When Dallas Stars forward Antoine Roussel scored a penalty shot goal on Tuesday night against the Chicago Blackhawks, lifting a swift backhand over netminder Corey Crawford, you could feel the waves of hatred heading down to ice level as it came down from the seats at the United Center.
Not only did Roussel’s goal, which he later called the “Fiddler move” in reference of this penalty shot goal earlier in the season, give the Stars a 4-3 lead and eventually stand up as the game-winning tally, but it couldn’t have come from a more notorious candidate, as the 24 year-old was public enemy #1 for Hawks fans the entire game.
It all started when Roussel took out Patrick Kane with a hit when the two teams met last Friday, a memory that Chicago didn’t forget. It didn’t take long into Tuesday’s game for Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw to try to exact some revenge in a spirited exchange of fisticuff pleasantries.
Roussel, ever the gamer, didn’t back down. He accepted the fight with Shaw and still kept his chippy play going afterwards, including getting two minutes in the penalty box for elbowing Chicago captain Jonathan Toews.
That Roussel scored the winning goal was, for the sake of hockey entertainment, fitting. When you watch here how he taunted the home crowd right after the goal, like something straight out of a professional wrestling match…yeah, that’s the stuff rivalries are made out of:
Chicago Blackhawks, meet your new Central Division mates.
His game against the Hawks was a perfect microcosm for the type of player Roussel is, and what he brings to the Stars roster. Fast and aggressive, the one they call “Rooster” hounds puck carriers, isn’t afraid to be physical, and will chirp with the best of them, something that clearly got under the skin of the Hawks.
But while Roussel excels as a pest, he can still play hockey, too. On top of his game-winning goal, Roussel also logged a steady 14:38 of ice time, including 1:19 on the penalty kill, a role that he is increasingly growing into with the Stars.
After a breakout rookie campaign last year, where he surprisingly made the Stars roster and scored 14 points in 39 games, he’s continuing right where he left off. With four points in his last four games, the Roubaix, France native is now tied for 6th in scoring on the Stars, with 10 points in 26 games. His 70 penalty minutes are, unsurprisingly, tops.
For a Stars team that has lacked depth scoring since the start of the season, Dallas head coach Lindy Ruff has found successful offensive chemistry with his newly-settled fourth line, consisting of Roussel with center Vernon Fiddler and right wing Ryan Garbutt. The entire line plays a tenacious speed and forechecking game, but has been finding the net a lot lately too: beyond Roussel’s 3rd period winner against Chicago, they also scored both goals in Dallas’ 3-2 shootout loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Sunday, as well as three goals in a 6-3 win over the Anaheim Ducks on last Tuesday.
For a Stars team still trying to find its identity after a summer of massive overhauls, having “enthusiastic” (to use a polite term) play from an energy guy like Roussel, especially in the 3rd period of a tied game against the NHL’s best team, is certainly something that the team can rally around, a crucial factor as Dallas tries to climb the treacherous mountainside that is the Western Conference standings.
The Stars and Hawks next face off against each other on December 10. Mark your calendars.