When it was over, all Mats Zuccarello and his Dallas Stars teammates could do is watch helplessly as an excited St. Louis Blues poured off the bench to celebrate a hard fought 2-1 win in the second overtime of Game Seven.
St. Louis native Pat Maroon broke Dallas hearts. He wanted to come home and play for his hometown team last summer. Now, the 31-year old veteran is a unlikely hero in a unlikely postseason full of dramatic finishes and upsets.
While the Blues will move on to face the Colorado/San Jose winner in another seventh game to be played later, the Stars fell an overtime short of reaching their first Conference Final in a decade. Instead, they’ll be left to wonder how close they came to getting the one goal they needed to make Ben Bishop a household name. His 52 saves including 31 in a lopsided second and third were miraculous.
It wasn’t enough to get the win they were looking for. Zuccarello had a golden opportunity to win it in the first overtime, but over passed for Alex Radulov. He could’ve delivered the series winner which would’ve made the Rangers happy. They were hoping the conditions of a first round pick would be met. So were Zucc’s fans, who adopted the Stars this postseason.
Instead, Jamie Benn’s wraparound try didn’t cross the goal line with rookie Jordan Binnington getting just enough of the puck to keep it out. The Stars were much better in an evenly played sudden death after being outshot 31-4. Even dangerous for most of the first five minutes of the second OT.
All that changed when Tyler Bozak won a draw back to Robert Thomas and his shot rang off the post while trickling off Bishop to create confusion. That was enough time for Maroon to score the winner.
So, the Rangers won’t get a third first round pick from Dallas. Instead, they’ll settle for a second round pick in next month’s NHL Draft. There’s still a good chance Zuccarello re-signs with the Stars. He was a great fit under another rookie coach in Jim Montgomery, who came over from the collegiate ranks.
Indeed, Zucc led the Stars with eight points (1-7-8) against the Blues in the well played second round series. He finished with 11 points (4-7-11) in the Stars’ run, tying Tyler Seguin for the team lead.
The 31-year old pint sized Norwegian with the giant heart made two good defensive plays in his end during sudden death to break up Blues chances. He meshed well on a speedy line with promising youngster Roope Hintz and Jason Dickinson. They buzzed during a few overtime shifts.
It makes sense for Zuccarello to stay in Dallas where he found chemistry and became a team leader. Dallas fans took to him by saluting him with trademark, “Zuuuccc, Zuuuccc,” chants.
Even if his team still isn’t playing, here’s hoping he stays.