Jeff Halpern and Joel Lundqvist scored on the opening shift in each of the first two periods, and Marty Turco made 35 saves as the Stars evened their best-of-seven first-round playoff series with a 2-0 win over Vancouver on Friday night.
“It was amazing, our guys were talking about it yesterday, that we’re going to come out and dictate the pace,” Stars coach Dave Tippett said. “Halpern got us on the board early and I thought we were off and running.
Stu Barnes assisted on both goals for the Stars, who head back to Dallas tied in the Western Conference quarter-final. Game 3 is Sunday night.
After playing almost seven periods before losing in the early hours of Thursday morning, and coming back less than 42 hours to play again, the Stars came out with lots of early energy. It took them only 24 seconds to get the goal they couldn’t through 78:06 of overtime in Game 1, with Halpern scoring on the first shift of the game.
Left alone in the slot after a defensive zone breakdown by the Canucks, Halpern deflected Sergei Zubov’s pass from the point behind a sliding Roberto Luongo.
“I don’t know if you can plan something like that but we wanted to come out early and have a good effort to start the game,” Barnes said. “It was nice to get the goal really early like that.”
It was more of the same to start the second period, with Lundqvist left unchecked to convert Mike Modano’s cross-ice feed just 45 seconds in.
That was more than enough offence for the Stars, who were one of just two teams (Buffalo was the other) to win every game they held a two-goal lead in during the regular season. Dallas was 28-0-0 when leading by two goals this season.
“For me tonight it was two mistakes at the beginning of each the first and second period from two different forwards that led to tap-in goals for them, Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. “And it wasn’t the fact our guys were fatigued, it was just we didn’t bring our best game to the table.”
Turco, under fire for an 8-15 record and five straight overtime losses in the playoffs, made his best saves in the final six minutes. He slid across to stop Willie Mitchell in the slot and got a piece of hard shots by Mattias Ohlund and Sami Salo to preserve his first shutout in 24 career playoff appearances. Not that Turco, who stopped 17 shots in the third, was making a big deal about it.
“I thought I had one the other night, he said with a smile, pointing to three scoreless overtime periods. “I count those. It doesn’t really mean anything, it’s all about the first win of our series.”
Turco, 1-7 in his previous eight road playoff games, was also good in the first period, getting his left toe on Jannik Hansen’s deflection and sprawling to stop Henrik Sedin on a rebound in the slot.
“I’ve never second-guessed what I can do,” he said. “There’s been disappointment, there’s going to be more at times down the road. I’ve talked a lot about it, just doing what I can and really concentrating 100 per cent on that and just accepting what comes.”
Despite the 35 shots, there wasn’t much in the way of high-quality chances coming at Turco from the Canucks, especially in the second period as Vancouver missed the net on their few scoring chances, and Jan Bulis hit the post from the slot with 2:30 left in the period.
“He was just solid in there,” Tippett said. “I don’t think they had a lot of great chances or outnumbered rushes or anything but there was a lot of poking and prodding around the net and he was very strong in there.”
Elsewhere in the NHL playoff action, it was: Predators 5, Sharks 2; and Ducks 3, Wild 2.
At Vancouver, Luongo, who faced an NHL record 76 shots in his Game 1 playoff debut, made 25 saves in his first postseason loss, but had little chance on the two goals.
Vancouver was 0-for-6 on the power play, but only two lasted the full two minutes as the Canucks took themselves off the advantage by taking more penalties.
“They’re a solid defensive hockey team and you don’t usually get a lot of chances against them,” Vigneault said. “The fact our power play not only wasn’t clicking but seemed every time we were on a power play we were taking a penalty 15-20 seconds later, that made it challenging for us.”
Predators 5, Sharks 2
At Nashville, Tenn., J.P. Dumont scored a short-handed goal, then added a power-play goal 2½ minutes later, and the Predators evened their Western Conference quarter-final by beating San Jose.
Game 3 of the best-of-seven series is Monday night in San Jose.
Ducks 3, Wild 2
At Anaheim, Calif., defenceman Francois Beauchemin scored two power-play goals and Ilya Bryzgalov made 30 saves as the Ducks went up 2-0 in the best-of-seven Western Conference series.