Before every playoff game at American Airlines Center, there has been a narration to introduce pregame festivities. The one prior to Thursday’s Game 4 pointed to the obvious for the Stars.
“Adversity,” the narrator boomed, “is inevitable.”
There was another inevitability, it seemed. If the Stars were going to keep playing this season, eventually they would face another overtime — a place where they had gone four times before Thursday and hadn’t won.
Inevitability showed itself again Thursday, only this time the Stars prevailed.
Stars forward Joe Pavelski was the hero, scoring a power play goal in overtime to give the Stars a 3-2 win and keep their season alive.
“Who else?” Stars goalie Jake Oettinger said about Pavelski, who passed Alex Ovechkin for the most playoff goals among active NHL players.
(•_•)— SportsDay Stars (@dmn_stars) May 26, 2023
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It was Dallas’ first win in overtime this postseason, setting up a Game 5 in Vegas on Saturday.
“It’s such a fine line this time of year,” said Pavelski, who has now played in 180 postseason games. “You’re going good, and then all of a sudden you look and you’re in a 3-0 hole. A couple overtime losses. You played some good hockey along the way, and you just have to keep putting your game out there and having the belief you can buy more time and find more time. So we’ll see where this goes.”
To stay alive, Dallas would have to play a lot different than it did in Game 3.
That was a game that played out in a way Stars coach Pete DeBoer said he never could’ve imagined. The 4-0 defeat included Jamie Benn’s game misconduct penalty, which resulted in a two-game suspension, an injury to forward Evgenii Dadonov, and garbage being thrown on the ice prior to the end of the second period.
DeBoer said earlier in this series that if they were going to lose in the postseason, they would want it to be when they were playing their best. Game 3 wasn’t that. The Stars were down, but they weren’t out.
“They’ve got to beat us one more time,” Seguin said after the game. “We have a tight group in here, a lot of character, and we’re going to give it everything we got.”
Game 4 was more like DeBoer’s hopes. He also said before Game 4 that he hoped his team would play with “controlled desperation.” Forward Jason Robertson epitomized it the most.
Vegas had goals from two familiar foes in regulation. William Karlsson scored first to give Vegas a 1-0 lead. Jonathan Marchessault scored in the second period. It was the third goal of the series for both.
Robertson answered each goal to pull the Stars back even twice.
The first came when he smacked a puck out of the air past Adin Hill, who recorded his first postseason shutout in Game 3. After Marchessault gave Vegas the lead again, Robertson dragged Dallas off the precipice of elimination, once again. He hit the post on an attempt, but seconds later finished the job.
“I think the definitely the desperation was the highest it’s been,” said Robertson, who now has four goals this series. “At home, we know what’s on the line, what the stakes were, and we came to play and we showed up. We’re going to need that desperation through these next three games.”
While Robertson did the job on offense, Oettinger did it in the net. He recorded 37 saves on 39 shots.
“He was one of the best guys on the ice today,” Stars forward Roope Hintz said.
Once the game went to overtime, Dallas was faced with trying to stop a Vegas team that had scored game-winning overtime goals less than two minutes into Games 1 and 2.
The Stars combatted the early push from Vegas. Then the spark occurred. Vegas defenseman Brayden McNabb was called for a high stick on Ty Dellandrea, giving Dallas a power play opportunity. Pavelski and the Stars took advantage, giving them their first win of the conference finals.
“He’s ageless,” DeBoer said of Pavelski, who now has the fifth most game-winning goals in playoff history (18), according to The Associated Press, trailing only Wayne Gretzky, Brett Hull, Claude Lemieux, and Joe Sakic. “What can you say about him? I’ve seen that movie over, and over again, and it never gets old. He lives for those moments.”
And because of Pavelski’s goal, Dallas stays alive, though they know it’s only the first step. An NHL series has gone to 3-1 in a best-of-7 series 331 times. There have been 32 comebacks, including the Florida Panthers — waiting in the Stanley Cup Finals — who came back to defeat the Boston Bruins in seven games in Round 1.
Maybe defying the overwhelming inevitability of overtime can be the spark the Stars needed.
“Three out of four games in overtime tells you how close these two teams are,” Oettinger said. “This gives us the belief that we can beat these guys.”
Back to Vegas to find out.