dallas Stars would coast right back to California for Game 7 while leading the Anaheim Ducks 4-2 with just over two minutes remaining.
However, with Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller pulled, Anaheim scored twice to tie the game and netted the game-winner three minutes into overtime.
Ducks center Nick Bonino fired the final blow for the Stars in the extra period when he took a feed into the slot and ripped a shot past goalie Kari Lehtonen.
“It’s a cruel lesson, but it gives us a platform to build off of,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. “There was so much good in that game.”
At the 17:50 mark of the third, Bonino netted his second goal of the playoffs, lifting a wrap-around shot over Lehtonen’s shoulder to bring the game within one.
As time ticked off the clock, Anaheim pressed all six attackers into the crease, creating a scrum of chaos that ended when Ducks defenseman Devante Smith-Pelly netted his second goal of the game into a virtually empty net, forcing the extra period.
“It happened so fast, it’s a bit of a shock,” Stars captain Jamie Benn said. “I’m proud of our guys. We battled hard all year. We battled hard in the playoffs. I thought we played a pretty good series against a pretty good team.”
Smith-Pelly wasn’t the only player to net two in the game, as Stars defenseman Trevor Daley led the Dallas offensive charge in Game 6.
Freshly sprung from the penalty box, Daley’s first was a breakaway chance that found the roof of the net after a quick backhand deketo the right.
Most of the adventure for the goal came right as Daley exited the box, tracking down a clearing feed from Shawn Horcoff, who had his back to the ice when he backhanded the would-be pass. Daley then had to give the ref a little hip check to reach the puck around center ice.
Halfway through the second period, Daley took a pass up the boards and used his speed to skate past Anaheim’s defense, curling in front of the goal and firing a goal past Ducks starting goalie Frederik Andersen to extend the Stars’ lead to 4-2.
Credit Ruff for the Stars’ second goal, which was ripped into the back of the net by Cody Eakin on the power play in the first period.
Ruff said before the game he was going to tweak the power play, which was 2-for-24 in the series, by replacing Alex Chiasson with Eakin. It was the Stars’ first power-play goal at home in the series.
Before the end of the first period, Ryan Garbutt buried a rebound chance to give Dallas a 3-1 lead. It marked the Stars’ first three-goal period in the playoffs since April 27, 2008, when Dallas netted four against the San Jose Sharks in a 5-2 win.
Smith-Pelly netted his first of the game in the first period off an assist from Teemu Selanne, 43, who with another assist in the second became the second oldest player to tally a multi-assist game in the playoffs.
After the Stars’ fourth goal, Andersen was pulled in favor of Hiller, who did not allow a goal the rest of the game.
The Ducks outshot the Stars 30-24 in the contest.
Lehtonen stopped 25 of 30 in the game, but said it was not at all how he saw this game ending.
“We had it in the bag and didn’t get the result in the end,” he said.