This was more like the tight-checking, low-scoring games most observers expected to see from them, although most ‘experts’ had the Dallas Stars on the other side of the series equation.
After a stellar defensive effort with three rookies on the blueline and some timely goals, the Stars captured a 3-1 victory from the Anaheim Ducks Thursday night at the American Airlines Center and in doing so, have taken a commanding 3-1 lead in their best-of-seven first-round series, putting the defending Stanley Cup champions on the brink of elimination.
With Game 5 Friday night in Anaheim, the Stars will have a chance to advance to the Western Conference Semi-finals for the first time since 2003.
The blackout was in full effect once again among the sellout crowd of 18,532, who created a very cool visual when they waved their white towels. After dropping Game 3 Tuesday here by the score of 4-2, the Stars triumphed for just the second time in their last nine home playoff games.
As the Ducks concentrated most of their defensive efforts on the Stars’ top line of Mike Ribeiro, Brenden Morrow and Jere Lehtinen, Dallas received major contributions from their second and third lines in this one.
Stu Barnes scored a goal and an assist in the third period and the Stars also got goals from Joel Lundqvist and Steve Ott.
“Just go out and play responsible at both ends,” Barnes said of his mindset playing on the third line with Ott and Mike Modano. “Otter and I aren’t goal-scorers by any means and Mo’s such a great player. He’s playing great, he’s battling real hard and Otter and I are just trying to complement him a little out there and try to make sure that we play responsibly.”
Meanwhile at the other end of the ice, goaltender Marty Turco was outstanding, making 27 saves and coming within 7.6 seconds of his fifth post-season shutout in his last 10 outings. Despite three rookies on the blueline, the defense was solid and the few times they made mistakes, Turco was there to bail them out.
“We watched our young defensemen make plays out there and I was so happy for them,” Turco said. “It was a big game for us and I thought everybody did a great job. It’s a quick turnaround and we want this to happen again tomorrow night. I felt really good and saw most of the shots that came my way, but you’re doing all you can just to stop the puck. It’s great to see everybody battle out there and get the job done.”
“Marty was pretty great for us tonight, he gave us a chance to win and held down the fort for us,” added captain Brenden Morrow. “We probably gave up a few more chances than we would have liked but Marty stood on his head for us. He made a lot of saves, made them look easy, but they weren’t. We limited odd-man rushes and when they got them, he came up huge. It was a hard-fought game, but we’re a loose bunch.”
In a crazy game in which each team had an apparent goal waved off, the Stars nursed a 1-0 lead deep into the third period before Barnes connected for the eventual game-winner, the 10th playoff winner of his illustrious career with 10:59 remaining. Barnes then fed Ott for a pretty goal with 2:43 to go to seal it.
The Ducks received a boost from the return to their lineup of winger Corey Perry, whose 29 goals led Anaheim in the regular season, after missing six weeks with a lacerated quadriceps. While Perry made his presence felt and earned an assist in a solid performance, he was not a factor in the final outcome.
Carrying a 1-0 lead into the final period, the Stars extended it on Barnes 29th career playoff goal. After collecting a nice lead pass from Modano at the Anaheim blue line, Barnes raced in on a breakaway against Ducks goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere, firing a quick wrist shot from the slot through Giguere’s pads.
“Just a good play by Mike Modano, I kind of snuck behind everybody and he found me,” Barnes said. “Great play by him.”
Turco came up big while the Stars were on a power play with 7:09 remaining, making a nice pad save after Chris Kunitz unleashed a quick wrist shot from the left circle.
The Stars put the stake through the Ducks’ heart with 2:43 to go when Barnes stole the puck in the neutral zone and sped back into the Anaheim zone with it. Carrying into the right face-off circle, Barnes fed a charging Ott at the lip of the crease, and Ott re-directed it past Giguere for his second goal of the playoffs and a 3-0 lead.
The Stars spent most of the rest of regulation on a power play, and Giguere made big saves on Toby Petersen with 59 seconds left and then on Antti Miettinen’s rebound chance, and again on Miettinen 10 seconds later.
The Ducks then snapped Turco’s shutout bid with just 7.6 seconds on the clock, after Mathieu Schneider ripped a wrist shot from the high slot that beat a screened Turco just inside the far post.
“Marty was excellent and we scored a few goals for him and we need to battle like this again tomorrow night,” Stars coach Dave Tippett said. “Marty is going to have to be really good for us to be successful and you saw him really good tonight.”
“I think the fans said it all with the chants of ‘Marty, Marty, Marty.’ He’s definitely been our first star the whole season,” Ott said of Turco. “His play in the playoffs has been spectacular.”
In a spirited, fast-paced first period, the Ducks had the contest’s first good scoring chance 4:50 in, as Teemu Selanne carried into the right circle and tried an in-close wrist shot towards Turco’s five-hole, but Turco made the stop.
It appeared that the Stars had taken an early 1-0 lead at 8:15, when Trevor Daley picked up a nice hand-off from Brad Richards in the high slot, then launched a wrist shot past a screened Giguere inside the far post. But it was waved off because Niklas Hagman barely grazed Giguere as he skated by the crease, so the whistle was blown and Hagman sent to the penalty box for goaltender interference.
“Well, for sure we were pissed off after we saw that replay, not even close,” Ribeiro said of the play.
“I thought it was a good call by the referee,” Giguere said predictably. “The guy came in and
elbowed me in the face before the shot was released. On the shot itself there was no obstruction. I thought it was the right call.”
So not only were the Stars denied a goal, they were forced to kill off a penalty. Just before their power play ended, Ducks defenseman Francois Beauchemin nullified a Stars’ 2-on-1 break by intercepting Stephane Robidas’ pass to Modano and generated a prime opportunity at the other end. Beauchemin’s long pass sent Perry speeding into the Dallas zone on their own 2-on-1. Perry’s pass from the right circle was heading right for a wide open Todd Bertuzzi charging to the far post, but Turco deftly angled his stick to deflect the puck past Bertuzzi’s shins.
