By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
For the first time since 2000, the Dallas Stars will find themselves back on the National Hockey League’s greatest stage, and they have former Bruins backup netminder Anton Khudobin to thank for ending the two-decade drought.
In a Game 5 head-to-head with the Vegas Golden Knights, and up three games to one, the Stars rallied from an 0-2 hole in the third period, and captured the series victory behind a Denis Gurianov power-play goal scored 3:36 into the first overtime.
Khudobin, meanwhile, more than did his job with a 34-for-36 performance in the Dallas crease.
“Once again, [Khudobin] kept us in it as long as we needed,” Stars captain Jamie Benn, who scored the goal that kickstarted the Dallas comeback, offered. “And we found a way to get it done.”
This was the story of Khudobin’s series, too. With the exception of his Game 2 loss, which came with an early exit following a 24-of-27 effort through 40 minutes, Khudobin was absolutely nails whenever called upon.
The Stars won all four games by just a single goal, too, stressing the need for Khudobin to play a hole-free game. His five-game sample was about a strong a showing as you could get against the ultra-talented Knights, with just eight goals allowed on 161 shots, giving the 34-year-old a .950 save percentage for the series.
Overall, the Kazakh-born netminder is now 10-5 with a .918 save percentage this postseason.
Khudobin is far from the only former Bruin connection on the Stars, too, as they’re of course led by top-line center Tyler Seguin, who spent the first three years of his NHL career with the B’s. (The Stars are also coached by Rick Bowness, who served as the B’s bench boss in 1991-92, taking Boston to the third round of postseason play.)
And Seguin couldn’t deny the memories of yesteryear that are coming by way of Khudobin’s improbable run.
“He reminds me of a guy named Tim Thomas a little bit,” said Seguin.
The Stars will play the winner of the Lightning-Islanders series in the East, which Tampa Bay currently leads, 3-1.