Stars Facing Long, Hard Climb
Tuesday, 05.13.2008 / 12:45 AM / Feature
By Ken Sins
Brenden Morrow could have stayed in the locker room after he smacked into the end boards in the third period on Monday night. It looked like the Stars’ captain would be out for the rest of the night, and possibly longer, with a left arm/shoulder injury.
But Morrow was back on the ice a few minutes later to finish out the 5-2 thumping by the Red Wings. Leadership isn’t just about contributing to victories. It also means taking your lumps.
The Stars are down three games to none in the Western Conference finals, but Morrow’s been a warrior all season and figures to be a player in Wednesday night’s Game 4.
“It doesn't feel good, but that's what the medical staff is for, to get me ready,’’ Morrow said.
Game 3 was entertaining for two periods, although it was far from an artistic triumph. The Stars were guilty of too many turnovers (26 giveaways), positional mistakes and missed opportunities to hang with the talented Red Wings. Detroit won 57 percent of the faceoffs
“We’re in a tough spot,’’ Stars center Brad Richards said. “It’s an uphill climb.’’
The Stars have never led in the series, but they rallied to tie twice on Monday night.
In the end, it didn’t matter. Once again, the Red Wings were better; too much Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Nicklas Lidstrom and Chris Osgood.
Detroit’s leading goal-scorer, Johan Franzen, was out for a second straight game, but the Wings have been able to compensate.
“Breakdowns here and there, you can't afford against those guys,’’ Stars center Mike Modano said. “You pretty much need to play a mistake-free game.''
Now the Stars try to avoid getting swept for the first time since the 2001 conference semis when they were four-and-out to the St. Louis Blues.
“You give them opportunities like we did, they're going to make you pay for it,’’ Morrow said. “Are they beatable? Yeah, but we have to play a lot better than we are. We can't give Datsyuk point-blank chances, turning pucks over, not being strong in the corners and leaving Marty (Turco) out to dry. We're not going to get too many opportunities because they don't make a whole lot of mistakes.''
The Stars earned their way into the third round, upsetting two very good teams along the way. But now they’re in a huge hole against a great team.
“We don't think it's a fluke that we're here,’’ Morrow said. “We beat some good teams to get here. They're a great hockey team but we believe we're a great hockey team too. We're not playing at the level we did against Anaheim and San Jose. If we are, then they're a better team.''
Here’s how things are going for the Stars: Detroit’s Tomas Holmstrom was actually called for goaltender interference early in the third period, but the Red Wings came out with a short-handed goal by Zetterberg on the ensuing power play.
Holmstrom, a pest in Turco’s crease throughout the series, was whistled for the penalty at 18 seconds of the third period, but the Stars got caught up ice. Zetterberg darted into the Dallas zone with Richards back, made a move to turn Richards around, and notched the shortie at 1:48 to make it 4-2.
For all practical purposes, the game was over.
Turco allowed five goals on 21 shots, and he admitted that he needs to raise his level if the Stars are to prolong the series.
“I haven't been giving our team the best chance to win,’’ Turco said. “I've just got to start stopping some pucks. I don’t feel I’ve given our team enough chances to win. We’ve got to play with more desperation. We're trying. It's just not going where we need it to. We're sputtering along. It's going to be the biggest test of character we've had all year. Our backs are against the wall.''
Game 2 ended in ugly fashion when Osgood and Dallas center Mike Ribeiro traded slashes. Undisclosed fines were issued, but no suspensions.
There were no such incidents in Game 3, however.
The Stars are not behind because of a lack of effort. They’re simply getting beat by a team with superior speed and skill, a team that, should it reach the final will be favored to win its fourth Stanley Cup in the last 11 seasons.
The Stars were minus two of their top penalty killers. Jere Lehtinen (leg) and Stu Barnes (headaches) were out with injuries, forcing subs Toby Petersen and Chris Conner to step up.
Steve Ott moved into Lehtinen’s slot on the right side of the top line with Ribeiro and Morrow.
In the game’s first six minutes, the Stars got good scoring chances from Ott, Morrow and Petersen. Dallas was off to its best start of the series, but Detroit again hit the scoreboard first when Datsyuk coverted Zetterberg’s pass with a backhander from the slot at 9:37.
Dallas climbed back into the game, keeping the puck for more than a minute deep in the Detroit end before Nicklas Grossman notched his first career playoff goal.
But seconds later, the Stars were chasing the game again on Datsyuk’s second goal of the night, beating Dallas’ Stephane Robidas to the net and converting Holmstrom’s centering pass.
"I don't think we've played as well as we're able to and that's the frustrating part,’’ Robidas said. “Yes, they're a good team playing well, but we can do more.''
That’s the way this matchup has gone. Now the Stars have one day to clear their heads before Game 4.
“We've got to let it go, do some things at practice that will get us excited about the next game and then throw it all out there and do what we can to make this thing go to Detroit,'' Modano said.