EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) — More than a decade since Corey Perry won the Stanley Cup as a young player and years after Joe Pavelski fell two wins short, the greybeards aren’t ready to leave the bubble and give up on another opportunity for a championship just yet.
Pavelski tied it with 6:45 left in the regulation, laid out to block a shot in the first overtime and Perry’s second goal of the game came in double OT to give the Dallas Stars a 3-2 win over Tampa Bay and force a Game 6 in the Stanley Cup Final.
“Get one, keep going,” Perry said. “We start building here, and I think we’re starting to do something special.”
Anton Khudobin made 39 saves and Perry’s winner 9:23 into the second OT was a manner of redemption for the Stars a night after they lost in OT on a questionable penalty call when Tampa Bay scored on the ensuing power play. Game 6 is Monday night.
The 36-year-old Pavelski and 35-year-old Perry have combined for the last six Stars goals.
So much for hockey being a young man’s game.
“With how they play, I don’t know if you can call them old,” Stars center Tyler Seguin said. “They seem to have the best endurance of all of us. Joe keeps getting the late goals and Perry played a great game.”
The Stars stayed alive despite going down to five defensemen for half of regulation when Andrej Sekera was injured blocking a shot midway through the first. Sekera returned for the third, a gutty performance that may have saved a team that looked to be running on fumes.
“That shows you his compete,” Stars coach Rick Bowness said. “Give him a ton of credit for coming back. That was tough.”
The Stars didn’t have much time to regroup from Friday night’s loss, not with the NHL scheduling the first back to back games in the final since 2009 and just the second time since the mid-1950s. On a night where both teams at times looked worn down, the Stars were able to respond in a big way against a healthier opponent.
“They’re a good team,” Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman said. “They fought back.”
Pavelski led the way. In the final for the second time in his career after losing in 2016 with San Jose, he followed his two-goal performance in Game 5 with a season-saver 24 hours later by scoring on a rare juicy rebound allowed by Andrei Vasilevskiy.
Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper compared his team’s situation now to the Eastern Conference final when an overtime loss to the New York Islanders in Game 5 extended the series. The Lightning finished that series off in six and will try to do so again.
“We’ve felt this feeling before,” Cooper said. “We have felt this sting and then we’ve rebounded.”
Pavelski felt it even worse getting to Game 6 of the 2016 final with the Sharks before falling short. Perry brought with him to Dallas a Cup ring from the 2007 Anaheim Ducks, a lifetime in hockey ago.
“I was a young kid coming into the league at 22 years old and I had the opportunity to win,” Perry said. “But here we are, 13 years later and we’ve got a chance to do it with this group.”
Thanks to him and to Pavelski, who is now tied with Tampa Bay’s Brayden Point for the most goals this postseason with 13. He also set the career playoff record for goals by an American with 61.
“We’ll recover,” Pavelski said. “We’ve played a lot of hockey the last 24 hours, and we’re having fun. We’re not ready to go home quite yet.”
Tampa Bay blew a 2-1 third-period lead and lost for just the third time in one-goal games this postseason. The Lightning must now figure out how to contain a suddenly dangerous Dallas top line led by Pavelski, along with Perry.
Another question is the health of Lightning defenseman Ryan McDonagh, who was slow to get up after a big hit in the first OT. That was around the same time Pavelski blocked a shot by Point to keep the game going.
No one kept the series going more than Khudobin, whose blocker-side save on Yanni Gourde from point-blank range early was just the start of him returning to form after allowing 13 goals the past three games.
Khudobin, who at 34 is playing the most consecutive games of his NHL career, told goalie coach Jeff Reese he wanted to be in net for the second half of the back to back. He kept Dallas alive.
“We’re not here without Dobby,” Bowness said. “He wanted that ball. He wanted that puck. He wanted to be in that net.”
NOTES: Khudobin became the fifth goaltender since 1956 to make 700-plus saves in a single postseason. … Justin Dowling made his NHL playoff debut replacing injured Dallas forward Roope Hintz. … Tampa Bay again played without injured captain Steven Stamkos.
Monday night will mark just the second Game 6 the Lightning play in the playoffs after finishing their first two series out in five each.
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