DALLAS – Sharks captain Patrick Marleau thought he had pushed the puck too far ahead. Maybe it was too much to expect another short-handed goal.
Instead, in an eerie replay for the Dallas Stars, Marleau managed to finish the play with a short-handed goal for the second straight game. This one came in Wednesday night’s 2-1 victory that kept San Jose from being swept in the Western Conference semifinals.
“He’s given us that boost,” teammate Joe Pavelski said. “When the puck is chipped out, he’s got that extra step that a few guys might not be able to get around the defence.”
Like he did in Game 3 on Tuesday, Marleau converted a mistake by Sergei Zubov, this time midway through the second period for a tying goal – right after the Stars missed by inches of taking a 2-0 lead.
“He hasn’t played penalty kill all year long,” Sharks centre Joe Thornton said. “He just has great speed. And obviously when he gets the chance, he’s going to put it in the back of the net. That gave our bench a huge lift.”
San Jose then finally took advantage of a power play when Milan Michalek scored with 16:34 left.
The Sharks were 0-for-4 on power plays in Game 4 before getting another chance when Mike Modano drew a delay of game penalty for knocking a puck into the stands. Brian Campbell made a cross-ice pass to Thornton, who then pushed the puck back to the front of the net, through the legs of Jonathan Cheechoo and onto Michalek’s stick.
“One of the keys to our success has been our discipline. We took a lot of penalties and they capitalized,” Stars captain Brenden Morrow said. “It’s tough to keep the flow and momentum when you’re killing off that many penalties.”
Game 5 is Friday night in San Jose, where the Stars won the first two games of the series. The visiting team has won 14 of the past 18 games between the Pacific Division rivals, dating to last season.
The Stars missed a chance for their first post-season series sweep since 1999, when they beat Edmonton in the first round and went on to win the Stanley Cup. Dallas still has three more chances to advance to the Western Conference finals.
Zubov lost the puck near the blue-line in the Stars zone, and Marleau charged down the ice and shot the puck past Marty Turco. It was the fourth goal of the playoffs for Marleau, and gave him 24 since 2003-04, matching Calgary’s Jarome Iginla for the most during that period.
Marleau’s goal came after Brad Richards’ shot got past Evgeni Nabokov, but ricocheted off the far upper corner of the goal. That was one of two shots by Dallas during the delayed whistle before the power play that went the wrong way the Stars.
“It’s a game of inches, it was close,” Richards said. “You’d like to have those chances back but that’s not the way it is.”
It was only the third game for Zubov after the 15-season veteran and two-time Stanley Cup champion missed three months after operations to place a screw in a bone in his right foot and to repair a sports hernia. He made up for the Game 3 mistake with a tying goal, and after a turnover in Game 2 had the primary assistant on Modano’s tiebreaking goal.
But Zubov never amended the latest miscue, which came when the Stars appeared to be ready to put the series away.
“Those are uncharacteristic mistakes by Zubie,” Stars coach Dave Tippett said. “Those are mistakes that you’d like to see cleaned up.”
After San Jose started the second period with five shots in five minutes without getting one past Turco, the Stars capitalized on a mistake by the Sharks.
Devin Setoguchi was behind the net when he tried to clear the puck. Instead the rookie passed it right to the middle of the ice onto the stick of Jere Lehtinen, whose unassisted goal, his third of the playoffs, made it 1-0.
But that was the only goal past Nabokov, who stopped 17 shots. Turco had 22 saves.
San Jose also come out firing to start the game, attacking the net. But Turco spread out to stop a wrister by Michalek and stopped a point-blank wrister by Mike Grier.
On their two power plays in the first 10 minutes, however, the Sharks didn’t even got off a shot. It was Dallas that had scoring chances each time it was down a man. Morrow got off a shot during the first power play and Modano, in the penalty box for tripping during the first one, stole the puck off the stick of Christian Ehrhoff from behind and then charged toward the net before Nabokov came out to bury the puck.
The Sharks had another power play before the first intermission, when Matt Niskanen got whistled for slashing. That call came seconds after his hard open-ice collision with Jeremy Roenick knocked the stick out of his hands.
San Jose finally got credited with a shot on goal while on the power play, but it was actually a crossing pass that Turco kicked away.
“We’ll embrace the challenge to make history in coming back from a 3-0 deficit,” Sharks coach Ron Wilson said. “We’ve been sitting back too much and not playing Sharks hockey. There were a few blips, but it was a pretty solid effort tonight.”
Notes: San Jose avoided being swept for the first time since Detroit beat them in the second round of the 1995 playoffs. … Stars C Stu Barnes missed the game, a night after taking a hard hit to the head. Tippett said only that Barnes was “feeling the effects” after taking the shot to the head from Cheechoo in the third period of Game 3. He is day to day.