The Dallas Stars were mired in a six-game losing streak when the season was paused for 41/2 months because of the coronavirus, and have been outscored and outshot since getting inside the NHL bubble.
Yet now they are one of only three teams still playing, already set for their first Stanley Cup Final since 2000.
“We're finding ways to win right now, and that's all that matters,” captain Jamie Benn said.
With their captain and two rookies scoring goals in another comeback, the Stars wrapped up the best-of-seven Western Conference Final in five games with a 3-2 overtime victory against the Vegas Golden Knights.
“We're not going home!” goaltender Anton Khudobin screamed after his 34-save performance in the clincher.
From their miserable 1-7-1 start to the season way back in October, to an unexpected coaching change for off-ice issues in December after they were back on the winning track, and then that 0-4-2 span into mid-March, these Stars still have a chance to win their second Stanley Cup.
Dallas trailed 2-0 in the opening seconds of the third period Monday, and finally got on the board with Benn's goal midway through the period.
Joel Kiviranta, whose OT goal in Game 7 of the second-round clincher over Colorado capped his hat trick, then tied the game with 3:47 left. Denis Gurianov scored the game-winner on a one-timer during a power play 3:36 into overtime.
“We've done this all year. We've come back from behind all year,” interim coach Rick Bowness said. “Down 2-0, there was no panic. We just were a very confident group that we could respond to the challenge.”
The finale against the Golden Knights marked the fifth time this postseason Dallas came back to win when trailing after the first period – and the third time to win when trailing after two periods. The Stars have also won six games after giving up the first goal, two short of the franchise record set by their 1999 Stanley Cup-winning team. They are 5-0 in overtime, and 10-1 in one-goal games.