DALLAS- Entering game six in Dallas Sunday night neither team had managed much success on the road. Through all five games in the books, the home team was undefeated.
And for much of game six, there seemed little doubt this series was headed back to The Pond for a decisive game seven.
Trevor Daley and Cody Eakin scored in the first period to give the Stars a 2-0 lead.
Devante Smith-Pelly scored on the power play to give the Ducks a little life but Ryan Garbutt scored with less than a minute to go in the opening frame to restore the Stars’ two-goal lead.
Anaheim’s starting goaltender, Frederik Andersen, was given the hook in the second period after yielding the fourth goal of the night.
“It’s a great feeling to find a way to win,” Hiller said. “Sometimes you’re kind of not really believing in yourself, but yeah, we found a way. I thought I had a couple good stops when I came in, which gave me some confidence and I kind of never looked back from there.”
Ben Lovejoy had cut the deficit to one again earlier in the middle frame before Daley scored his second of the night. That earned Jonas Hiller time in the Ducks net.
With the 4-2 lead, the Stars played a solid game and kept the Ducks on the outside and limited their quality scoring chances.
That effort continued throughout the third period until less than three minutes remained. The Ducks had been scrambling through most of the first 17 minutes of the frame but had very little offensive pressure to show for it.
With 2:10 left in regulation, Nick Bonino grabbed the puck behind the Dallas goal line after Corey Perry had extended himself along the ice to push the puck along. Bonino came out above the line and lifted the puck over Kari Lehtonen’s shoulder to make the score 4-3.
“I think we’ve come back a lot this season,” Bonino said. “We’ve had one of the best comeback records. No one was down. I think we believed the whole time. It’s easy to say that now, but we have a lot of character and it showed.”
Then with 22 seconds left in the period, Smith-Pelly waited patiently to Lehtonen’s crease while seemingly the entire arena was crowded around the top of the crease scrambling for the puck and calmly grabbed the loose puck settled it and lifted top shelf to tie the game and force overtime.
“[I was thinking] don’t miss,” Smith-Pelly said. “The goal was pretty empty so I was hoping I wouldn’t flub it.”
The OT session started with Dallas pressuring Hiller in the Ducks net but came up empty. Anaheim pushed the puck up ice with another scrum behind the net leading to the puck finding its way to the mid-slot and Bonino’s stick who wristed it home to stun Dallas and the arena,
“He has a knack, no matter how he’s playing, good or bad but you put him out at the end because there’s something about him that he’s in the right position at the right time to make the right play,” Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said of Bonino. “That’s what he’s all about, so we put him out at the end and in overtime. I couldn’t have scripted it any better.”
The Ducks now head home with a series win and time off before facing either the LA Kings or San Jose Sharks.http://
“I would say it’s tough to lose this series considering how well we played the whole series really. We had just dominant periods that one thing that was missing was a little bit of finish,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said.
“We talked this morning about some of our finish. We had it right there at 4-2 with two minutes left. Sometimes hockey’s cruel. It was cruel, really cruel, to a group of guys that worked as hard as they possibly could tonight. There wasn’t one guy that was a passenger.”