Less than a minute later, back at 5-on-5, the Ducks had another golden opportunity, but Turco again was equal to the task. After a turnover in their own zone, Beauchemin’s shot from the point as deflected by Kunitz in front that Turco stopped, and the rebound spit out front to a wide open Selanne, but Turco denied his backhander.
Dallas got the all-important opening goal with 3:21 left in the opening period, after an egregious turnover by the Ducks in their own zone. After Loui Eriksson intercepted Sean O’Donnell’s clearing attempt in the high slot, Eriksson batted the puck to a wide open Lundqvist in front and Lundqvist fired a quick wrist shot over Giguere’s shoulder for the 1-0 lead.
The Stars - and the blackout crowd - were energized by the goal, and Dallas enjoyed the momentum and territorial advantage for the rest of the period. With 55 seconds left, Ott fed a nice pass from the left circle over to Barnes in front, but his tap-in went wide.
Then with just eight seconds left, Dallas nearly took a two-goal lead into the intermission. Richards carried the puck all the way around the net and into the right circle before he threw the puck in front, where Eriksson, from his knees, shot at an open net, but it ricocheted off Samuel Pahlsson’s knee and just wide.
Ahead 1-0 after two, the Stars received an outstanding defensive play from Lehtinen 55 seconds into the period to maintain their lead. Kunitz carried around the Stars’ net and passed from the right post back through the crease to a charging Selanne at the left side of the crease. Staring at an open net, Selanne’s shot attempt was impeded by a lunging Lehtinen, and the puck ended up shanking off the side of the net.
Turco then made a huge save with Anaheim on the power play 3:41 into the period, after Beauchemin’s long shot was deflected in front and the loose puck went right to Bertuzzi at the right side of the crease. Turco made a beautiful lunging save with his outstretched stick on Bertuzzi’s shot.
Another Ducks’ chance came 5:20 into the second, when Kunitz fired a wrister from the slot through a screen, but Turco came up with a spectacular pad save to maintain the Stars’ lead.
Anaheim appeared to tie it up at the 8:00 mark, but Brian Sutherby’s apparent goal was waved off. After Bertuzzi carried around the Stars’ net, he fed it out front from the left post to Sutherby in front driving the net. With his stick tied up, Sutherby kicked it from his right skate to his left, and then swept it past Turco just inside the post with his left foot. After a lengthy review, it was waved off, as the officials deemed it to have been directed in with a ‘distinct kicking motion.’
“I tried to curl it from one foot and bring it to my stick,” Sutherby said.“I didn’t see what happened, and the next thing I know the puck is in the net.”
Just 24 seconds after dodging that bullet, the Stars almost added to their lead, as Lundqvist and Richards raced into the Anaheim zone on a 2-on-1. Lundqvist dished off to Richards, who ripped a wrist shot from the slot, but Giguere made a key shoulder save.
The Ducks had a prime opportunity with 7:55 left in the period, off a 3-on-2 rush, when Ryan Getzlaf fed Selanne at the left side of the crease, but he shanked the one-timer attempt and it went wide.
Both teams have a quick turn-around as they travel back to southern California for the crucial Game 5 on Friday in Anaheim (9:30pm, my27). The Stars know they have the Ducks on the ropes and do not want to let up now.
“We put the pressure back on them,” Morrow said. “It could have been on us. We’ve played well in their arena. We’d like to get it done tomorrow night. We’re in a pretty good position right now.”
“We don’t have a ton of playoff experience but the strength is in our group,” Tippett said. “We’ll go in there and compete hard. Our goal is to win one of the next three games. We’re asking everyone to chip in and both the veterans and the young guys are doing it.”
- Barnes’ points were his first of this post-season, although he co-led the Stars with four points last spring.
- Lundqvist’s goal was his first of this post-season and the third of his career, after he scored two last spring against Vancouver, including the Stars’ only goal in Game 7. He also tied the club lead with three shots on goal.
- Ott, who also scored in Game 1, collected the third career playoff tally. The agitator also led the Stars with six bodychecks.
- With an assist on Barnes’ goal, Modano now has a three-game scoring streak, having compiled four points (one goal, three assists) over that span.
- Defenseman Mattias Norstrom’s assist on Barnes’ goal was just the third post-season assist (and point) of his 14-year career, in his 42nd playoff game. It was his first point since the 2001 post-season, when he was with Los Angeles.
- Eriksson’s assist was his fourth point of the series (two goals, two assists).
- Ribeiro was held off the scoresheet for the first time in the series, although he is still tied for the NHL lead in playoff assists (six) and tied for second in points with seven.
- While Anaheim added Perry to their roster, the Stars had a couple of lesser-hyped lineup changes, as winger Antti Miettinen made his first appearance of the series and the 10th post-season game of his career, while rookie defenseman Mark Fistric made his NHL playoff debut. In 14:39 of ice time, Fistric delivered two hits.
“It was a big playoff game and to be a part of this was something else,” Fistric said. “The atmosphere was just great and I had a lot of adrenaline. I tried to play a simple game, stay calm as best as I could. You have to play your game and limit your mistakes.”
Fistric was in because veteran blueliner Philippe Boucher sat out with a lower-body injury. He is listed as day-to-day. Miettinen’s presence meant that winger B.J. Crombeen was a healthy scratch.
- The Stars have outscored the Ducks by a 7-1 advantage in the third periods of this series.
- Dallas failed to capitalize on the power play for the first time in the series, going 0-for-6 in the game. They are now 8-for-26 (30.8 %) in the series, which still leads the NHL.