With an opportunity to live for another day, the Dallas Stars not only grabbed the chance, they're running all the way back to Michigan with it.
Playing with their collective backs against the wall, the Stars staved off elimination with a resounding 3-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals at American Airlines Center on Wednesday night. The win sends the series back north to Detroit for a fifth game on Saturday afternoon (12:30 p.m., Versus).
"We're going to get rest and go and have the same effort there," captain Brenden Morrow said. "We haven't had a lot of success there, but we're going to try and break that and hope that doubt starts creeping in (for them)."
Loui Eriksson, Mike Modano and Morrow scored for a Stars team that had been slumping coming in, so winning for just the second time in their last seven playoff games really didn't matter much in the grand scheme of things. What did was Dallas' ability to finally solve a Red Wings team that seemed invincible up to this point.
Henrik Zetterberg scored the lone goal for Detroit, which had its franchise-high nine-game playoff winning streak snapped. Goalie Chris Osgood finished with 19 saves.
Marty Turco, meanwhile, made 33 stops -- including 28 in the final two frames -- to secure the win.
"It's about the biggest," Turco said about his team's performance in the win-or-go-home tilt. "It was a no-brainer, the situation that we were in. It was a pretty intense and desperate game from everyone on our side. We need to continue to play like that to have a chance. It was a night of resiliency all the way around."
The victory began taking shape when Eriksson's goal came with just 22.7 seconds left in the second period. It gave the Stars their first lead of the series, and also some jump in their step and a renewed sense of confidence after the Red Wings had them squirming in an 0-3 series hole.
"Having the lead was something that was exciting to see, and changed our feeling about things," Modano said.
That lead, though, was short-lived, as Zetterberg tied it just 49 seconds into the third period with his 10th postseason goal. After accepting a pass from Pavel Datsyuk, Zetterberg let go a wrist shot from the left faceoff dot that went past Turco on the glove side.
But Modano helped Dallas regain the edge while on the power play, scoring his fifth goal of the playoffs at 5:35 of the third. Lurking in the high slot, Modano blasted a one-timer past Osgood after receiving a slick pass from defenseman Sergei Zubov.
The goal was just the second power play tally for the Stars this series, but it couldn't have come at a better time, especially since Zetterberg seemed to zap some life out of the arena.
"We were mentally tough after that," Morrow said about his team's ability to rebound from what could have been the beginning of a overwhelming Detroit surge. "Everyone gutted it out. A lot of teams with a big goal like that, it could crush them. But we gritted it out."
Indeed, as the captain iced the game nine minutes later with another goal from the high slot to make it 3-1. After delivering a big hit, Morrow cruised to the middle of the ice and received a pass from Mike Ribeiro. Morrow quickly whipped a shot low for his ninth postseason goal.
"There's big momentum shifts in every game," Morrow said. "We fought through that."
The rest was up to Turco, who made 14 saves in the third, including denying Daniel Cleary's rebound attempt from in tight with less than a minute to go in regulation. The Red Wings then had a 6-on-3 advantage because of a pair of Dallas penalties on Morrow and Modano, as well as Osgood being out for an extra attacker with 35 seconds to go. But the potent Red Wings were unable to get a shot on Turco during the final frantic seconds.
"His job is an awful tough job to do because the goalie gets scrutinized, good or bad," coach Dave Tippett said. "He came up with a big effort tonight."
Turco kept the game scoreless with a magnificent second-period when Detroit outshot the Stars by a 14-6 margin, including enjoying a 13-2 edge at one point. Turco was also helped by the officials, who waved off Datsyuk's apparent power-play goal with 12 minutes left in the middle frame. Datsyuk's wrist shot from the right circle eluded Turco, but it was ruled that pesky forward Tomas Holmstrom impeded Turco's ability to make the stop.
"I couldn't move freely to make that save," Turco said.
Holmstrom's skates didn't appear to be inside the blue crease area, but his rear end was.
"He looked like he was right on the edge," Tippett said. "Those are the things that happen in a game."
"It's disappointing," Detroit coach Mike Babcock rebutted. "The way I look at it is a lot goes on on the ice. Just don't make stuff up."
Cleary nearly gave Detroit the advantage a minute later, but his rebound attempt trickled off the outside of the post along the ice.
Surviving the barrage, the Stars broke through with Eriksson's goal late in the second. From the outer edge of the right circle, Stephane Robidas sent a shot towards the Red Wings net that bounced off Eriksson and past Osgood.
For Eriksson, it was the first time he scored since his tally in Game 6 of the first-round series against Anaheim.
In the first period, the Stars were handed three consecutive power play opportunities but were unable to capitalize. Dallas, though, returned the favor by killing off all three of Detroit's power plays in the second period.
The two teams now will get an extra day of rest before meeting in the pivotal Game 5 at Joe Louis Arena Saturday afternoon.
"We need a thread of life, and now we have a thread of life and some momentum," Tippett said. "We'll see what happens."
--Forward Krystopher Barch made his 2008 postseason debut, replacing Chris Conner.
--Zubov added a pair of assists for his first points in four games.
--Robidas has three points in his last five playoff games.
--Dallas has been swept in a seven-game series only twice in franchise history.
--The Red Wings were once again without forward Johan Franzen, who continues to be sidelined because of a concussion. Franzen is the top goal-scorer in the playoffs with 12.
--Dallas had played either tied or behind for over 219 minutes in this series before Eriksson's goal.
--Dallas scratches were defensemen Philippe Boucher (lower body) and Mark Fistric, and forwards Jere Lehtinen (leg), Stu Barnes (head), Brandon Crombeen, and Conner.
1 - 0 DAL
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 DAL
3 - 1 DAL
Holding the stick