While the Dallas Stars have been erasing their recent playoff failures over the last couple of weeks, they're also beginning to re-create some impressive past history.
Mike Modano snapped a third-period tie three minutes after Brad Richards' equalizer to help give the Stars a 5-2 come-from-behind win over the San Jose Sharks on Sunday night at HP Pavilion. The victory gave the Stars a 2-0 stranglehold in their Western Conference Semifinal series with the Sharks, with Game 3 set for Tuesday night at American Airlines Center (6:30, my27).
Niklas Hagman scored twice during Dallas' four-goal third period explosion, Mike Ribeiro contributed a first period tally, and Richards added three assists for the Stars, who have now won eight of their past nine at the Shark Tank. Goalie Marty Turco made 29 scintillating saves -- including 22 in the first two periods -- as the Stars have now taken a commanding lead in this second-round set.
Interestingly, the last time Dallas was up two games in the second round was in 2000 when they had that advantage over these same Sharks. Two rounds later, the Stars reached the Stanley Cup Finals for the second straight season.
"It's huge to be up 2-0, big trip for us, but we need to carry the momentum home," Modano said. "It's a long way from over and we have to stay focused and hungry."
The Stars were bolstered by the return of defenseman Sergei Zubov, who was playing for the first time in over three months after having surgery to repair a sports hernia. Zubov was part of a seven-man defensive corps on Sunday, and made it look like old times when he assisted on Modano's winner.
With the puck in the right circle, Zubov quickly whipped a slick behind the back backhand pass to Modano, who was cruising into the high slot. The most prolific playoff goal scorer in franchise history didn't waste the chance, potting a wrist shot for his 14th game-winning postseason goal just 3:39 into the third.
"The first half of the game was a little struggle," Zubov said. "I got better as it went on and I'm obviously thrilled to get the win. For me, as long as I have the same support from the guys, like I did tonight, I'm going to be fine. I jumped on a loose puck and saw open ice on the other side, and fortunately, it got through and Mike made a great shot. It was probably the best period I've seen in a long time and we capitalized on our chances."
Modano's tally came after Richards tied the game at 2 just 32 seconds into the final frame with his second goal of the playoffs. After accepting a pass at the top of the right circle in his own end, San Jose forward Joe Pavelski slipped and subsequently lost the puck to Richards, who quickly took a wrist shot that fooled Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov.
"They got a lucky break," Sharks coach Ron Wilson said. "Joe Pavelski lost an edge and they were in great position. A great player took advantage of a bad break."
Hagman helped ice the game with his first goal of the postseason off Richards' setup. Richards, the 2004 playoff MVP, sent a pass to the front of the San Jose net that went off Nabokov's stick and right to Hagman, who promptly lifted the puck into the net for a 4-2 lead with just over six minutes left in regulation.
The Finnish forward then capped the scoring with an empty-net tally with 75 seconds to go.
It's no surprise the Stars wrestled the game away from the Sharks in the pivotal third period. During the playoffs, Dallas has now scored 17 goals in the third and overtime while allowing Anaheim and San Jose a mere five combined.
"We did play a solid third period and kept coming after them," Richards said. "A good sign of this team is that we can win a lot of different ways, and we did that in Games 1 and 2."
The Stars also did it despite being shorthanded five times, including three straight Sharks man-advantage opportunities in the first period.
"It was a total team effort through all four lines," Ribeiro said. "We battled and believed, stuck with our game plan and forechecked well. Marty was huge and he was our best penalty killer tonight. But there is a lot more to come and we have to keep focus."
Pavelski and Milan Michalek scored for the Sharks, while Nabokov finished with 21 saves before being pulled with two minutes left in the game. Brian Boucher didn't face a shot before he went off for the extra attacker.
"We clawed ourselves back in," Stars coach Dave Tippett said. "In the third period we wanted to come out and push the envelope a little bit. We got a break early, on the early goal, and we kept pushing. I thought we pushed right to the end. We needed a strong period to win the game, and the guys came up with it."
With the game knotted at a goal apiece, the Sharks took a 2-1 lead on Michalek's second goal of the playoffs with 5:06 left in the middle frame. Following a save by Nabokov, the Sharks broke out of their end quickly. Brian Campbell then sprung Michalek when the winger split Trevor Daley and Zubov at the Dallas blueline. Turco charged out of the net in an attempt to snuff out the opportunity, but Michalek went around the goalie and deposited the puck into the net.
The Stars nearly tied it with just under two minutes to go in the second when Modano's wicked wrist shot rattled off the post.
The Sharks grabbed the first lead of the game for the second straight time, snagging a 1-0 advantage on Pavelski's fourth goal of the postseason. At the tail end of San Jose's third straight power play in the first period, Pavelski re-directed defenseman Craig Rivet's shot from the right point past Turco at 10:13.
The Stars tied the game with 4:23 left in the first on Ribeiro's crafty goal, his third of the playoffs. Brenden Morrow's slap shot from the middle of the blueline went wide of the San Jose net, but Ribeiro was able to corral it underneath the goal line. The center then banked the puck of Nabokov's outstretched left leg and in.
Turco kept the Stars in it early on in the first when he made several spectacular saves, including consecutive stops on Jeremy Roenick and Joe Thornton from in tight within a minute's span.
Included in the Sharks' three consecutive power plays in the opening period was a 4-on-3 advantage that helped contribute to San Jose's 14-11 shot advantage after the first 20 minutes.
"The third period was very nice from my perspective," Turco said. "It was a game that we kept building and building momentum as we went. They have played really well and they came at us hard, but we weathered the storm. We know we can win when there are 20 guys pulling on the same rope. It's great to get these wins, but we are not satisfied or content."
So now it's back to Texas, where the Stars look to continue their success against a Sharks team that won the Pacific Division.
"Everybody is really coming together and it feels good," Richards said.
And real historic.
--The Stars are 9-2 in their last 11 playoff series when winning Game 2.
--Since 1998, Dallas is now 14-6 in Game 2's.
--Three of Dallas' eight playoff games have finished with a score of 5-2. The Stars have won two of them.
--Dallas has 28 goals, two behind postseason-leading Philadelphia.
--Morrow has points in five of the eight playoff games.
--Ribeiro is now a point behind Philadelphia's Daniel Briere for the postseason scoring lead. Ribeiro has picked up 11 points in eight games.
--It's now been 27 straight playoff games in which the Stars haven't been shut out, the longest active streak in the league.
--Dallas has won four of five road games this postseason.
--Modano has 57 career playoff goals, three behind Joe Mullen for the most scored by an American-born player.
--Scratched for Dallas were defensemen Philippe Boucher (lower body) and forwards Krys Barch, Brad Winchester, Toby Petersen and B.J. Crombeen.