DALLAS — Whatever Lindy Ruff said to his Stars after the first intermission Wednesday night should be nominated for motivational speech of the year.
The Ducks were without Ryan Getlaf, the NHL’s second leading scorer this season. The Ducks were without Teemu Selanne, the 15th all-time leading scorer in NHL history.
And the Stars responded to this golden opportunity to tie the series with a lethargic first period Wednesday night that all but silenced a sellout crowd of 18,962. The Ducks outshot the Stars, 11-7, and outscored them, 2-0.
Enter Ruff — and Jamie Benn.
I’m not sure what Ruff said during the intermission but it certainly had an impact on Benn. He scored a goal just 27 seconds into the second period with a brilliant one-man effort to ignite the Stars and their crowd.
That triggered a frantic second period that tied the game for the Stars and they would win it in the third period, 4-2, sending the series back to Anaheim dead even two games apiece.
These moments have been building for Benn. He was named to his first NHL All-Star game in 2012 and captain of the Stars in 2013. Everyone knew he could play, but no one knew if he could play in the clutch. In his three NHL seasons, Benn never had the opportunity to perform in the playoffs.
The big stage awaited.
But first, there was an even bigger stage – the 2013 winter Olympics. Benn earned a spot on the Canadian team and wound up as one of its stars, scoring two game-winning goals for the gold-medalists.
Jamie Benn has proven himself to be special all along.
Now in his Stanley Cup debut, Benn continues to be just that with four goals in four games. But his goal in the opening seconds of the second period was a play the great ones make — the type of play the Stanley Cup Stars would have anticipated and expected from Mike Modano.
With a faceoff outside the Anaheim blue line along the left wing, instead of pulling the puck back to win the draw, he pushed through the legs of Anaheim center Mathieu Perreault.
Then Benn stepped around Perreault, corralled the puck himself, split Anaheim’s top defensive pairing and fired a rising wrist shot from 43 feet out over the right shoulder of a seemingly surprised Frederick Andersen.
That ended the lethargy that had swallowed up the Stars and their sellout crowd during the first 20 minutes. Benn’s goal triggered an offensive blitz that overwhelmed the Ducks and shifted the momentum back over to the home team.
The Stars outshot the Ducks 16-3 in the period and scored the only two goals to tie the game by the second intermission.
I’m sure Ruff was probably a bit calmer then.
Then it was a matter of methodically disposing of the Western Conference’s top-seeded team. Cody Eakin and Alex Goligoski scored goals in the opening 10 minutes of the third period to finish up the night’s business. Both Eakin and Ryan Garbutt also hit posts with shots in the third period.
The Ducks missed the offense of Getzlaf, an injury scratch, and Selanne, a healthy scratch. You need your best players on the ice performing at a high level to survive in the playoffs.
Benn did just that for the Stars on Wednesday night.
©2014 The Dallas Morning News
Visit The Dallas Morning News at www.dallasnews.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services
PHOTOS (from MCT Photo Service, 202-383-6099):