SAN JOSE, Calif. – Their dressing room is small and spare, and the teal-coloured crowd despises them. Yet the Dallas Stars feel right at home these days in the Shark Tank.
Even when they gave up a tying goal late in regulation Friday night, the Stars seemed more comfortable and capable than their hosts. Brenden Morrow then proved it with a game-winner that got Dallas off to another fine playoff start.
Morrow scored his second goal 4:39 into overtime, and the Stars opened their second-round series with a 3-2 victory over the San Jose Sharks.
Mike Modano also scored another timely goal against one of his favourite opponents, and Marty Turco made 25 saves in the Stars’ seventh win in their last eight trips to Silicon Valley. They’ve thoroughly dominated the Pacific Division champion Sharks here for two years, leading Modano to jokingly rename his team “the San Jose Stars” after their sixth straight win in January.
“It’s a really fun place to play. The atmosphere is great,” said Morrow, who already has five goals – two more than his previous career playoff high – in Dallas’s seven post-season games.
“Our goal was to come in and steal a game,” Morrow added. “You never know what it will be or how many goals it will take. We didn’t want to be denied. Marty had such a great first period for us to keep us in the game.”
Game 2 is Sunday night, with Game 3 in Dallas on Tuesday.
After eliminating defending Stanley Cup champion Anaheim in the first round, the fifth-seeded Stars rallied from a two-shot first period and an early deficit to take away home-ice advantage from the division rival Sharks, who needed seven games to put away Calgary in the opening round.
Jonathan Cheechoo scored the tying goal for San Jose with 3:02 left in the third period, but the Sharks’ defensive confusion allowed Mattias Norstrom to whip the puck across the ice to Morrow early in OT. The Dallas captain scored easily against an off-balance Evgeni Nabokov, who finished with 16 saves.
“Some good things have happened here,” said Modano, who became the NHL’s leading American-born scorer during a game in San Jose last year. “I’ve had a lot of games over a lot of seasons against these guys. After so many years and games, I kind of feel comfortable out West.”
Milan Michalek scored an early goal for the second-seeded Sharks, who blew Game 1 for the second straight series. San Jose again endured special-teams mistakes while taking a handful of careless penalties and struggling to generate offence against the Dallas trap.
“We need to do a better job on some guys on some of their lines,” Sharks captain Patrick Marleau said. “We need to get more shots and generate more traffic. We’ll make some changes and go from there.”
The Sharks reached the second round for their NHL-best fourth straight season, while Dallas ended a streak of three straight first-round defeats by eliminating the Ducks in impressive fashion.
Both teams came out cautiously for their ninth meeting of the season. The Stars didn’t get their first shot of the game until late in their second power play with 3:36 left in the first period.
Michalek, who went scoreless in the Sharks’ first seven games against Calgary, got credit for their first goal when his shot trickled underneath Turco midway through the second period. Modano, who scored four goals in four trips to San Jose during the regular season, tied it with a power-play goal 76 seconds later, putting a one-timer through traffic.
“(On) the goals they scored, we lost the battles,” Sharks coach Ron Wilson said. “We turned it over against a great line. You don’t win the battles, (you) give somebody like Mike Ribeiro two or three shots at making plays. It should be one, and then we snuff it and get the puck out.”
Morrow then scored on a rebound of Ribeiro’s shot for his team-leading fourth goal of the post-season. The Sharks couldn’t break through until Cheechoo, the goal-scoring specialist who also tied Game 4 against Calgary with a remarkable late score, banged home Torrey Mitchell’s rebound of Matt Carle’s shot for his fourth goal of the post-season.
Dallas had a power play in the final 2 1/2 minutes of regulation, but couldn’t score.
The clubs split eight meetings during the regular season, with each winning its first three trips to the other team’s building before two late-season home victories. The Sharks and Stars racked up 160 penalty minutes in the regular-season finale 19 days earlier, with several fighting majors in both clubs’ most-penalized game of the season.
Though they were even against each other, the clubs finished the regular season on opposite trajectories. San Jose trailed the division-leading Stars by 11 points on Feb. 29, but a 20-game string without a regulation defeat catapulted the Sharks past Dallas to the Pacific title.
Dallas defenceman Sergei Zubov was scratched again despite rejoining workouts this week. Zubov, a two-time Stanley Cup winner, has been out since Jan. 17 because of a sports hernia.
Notes: Both clubs played their first overtime game of the post-season. … Dallas’ Shark Tank winning streak ended with San Jose’s overtime victory March 27. … C Jeremy Roenick, who scored four points Tuesday in San Jose’s clinching win over Calgary, is second behind Modano on the list of American-born scorers. … San Jose played its third straight game without D Kyle McLaren, who has a groin injury.