Over the course of his career, Corey Perry has won everything but Miss Congeniality, and he’ll never win that for obvious reasons. Because he’s a massive jerk to play against. Whether it’s the Stanley Cup or the Memorial Cup or the Olympics or the World Championship or the OHL Cup or the Nations Cup, whatever the hell that is, winning seems to follow him around.
So it should come as no surprise that in the second Stanley Cup final of his career and the first in 13 years, Corey Perry would not go quietly into the night. Of course, Perry doesn’t do anything quietly, which is one of the reasons why the Dallas Stars signed him last summer after he’d been bought out by the team formerly known as the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. (By the way, the Ducks will pay Perry a total of $5 million next season to not play for them – $3 million in signing bonus on the final year of his deal and $2 million in salary.) Perry opened and closed the scoring in the Stars 3-2 must-win overtime triumph in Game 5. And in doing so, he gave the Stars, who are looking more and more like the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail with each passing game, a chance to live another day.
There’s no doubt Perry called on his winning pedigree in Game 5 with his two goals, which totaled a distance travelled of about seven feet. Because Corey Perry. And those goals sandwiched one by Joe Pavelski, another Stars free agent signing last summer who knows a few things about grit, determination, playing under pressure and winning.
“Top of the circles down, in the offensive zone, his poise, his confidence, his strength and his reach with that puck, has always been really impressive,” Stars coach Rick Bowness said of Perry. “You get to that level and you win all those times and it shows you he knows how to win. Some guys get nervous out there, they get the puck and they throw it away. Corey gets it and he hangs on and hangs on and uses his reach and his competitiveness and his size and his strength to his advantage and he’s not intimidated by any situation out there.”
The Stars have been hit hard by injuries, the latest of which came to Roope Hintz in Game 4 when Tyler Johnson slammed his head into the boards with not even a penalty called. The injuries up front, combined with a need to spread around the scoring, prompted Bowness to construct a line of Tyler Seguin between Perry and Joel Kiviranta. In the two games that line has been together, Seguin has registered five assists, including helpers on all three of the Stars’ goals in Game 5.
Perry and Pavelski have a combined age of 71. The past couple of seasons have not been near as kind to Perry as they have been to Pavelski, which is why Perry signed a one-year deal with the Stars for just $1.5 million, while Pavelski inked a three-year deal worth $21 million. (Remember Perry’s marathon walk of shame at the Winter Classic when Perry was ejected after just 39 seconds of ice time for elbowing Ryan Ellis? And remember the five-game suspension that came with it?) There will be no tag days for Perry, however. On top of his base salary, Perry has made $1.6 million in bonuses and $2 million from his Anaheim buyout for a total so far of $5.1 million. He’ll win another $150,000 if the Stars can come back to win the Stanley Cup.
If they do, it will almost certainly be with games like Game 5, gutsy efforts in which the Stars bend but don’t break. Staying out of the penalty box is also key for the Stars, who are actually outscoring the Lightning 5-on-5 in the series. And don’t be surprised if Corey Perry has something to say about how the remainder of the series goes. “You just have an understanding that whatever it takes, you’re going to try to find a way to win,” Pavelski said. “And that’s what (Perry) does. Whatever it takes.”
Pavelski could very well have been speaking about the Stars in general, a team that was supposed to get this far and is starting to look like a group that’s being held together with a combination of string, wire and chewing gum. They look exhausted and outmatched, but they continue to hang in there. Whatever it takes.