After all their recent playoff failures, the Dallas Stars certainly got a lot more than they hoped in the first two games against Anaheim.
“We just wanted to come in and steal one,” captain Brenden Morrow said. “And we got Game 1 out of the way and then we wanted to get greedy and steal two. We were fortunate.”
Before even playing on home ice, Dallas has a 2-0 series lead against the defending Stanley Cup champion Ducks. Mike Modano and Brad Richards scored less than a minute apart in the third period to break a 2-2 tie in Game 2 late Saturday night, that 5-2 victory coming after the Stars dominated the series opener 4-0.
“I think it was better for us to start on the road to get that mind-set and get really involved in the series,” Modano said.
The Stars, eliminated in the first round of the last three Western Conference playoffs, come home with a 2-0 lead for the first time in their 23 post-season series since moving to Dallas, where they won the 1999 Stanley Cup and made it back to the finals the following year. Game 3 is Tuesday night.
Anaheim is already in a deep hole as it tries to become the first team in 10 years – since Detroit in 1997 and 1998 – to win back-to-back Stanley Cups.
“Nobody’s quitting,” Chris Pronger said. “We’ve got to dig in now, do a good job back there like they did against us here.”
In its playoff run last year, Anaheim lost only five games in their four series.
“There’s no explaining,” goalie Jean Sebastien Giguere said, when asked what’s going wrong. “As a group, we just have to get better.”
The Stars scored four power-play goals in Game 1. Then after blowing a 2-0 lead in Game 2, and seemingly their momentum, Modano and Richards scored only 55 seconds apart, and Loui Eriksson added another goal.
Richards had five assists in his first game for the Stars on Feb. 28 after the 2004 Conn Smythe Trophy winner was acquired in trade deadline deal from Tampa Bay. But he had only two goals and four assists (two in one game) in 11 games after that, including a six-game scoreless streak, before missing the last three regular season game because of soreness.
So far in the playoffs, Richards has a goal and two assists.
“We wanted to realize the kind of guy he was, how much it meant to him. Once his play was cleaner, so was his mind,” goalie Marty Turco said. “That’s something we’re going to need with our centre men. Guys are making plays, taking hits and getting back up. It’s a tall order for everyone, but he’s just one of those guys.”
While Modano is the highest-scoring American-born player in NHL history, and Richards has a playoffs MVP trophy from Tampa Bay’s championship, Mike Ribeiro was the All-Star centre for Dallas this season.
Ribeiro had an unassisted goal to start the scoring in Game 2, when he had a breakaway after an Anaheim turnover. He also has four assists in the series.
Turco had three shutouts and a 1.30 goals against average in last year’s playoff against Vancouver, and a career-best shutout streak of more than 165 minutes. Turco got to just less than half of that total – 83:41 – before giving up a goal against the Ducks.
Still, Turco and the Stars have to win two more games before finally breaking a four-series losing streak and advancing. The last post-season series they won was the first round of the 2003 playoffs against Edmonton before losing a conference semifinal in six games against Anaheim.
“We can’t look too far ahead,” Morrow said.
The Stars have started only one other playoff series in franchise history with two wins on the road – and they lost that one. But it was 16 years ago when the team was still in Minnesota, and lost a best-of-seven, first-round series against Detroit.
Since moving to Dallas in 1993, the Stars have been up 2-0 in six playoff series and won all of them.
But the Ducks aren’t planning to step aside and let Dallas move on this time without a fight.
“We know we are in a tough situation. They’re confident and we’re going back to their building,” defenceman Sean O’Donnell said. “We need to play with the same type of road style like they did.”