DALLAS — Seeing Mike Tyson and Ric Flair wearing Dallas Stars jerseys and “woo woo”-ing inside the American Airlines Center isn’t a common event, but neither is the Stars winning an OT playoff game.
All of it happened on Thursday night.
Facing the possibility that their season would end, they kept it all going by finally winning an overtime playoff game, 3-2 against Las Vegas in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals.
“We’re not done yet,” Stars center Roope Hintz said. “We’re not quitters. We’re gonna show’ em.”
The Stars had been 0-4 in these playoffs in overtime, including 0-2 in this series.
Stars center Joe Pavelski scored the game-winner on a beautiful one-timer from the circle at 3:18 of overtime. It was the Stars’ second power-play goal of the evening.
The Stars now only trail the Golden Nuggets, 3-1. (Yes, I know they’re the Golden Knights, but it’s Vegas and I am not passing on the chance to use Strip-related puns).
Tyson and Flair attended the game as guests of Tie Domi, who is the father of Stars forward Max Domi.
The Stars are headed back to Vegas, which does not mean you should join them to bet your kid’s education fund on them winning this series. Game 5 is Saturday night at 7 p.m.
Game 4 showed there is a path, however small, to push this series to a Game 7. If this series goes 7, call it a win.
“It can happen,” Pavelski said. “It’s happened before.”
He’s right. Just hasn’t happened a lot. Four teams in the history of the Stanley Cup playoffs have come back from an 0-3 deficit to advance to the next round.
“It’s such a fine line this time of year,” Pavelski said. “You have to have the belief, to keep buying time, and keep trying put a little bit of doubt in their minds.”
If the Stars are looking for some immediate inspiration, watch basketball. In the NBA’s Eastern Conference finals, the Miami Heat had a 3-0 series lead against the Boston Celtics; that series is now 3-2.
Thursday was the third time in four games the ending came in overtime. If this series remains as close as Games 1, 2 and 4 have played out, there is little reason why the Stars can’t win.
One game after being pulled, Stars goalie Jake Oettinger looked more like Jake Oettinger rather than some AHL spare. In Game 4, he stopped 37 of 39 shots.
Forward Jason Robertson played like an All-Star who has figured out how to score in the playoffs. His two goals tied the game, twice, and he was a load that the Golden Knights couldn’t stop.
“He’s going to start scoring, and when he does ...” Stars coach Pete DeBoer said. “I don’t think you’ve seen the best of him yet. I think he’s starting to heat up.”
For the Stars to potentially push this to a Game 7, Robertson will have to maintain this level of production, and visibility. In Game 4, the man had 11 shots on goal.
With winger Jamie Benn serving the first game of his two-game suspension because of his cross-check in Game 3, and forward Evgenii Dadonov out because of injury, the Stars are thin at forward.
They’re going to need Robertson’s line to produce, and someone else to score.
On Thursday night, that belonged to Pavelski who at the age of 38 plays better than most 28-year-olds.
We are watching a special player not rage against the dying of the light, because he can’t see a light that is too far away. Pavelski is a Tom Brady on skates.
“It was a tremendous feeling, for sure,” Pavelski said of his game-winner. “I’m glad we can play another game.”
Their odds are still terrible, but there is a path to a Game 7.
It’s not wise to bet on the Stars, but don’t bet against them, either.