DALLAS – The Dallas Stars are taking their chase of the Stanley Cup into the second round of the playoffs – and the reigning champs aren’t.
Stephane Robidas, playing with a cage covering his broken nose, scored the tying goal on the power play early in the third period then set up Stu Barnes for the go-ahead goal 52 seconds later, sending the Stars past the Anaheim Ducks 4-1 Sunday night to end their first-round series in six games.
The Ducks are the fifth straight defending Stanley Cup champions to fail to make the second round. The NHL hasn’t had a repeat winner since Detroit in 1997-98. No champion has even taken a title to the finals since the Stars in 2000.
Dallas is so far removed from those glory days that the guy who scored their Cup-winning goal in 1999, Brett Hull, is now the co-general manager. The Stars hadn’t even won a playoff series since a first-rounder in ’03 and had dropped four straight series since then, all of which made this victory even sweeter to the home crowd.
Fans were relieved as much as anything.
On top of the frustration of three straight first-round knockouts, plus the lockout, since the last series win, Dallas went from leading this series 2-0 and 3-1 to nearly having to go back to Anaheim for a Game 7. The Ducks led 1-0 after two periods – a slim margin, but a bad omen for Dallas considering the team that had scored first had won every game so far.
But the Stars opened the third period with extra sizzle, then a power play just 17 seconds in unleashed them.
Robidas plugged in a rebound off the end boards for his first career playoff goal. It also ended an 0-for-18 drought on power plays for a team that had opened the series 8-for-18 with the man advantage.
The tying goal brought the crowd to life and Robidas kept them hollering by skating in and feeding Barnes for a nifty shot right in front of the crease. The 37-year-old Barnes was so happy about his goal that he gave a flying chest bump to the glass.
Jean-Sebastien Giguere made several terrific saves after that to keep the Ducks a shot away from tying it. But Marty Turco stiffened up, too, coming up with a series of denials, prompting repeated cries of “Mar-ty! Mar-ty!”
Loui Erickson gave him some breathing room by scoring with 2:18 left. Then, with 3.3 seconds left, franchise icon Mike Modano capped it all with a goal into an open net. It was such a big moment that arena triggermen decided to fire off the streamer cannons, not bothering to wait for regulation to end.
When time expired, the Ducks slowly returned to the ice for the post-game handshake. Corey Perry – who came back midway through this series after missing six weeks with a sliced thigh, and scored Anaheim’s only goal in this game – was doubled over at the blue-line for several seconds, hardly moving.
Playing their third game in four days, the teams played it safe the first two periods. While Anaheim made more mistakes, Dallas was never able to capitalize. The Stars’ best stretch came in the opening minutes of the second period – only to end with Perry scoring a relatively soft goal. The Ducks got the puck to the Stars’ end so quickly that Giguere got the second assist.
Anaheim took only nine shots through two periods and one more in the first 15 minutes of the third period
Notes: The road team won the first three games of the series, then the home team won the next three. … The Stars hadn’t won two home games in one series since ’03 and hadn’t closed out a series at home since the Western Conference finals in 2000. … Ducks D Rob Niedermayer made the trip, but was scratched. He’d been out since a concussion in Game 2. … Dallas C Joel Lundqvist’s wife gave birth to their first child Sunday, nearly a week after her due date. They had a girl. … This was the third time in franchise history the Stars have eliminated a Cup champion, the first time since moving to Dallas. The Minnesota North Stars did it to Montreal in 1980 and Edmonton in 1991.