It couldn't have ended any better.
The Dallas Stars beat the Tampa Bay Lightning in overtime Saturday night by a score of 4-3 and afterwards gave an on-ice salute to Stars' play-by-play announcer Dave Strader, who was calling his first game of the season due to an ongoing battle with cancer.
JUST WHAT THE DOCTOR ORDERED INDEED!
During the first period Stars fans gave Dave a heck of an ovation
The Stars dug themselves an early hole, giving up two goals to Tampa Bay. That's when Stars forward, and the pride of Rubaix France, Antoine Roussel decided he'd seen enough.
Check out this sweet mid-air deflection for his first goal of the night...
Then with just over a minute remaining in the first period, Tyler Seguin found Roussel for a sweet chip in for his second of the game.......
The Tampa Bay Lightning would take the lead back - and after two periods the Stars were trailing 3-2. The third period began with the Stars on the hunt, more specifically Antoine Roussel on the hunt.
You could just sense Antoine was feeling it. His tenacity, his drive to the net, he was a man on a mission, and once again his line-mate Tyler Seguin found him in the slot for a twisted wrister and voila!
TOUR DE CHAPEAU! (French for HAT TRICK!)
Watch Antoine's reaction, as if to demand people toss their hats on to the ice....
Here's what the aftermath of Roussel's first career NHL hat-trick looked like from my vantage point, from the Public Address Announcer chair rinkside... you can see the refs asking for the puck, so they could deliver to Roussel as a keepsake.
As exciting as that was... there was still work to be done. Roussel's first career hat trick evened the score, but on this night that wouldn't do for the Stars. They were on a mission... and when you're deep in battle you look to your leader to set the example.
Stars captain Jamie Benn would not disappoint.
In a season filled with finding new ways to grab defeat from the jaws of victory, the Stars finally found what they'd been missing... the killer instinct.
Jamie Benn set the tone in overtime - a huge hit on Tampa Bay's Brian Boyle, then keeping his balance, he started and finished a give and go with Cody Eakin. Benn fired a laser beam past Andrei Vasilevskiy for his 20th goal of the season.
GAME OVER - STARS WIN!!
As I announced the goal and the final score I could see the team gathering in front of my booth. Normally they gather at center ice and raise their sticks in salute to the crowd, but tonight they gathered at the side of the ice closest to the broadcast position, gazing up towards Dallas Stars play-by-play man Dave Strader in a salute to HIM, as to say "this one was for you Dave!"
It was the perfect ending to a great (and much needed) win.
Afterwards Jamie Benn talked about the OT winner, the secret to Antoine Roussel's hat-trick, and how special it was to have Dave Strader back where he belongs.
and of course Antoine Roussel was the recipient of the Stars Cowboy Hat, given to the player of the game.. and he also revealed where he came up with his hat-trick goal celebration.