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Halpern, Lehtinen each get goal and two assists as Stars beat Avalanche 5-4

At least he hoped to sleep in a hotel. "I think they set us up?" Conner said after he scored his first NHL goal in the Stars' 5-4 win over the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday night. "It's been kind of crazy." And memorable. "I'm just trying to help the team win," he said.

Conner was recalled from Iowa of the AHL earlier in the day to replace captain Brenden Morrow, who was back home in Dallas recovering from wrist surgery. Morrow was injured in Dallas's loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday and underwent surgery later to repair severed tendons in his right wrist after he was stepped on by a skate.

The Stars were also without alternate captain Mike Modano (hip flexor), Eric Lindros (upper body injury) and Steve Ott (fractured ankle) and yet still found a way to earn the win.

"This after losing a heart and soul guy in Brenden," said Jeff Halpern, who had a goal and two assists. "The young guys and the veterans balanced out well for us.

"The young guys got us started and the veterans finished it up."

Trailing 4-3, Dallas got goals from Halpern and Sergei Zubov 1:16 apart early in the third period to give the Stars a lead they wouldn't give up.

Dallas's scoring spree also ended the night of Avalanche goalie Jose Theodore. Colorado coach Joel Quenneville pulled Theodore with 18:08 remaining in the game and put in Peter Budaj. Theodore stopped 17 of 22 shots.

"The goaltending wasn't good enough at that stage of the game," Quenneville explained. "Putting Peter in gave us a little spark, and we needed better goaltending."

Marty Turco was typically solid - especially of late - stopping 28 shots and winning for the third time in his last four starts.

To get the win, though, Turco and the Stars survived a 6-on-4 opportunity when the Avalanche pulled Budaj with 43 seconds left and Trevor Daley was called for holding with 10.4 seconds left.

The Avalanche were 2-for-6 on the power play.

"We had a little bit of everybody tonight," Turco said. "It was a great team effort."

With Morrow missing for an indefinitely, that's the way the Stars have to play. Jere Lehtinen had a goal and two assists and Loui Eriksson scored his third goal of the season 2:57 into the game.

"We're going to have to cope with Brenden's loss as a team," Turco said. "We'll adjust. We can't feel sorry for us."

Wojtek Wolski had a goal and two assists for Colorado. He now has five points in his last two games.

Wolski also made a play that had the crowd buzzing. Wolski went up the left boards, only to be cut off by Dallas defender Stephane Robidas. Wolski put the puck around Robidas, grabbed it on the other side and fired a wrist shot. Joe Sakic picked up the rebound and put it in for his 16th goal of the season.

"We were taking the puck to the net and creating space and that opened the game up a lot (early)," Wolski said.

The momentum Wolski's goal created was stolen when Conner scored 26 seconds later.

"It was awesome. I can't say any more," Conner said of his first goal. "I hope my mom and dad were watching in Michigan."

In his haste, though, Conner forgot to grab the puck.

However, teammate Stu Barnes was watching out for Conner and retrieved it for him.

"This is just a great, great feeling," Conner said.

Notes: Sakic now has 1,529 career points, two behind Paul Coffey for 10th place on the NHL's all-time scoring list . . . Colorado defenceman Patrice Brisebois suffered a back injury in the second period and didn't return . . . A makeup date for the Colorado-Calgary game has yet to be announced. The game was postponed Dec. 21 after a blizzard dumped close to 75 centimetres of snow on the city . . . Paul Stastny turned 21 on Wednesday and had an assist.


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