Bill Guerin was back in the lineup and the Dallas Stars won.
One didn’t necessarily have anything to do with the other, but the Stars were only too happy to have their top winger back, even if he isn’t up to speed.
Guerin, sidelined for more than two months, made his playoff debut Monday night, helping the Stars defeat the Mighty Ducks, 2-1, at the Arrowhead Pond in Game 3 of their best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal playoff series.
He didn’t do much, playing only 7 minutes 16 seconds in the first two periods and only 32 seconds in the third, but at least he was there.
“Billy’s influence began well before he stepped on that ice,” said goaltender Marty Turco, who had a big say in the outcome, stopping 31 shots as the Stars trimmed the Ducks’ lead in the series to 2-1. “He’s such a great leader and a vocal guy that says all the right things when it matters most.
“Tonight, just to hear his voice and see him skating around in the warm-ups probably meant more to us than maybe even having him play.
“It was a big lift to have him back.”
Not that he was all the way there.
Though he said he felt good overall and “better with every shift,” he looked cautious, unwilling to mix it up physically and unable, it seemed, to generate the speed through the neutral zone for which he is known -- and feared.
“Things didn’t seem to be coming natural like they usually do,” said Guerin, limited to one shot on goal, “but I guess that’s from all the time off. I’ve been out for two months, so it’s not going to be like it was right away.”
Guerin, who as an unrestricted free agent last summer signed a five-year, $45-million contract with the Stars, led the club with 11 power-play goals and was third with 25 goals and 50 points during the regular season.
But he didn’t play in the last 18 games of the regular season or the Stars’ first eight playoff games after suffering a thigh injury Feb. 27 at Ottawa.
On Sunday, though, Guerin sat down for a long meeting with trainer Dave Surprenant and they decided it was time for him to return.
“We asked Bill Guerin to be Bill Guerin,” Coach Dave Tippett said before the game when asked about the Stars’ expectations.
But Tippett didn’t expect him to step right in and dominate.
“That would be a stretch,” Tippett said. “I don’t think we’re going to get a sustained 20 minutes from him, but if he starts to incorporate some of his assets and uses them smartly he can be a big asset to us.”
Before Monday, Guerin had scored 28 points in 28 games against the Ducks, among them two goals and two assists in a 4-2 victory in October.
He looked forward to helping the Stars climb out of their hole.
“This is no time to sit back and feel sorry for ourselves,” he said before the game. “Sure, it’s an uphill battle. They’re a good hockey team. It’s going to be tough. But if you don’t think you can do it, what’s the sense in trying?”
Guerin said he would do whatever Tippett asked of him.
It wasn’t much.
And Guerin, second among the Stars with 113 penalty minutes during the regular season, didn’t seem ready to push it.
“I was just excited to be in the lineup and to be a part of a nice win,” he said. “It’s a big day for me and a bigger day for the team.”