Stephane Robidas ignited a third-period rally with an early power-play goal, then assisted on Stu Barnes' tally less than a minute later to help send the Stars to the second round of the playoff for the first time since 2003 with a dramatic 4-1 come-from behind win over the defending Stanley Cup champion Anaheim Ducks in Game 6 of the Western Conference Quarterfinal series Sunday at American Airlines Center.
Mike Modano added a goal and assist, Loui Eriksson scored, and Jere Lehtinen added two assists for the Stars, who won for only the third time in their past 10 home playoff games. Marty Turco, meanwhile, finished with 17 saves for his 15th career playoff win.
The Stars will now await the result of Tuesday's Game 7 between San Jose and Calgary to find out who their second-round opponent will be. If San Jose wins, Dallas will play the Sharks in the Western Conference Semifinals, but if the Flames upset No. 2 San Jose, the Stars will face Colorado.
"Just to win the series is an amazing feeling," Robidas said. "We've struggled in the playoffs the last few years and the veterans on this team have been through a lot. We wanted this and it feels great to get it done."
Down by a goal after two periods, Robidas, playing with a broken nose sustained in Game 5, began the comeback with his first career playoff goal just 1:18 into the third while the Stars were on the power play. After Modano's blast from the middle of the ice just inside the blueline caromed off the end boards, Robidas corralled the puck and took a shot that went between Anaheim goalie J.S. Giguere's legs to tie the game.
Just 52 second later, Robidas made a slick pass to Barnes after the defenseman squeezed past Anaheim forward Todd Bertuzzi's check along the right boards inside the Anaheim zone. Barnes deposited the feed past Giguere for his second goal of the series, and 30th of his playoff career.
"We had a meeting in the intermission and talked about how big the third period was, and we went out there and got it done," Robidas said. "It was a big period for our hockey team."
"Robi got by a couple guys and found me in the slot," Barnes said about the winner. "All I had to do was put it in."
Before the recovery, the Stars were being throttled by Giguere, who continued his stellar play from a Game 5 performance in which he spit out 40 Dallas shots. With his team in conservative mode after Corey Perry's second-period goal, Giguere, the 2003 playoff MVP, was making all the saves over the first two periods. But then the doors opened for the third, and the Stars came out flying to send the Ducks packing.
"We knew it wasn't going to be easy and we knew it would be a grind," said Modano, who scored his 55th playoff goal. "We pushed them back and this feels pretty good right now. Our young guys did great and its nice to see them experience success like this."
With their fresh one goal lead in hand, the Stars turned up the defensive heat, allowing just one shot over the first 15 minutes of the third before Turco helped preserve the win with consecutive stops on Teemu Selanne, Ryan Getzlaf and Bertuzzi with three minutes to go. Eriksson followed the flurry and put the nail in the coffin with his third goal of the series with just 2:18 to play in regulation.
Fittingly, the Ducks comeback bid was throttled by defenseman Chris Pronger's cross-checking penalty on Brenden Morrow with 1:31 to go. The Ducks' undisciplined play early in the series helped give the Stars a quick two-game lead they ended up never wasting.
"It's very gratifying for a team that has been through a lot," coach Dave Tippett said. "This is the first step in a mission that we all hope extends for a long time. It also installs a belief system in our group that shows us that we can do this. In the coach's room after the second period, we thought we had a good chance at winning this game. We were competing hard, blocking shots and doing whatever it takes to win the game."
Modano capped the scoring with an empty-net goal on the power play with 3.3 seconds left. Turco bagged an assist on the tally.
"A lot can be said about the magnitude of this series," Turco said. "This whole group has stayed committed and doing everything we are capable of. We have that belief in this room, and that's why the last few years have been disappointing. There is a big moment of gratification, but we are going to turn our attention to whoever we have next. It hasn't been an easy road, but those bumps in the road have made us into what we are. We are moving on and that's the fun, to give ourselves a chance to keep winning."
The Stars converted on two of their five man-advantage opportunities after going 0-for-13 the past two games. Robidas' power-play goal snapped an 0-for-18 drought.
"We felt we were playing a pretty good game, and we stuck with it," Barnes said. "Robi made a couple great plays back to back. We stayed with the game plan and we battled hard, start to finish."
Giguere finished with 22 saves for Anaheim, which became the fifth straight defending champ not to advance past the first round.
"I said before the series started that we answered the questions about Marty and now we have the monkey off our back with regards to the first round," Morrow said. "We are not settling for this, but it does feel good. I'm happy for this team, and now we'll enjoy this and then get ready for the next round."
After a scoreless first period, Perry's second goal of the postseason gave the Ducks a 1-0 lead just 2:11 into the second. The tally was nearly an exact replica of Perry's goal in Game 5, as the winger gained control of the puck along the right wing, skated into the right circle and then snapped off a shot that went between Turco's legs.
Giguere assisted on Perry's eighth career playoff goal.
Perry, now in his third year in the league, had suddenly become a pest for the Stars. After missing the first three games while recovering from his lacerated quad tendon sustained in the regular season, Perry scored in each of the past two games, and picked up at least one point in the three games he played in.
But his effort was not enough, as the Stars will now get the next few days off before getting revved up for either the Sharks or Avalanche.
"We're going to enjoy this for a little bit and then turn our attention to the next series," Modano said.
A next series that has been a half-decade in the making.
-- The Stars sold approximately 2,000 tickets immediately after Game Six for games in the second round. You can secure your Stars playoff tickets right now by CLICKING HERE or calling 214-GO-STARS.
--The Stars lost to Anaheim in six games in their last appearance in the conference semifinals.
--Dallas outscored the Ducks by a 12-4 margin in the third period in the series.
--Lehtinen played in his 100th career playoff game.
--The Ducks had not lost in five of their previous all-time Game 6's.
--Forward Joel Lundqvist played just hours after his fiancée gave birth to the couple's first child.
--Robidas played with a full facemask to help protect his broken nose. "Robidas epitomizes our game," Tippett said. "He'll go through a wall for his team and it is very gratifying to see a guy like that succeed."
--Center Mike Ribeiro was held off the scoresheet, but finished with a series-high eight points.
--The Stars are 12-2 all-time in series' that they led 3-2, including going 7-0 since moving to Dallas.
--Defenseman Nicklas Grossman earned his first career playoff point with an assist on Barnes' goal.
--Scratched for Dallas were defensemen Philippe Boucher (hip strain) and Nolan Baumgartner, and forwards Krys Barch, Brad Winchester and B.J. Crombeen.