On a night when Nashville lost in regulation and Calgary dropped an overtime verdict, the Dallas Stars gave their fans and themselves cause for hope. Hard-nosed forward Antoine Roussel notched his first career three-goal hat trick, including the tying goal early in the third period, and captain Jamie Benn connected in overtime for a dramatic 4-3 overtime win over the Tampa Bay Lightning at American Airlines Center on Saturday night, February 18.
To say the least, this victory was huge, and just might jump-start a run of success toward the playoffs. Dallas entered the game seven points and three teams removed from the last wild card berth in the Western Conference.
They also won for the first time this season when trailing after two periods (1-20-2), and “improved” to 3-10 in games decided beyond regulation (3-9 in three-on-three overtime).
The triumph also snapped a forgettable three-game losing streak on the road for the Stars (23-27-10) and gave them just two wins in their last nine games (2-7-0). It also sends them into their mandatory five-day “bye week” with some critically-needed momentum.
*Tampa Bay outshot the Stars 37-28 and had a 79-57 advantage in attempted shots.
“(This victory) was awesome, (it) felt pretty good,” Roussel said after helping the Stars overcome 2-0 and 3-2 deficits against an Eastern Conference foe that is also battling to stay in its own playoff race. “It was teamwork. (Tyler Seguin) shoots really hard and that was our main focus before the game. I told him we have to work hard and everything will come to us, and that’s basically what happened.”
Roussel, who registered the first hat trick by a Stars player this season, was the beneficiary of some great setup work by linemate Tyler Seguin. “I thought I got him three goals,” mused Seguin, who earned three helpers on each of Rousell’s red lights. “(Antoine) was in the right place at the right time. He always works hard, always goes to the net hard and he got rewarded for it tonight.”
The Stars fell behind 2-0 in the first period on an even strength goal by defenseman Victor Hedman and a power play score from center Tyler Johnson. After Roussel’s ninth and 10th goals of the season during a six-minute span tied the score 2-2 later in the opening stanza, Hedman put the Lightning back in front, 3-2 on another power play midway through period two. The Stars are last in the NHL for penalty killing efficiency.
Roussel completed his hat trick early in the third period, and Benn connected for his 20th goal of the season with just 1:13 remaining in the three-on-three overtime. Benn took a return pass from forward Cody Eakin, skated to the top of the left faceoff circle and unleashed a laser of a wrist shot that sizzled past goalie past Tampa Bay goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy’s blocker pad and into the net.
“It’s good to get a win,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff in an understatement. “Obviously, coming from behind and being down a couple (goals), I thought we battled hard to get the two points. We got some big saves in the third (from Kari Lehtonen, who made 34 saves) and a couple big ones in overtime. We got our chance and put one away.”
The Stars moved to within six points of both Calgary and Nashville, who each had 62 points heading into Sunday’s games. “Every game is a new game — every win is a step towards some hope here,” said Seguin. “We’ve got to look forward to some days off here and get our rest and then get ready for the rest of the season.”
The Stars will return to practice Thursday at 4 p.m. in Frisco, and their next game is Friday against Arizona at American Airlines Center.