Sunday April 17th, 2016

Antoine Roussel won’t forget his first career playoff goal. Neither will anyone else who saw it.

The feisty Dallas Stars forward scored from behind Minnesota's net on a play that involved a kicking motion and the net coming off the moorings, yet somehow passed muster after a lengthy league review.

Jamie Benn later added an indisputable breakaway tally in the third period to lead Dallas to a thrilling 2–1 win in Game 2. The victory gives the Stars a 2–0 series lead with Game 3 on Monday evening in Minnesota.

Here are three thoughts on Saturday’s game:

Another game, another contested goal

It’s one that has to be seen to be believed. Dallas opened the scoring 3:54 into the second period on a play that began when Marco Scandella’s clearing attempt glanced off Ales Hemsky’s skate to Roussel, who was swinging behind the Minnesota net. When the puck landed at his feet, he reacted by kicking it toward the back of the cage, but instead of settling down, it somehow rolled up the netting, hit Wild netminder Devan Dubnyk in the back of the mask and rolled down his back and into the net.

It was initially waved off on the ice, but after a review that lasted six minutes, the league’s war room declared it a good goal. “Video review determined that the puck crossed the Minnesota goal line in a legal fashion prior to the net being displaced,” the league offered in a statement. “According to Rule 78.4, ‘The goal frame shall be considered in its proper position when at least a portion of the flexible peg(s) are still inside both the goal post and the hole in the ice.’ Good goal Dallas.”

NHL
Watch: Stars’ Antoine Roussel scores controversial goal with skate

Whether the net actually was on the pegs when the puck entered the net is debatable. But it’s baffling that they only offered a half answer, avoiding any mention of what appeared to be a kicking motion. And that’s important, because Rule 49.2 explicitly states that "a goal cannot be scored by an attacking player who kicks a puck that deflects into the net off any player, goaltender or official."

It’s possible that since Roussel clearly wasn’t kicking it toward the goal line it was disregarded as a factor. But instead of leaving us to guess, the league should have addressed it directly.

Either way, it stands as the latest in what’s already a long list of controversial goals scored in these playoffs.

At least one team saw some humor in the play.

Better effort, same results for Wild

This was a much better performance on virtually every level over what the Wild delivered in Game 1. Scandella scored on a late power play, giving them their first goal of the series and just their third in their past five games. They threw more shots toward Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen and generated more quality scoring chances than Dallas. And they mounted a furious comeback in the final minutes, nearly potting the equalizer as they peppered the Stars’ keeper with shots.

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But in the end, it wasn’t nearly enough because in many ways they struggled with the same issues that have vexed them for the past two weeks. They whiffed on several early chances when the game was scoreless, particularly when Nino Niederreiter and Mikael Granlund each failed to convert a five-bell opportunity. They rarely got bodies in front of Lehtonen until late in the third period when a Niederreiter screen facilitated Scandella’s goal. And their discipline continues to be an issue. The Wild took six penalties for the second game in a row, including a Jason Pomminville trip with just over two minutes remaining that all but killed their comeback hopes.

But the biggest problem: For much of the contest, they were simply outworked and outhustled by the Stars. Considering how much trouble they’re having scoring, that just can’t happen.

No doubt they’ll take this game as one to build on as the series moves to Minnesota. But down two games to none, they need more than a moral victory in Game 3.

Seguin’s return

Superstar forward Tyler Seguin made an inauspicious return to the Dallas lineup after missing the final 10 games of the regular season and Game 1 of the series while recovering from surgery to repair a 15% tear in the Achilles tendon in his left foot.

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He was given every chance to get into the swing of things in the first period, playing 6:57 of the frame, the second-most time allotted to any Dallas forward. But it was clear early on that that pace was a little beyond his reach. He showed none of his characteristic jump and had trouble hitting the holes and winning races to the puck.

Coach Lindy Ruff cut back on his time as the game progressed and he finished with just 15:40, well below his season average of 19:26. He finished with one shot on net. It was an expected result considering the severity of his injury, and a reminder that he’ll need another game or two to work himself closer to playoff pace.

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