DALLAS – The young Dallas Stars keep overcoming early 2-0 deficits. With their latest comeback in Game 4, they are now even with the top-seeded Anaheim Ducks.
Down in the series after losing the first two games in Anaheim, the Stars trailed by two goals in the first period Wednesday night before captain Jaime Benn started the comeback with an unassisted goal off a faceoff. Cody Eakin and Alex Goligoski later scored on Dallas’ first two shots in the third period for a 4-2 victory.
“We’ve done that a lot and it’s not something we like to do. Whether it’s the start of games or obviously the start of the series,” Eakin said. “Our captain kind of ignited us. And we started skating and playing the way we wanted to.”
While the Stars overcame a two-goal deficit to win a playoff game for the first time in 10 years, Anaheim heads home for Game 5 with uncertainty about captain Ryan Getzlaf and questions about who will be in net Friday night.
Eakin skated the length of the ice, got around a sliding defender, closed his eyes and shot just before his stick got ripped out of his hands. His go-ahead goal with 13:38 left came before Goligoski scored on the Stars’ next shot only 1:22 later, making it 4-2 and prompting the Ducks to pull rookie goalie Frederik Andersen.
“When you get the one goal and people start going crazy, it makes it easier to get the next one and the next one and just keep battling,” said Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen, who stopped 21 shots. “And we were lucky to get those goals. It’s not easy to score four straight against that team.”
Getzlaf was a surprise late scratch for Game 4 with an unspecified upper-body injury, and coach Bruce Boudreau would only say it was “a previous injury aggravated.” What the coach refused to say was if it was related to the puck Getzlaf took the face in the series opener before playing Games 2 and 3 with a half-cage to protect the stitches just below his mouth.
Even without Getzlaf and Teemu Selanne, the 43-year-old franchise playoff leader who was a healthy scratch, the Ducks led 2-0 in the first period.
Bryan Allen scored on a shot from just inside the blue line, and Patrick Maroon knocked in the puck shot by Matthieu Perreault that hit Lehtonen’s glove and fell over the goalie’s shoulder behind him.
But only 27 seconds into the second period, Benn scored when he gathered the puck after a faceoff and quickly shot. About 6 minutes later, Vernon Fiddler managed to get the puck in a small gap between the post and Andersen to tie it at 2.
Just like Game 3, after which the Ducks insisted that the Stars went over their line with their over-aggressive approach, there were plenty of scrums Wednesday night.
With 2:10 left, Anaheim’s Corey Perry and Antoine Roussel got in some big blows before being separated and given 5-minute majors for fighting. It was Roussel who punched Getzlaf in the previous game.
There were also five 10-minute misconduct penalties in that closing stretch, and referees had to separate several groups of players when the game ended.
“That’s the type of stuff that’s their pushback, it’s our pushback,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. “I really feel like we’re in a playoff series now.”
Andersen was pulled in favour of Jonas Hiller, the veteran who won 29 games during the Ducks’ best regular season in franchise history before a late slump that left him on the bench. Hiller faced only one shot in his 10 1/2 minutes, and Boudreau said he would discuss the goalie situation with his assistants before deciding who starts Friday night.
“I felt a little bit off. It was a shock on the first one, and the second one snuck by me. I was expecting (Fiddler) to pass,” Andersen said. “They came out of nowhere in the second. We weren’t ready for their push.”
NOTES: The series returns Sunday to the American Airlines Center for Game 6. … Benn and Fiddler each had a goal and an assist. Benn has three goals and two assists in the series, and has scored in every game. … Lehtonen was 0-4 in post-season games before the Stars won 3-0 Monday, and stopped 58 of 60 shots in the two home games.