If the Dallas Stars are going to win the Stanley Cup it is going to require a herculean comeback against a completely dominant Tampa Bay Lightning team.
It would be the sort of comeback that has only happened one other time in NHL history (a 3-1 comeback in the Stanley Cup Final) and cap off an absolutely improbable postseason run that has already seen them knock off a pair of Stanley Cup favorites in Colorado and Vegas.
They took their first step in that comeback on Saturday night with a 3-2 double overtime win that was capped off with Corey Perry‘s game-winning goal.
Comebacks are a defining trait of this team.
What makes that goal and that win so notable — aside from the obvious fact that it kept the series going — is that it was already the Stars’ ninth come from behind win of the postseason.
Even before Saturday’s game they had already won three games this postseason when trailing after two periods. Over the past 20 years, only two teams had won more such games in a single postseason, and nobody had won more than four. There were only 10 other teams that have had three. Teams just do not typically come from behind that late in playoff games. It’s not easy.
It is not just the games where they trailed going into the third period, either. It is also the games where they’ve been tied going into the third, then fallen behind, and still come back to win. That is exactly what happened on Saturday night. After Mikhail Sergachev scored to put Tampa Bay ahead early in the third period, the Stars tied the game with less than seven minutes to play on a Joe Pavelski goal.
That is the already the fifth time this postseason, including the Round-Robin phase, where the Stars won a game that they had been trailing with less than seven minutes to play in regulation.
That includes their series-clinching win against Vegas in the Western Conference Final when they trailed by two goals with 10 minutes to play in regulation.
Their ability to come back in these situations might seem surprising because they do not seem to be a team built to come from behind. They were one of the lowest scoring teams in the regular season, and are not really built to win high-scoring games.
But this isn’t a new development for them in the playoffs.
They have been doing it all year.
The Stars won a league best nine games when trailing after two periods during the regular season, while their .290 winning percentage in those situations was the third-best in the league trailing only Washington (.322) and St. Louis (.318). Other than those three teams nobody else in the league won more than 25 percent of their games when trailing after two periods.
So what’s the key to this?
A lot of it might come down to the fact that even when they are trailing they are never really out of a game. Their defensive play and goaltending is always going to keep them in games, so even if they are losing, they are typically only one shot away from tying the game. It’s one of the many benefits that great goaltending affords a team. It can not only steal a game, it can keep you in a game.
The Stars also see a little bit of a surge in their shot rates when trailing (like most teams do). It’s not so much a matter of them being able to “flip the switch” as much as it might be an ability to adapt and play any style and adapt to different circumstances and opponents.
While the Stars are not a team known for their offense, they DO have a pretty talented roster that should be able to score goals. Their top line when it is clicking can be elite. The offseason addition of Joe Pavelski and the emergence of young forwards Roope Hintz and Denis Gurianov also added more secondary scoring to a lineup that badly needed it. They also have two elite offensive defensemen on the blue line in Miro Heiskanen and John Klingberg.
We saw against Calgary and Colorado how they were able to light up the scoreboard offensively.
Against Vegas and during most of the regular season they were able to lock things down and lean on their goalie.
Whatever the reason for their ability to bounce back — and there is almost certainly some small element of luck to it as well — this Stars team never goes away.
Not in a single game. Not in a best-of-seven series. Whether they end up completing the comeback or not remains to be seen, but you can be sure they are not going to go away without a fight.
Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Dallas Stars (TB leads 3-2)
Stars 4, Lightning 1 (recap)
Lightning 3, Stars 2 (recap)
Lightning 5, Stars 2 (recap)
Lighting 5, Stars 4 [OT] (recap)
Stars 3, Lightning 2 [2OT] (recap)
Game 6: Monday, Sept. 28, 8 p.m. ET – NBC
*Game 7: Wednesday, Sept. 30, 8 p.m. ET – NBC
Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.