VANCOUVER - One goalie was the difference; the other got the hook.
Marty Turco made key saves down the stretch Tuesday night to preserve the Dallas Stars' 4-3 victory over the Vancouver Canucks and jump-start their NHL playoff drive. At the other end of the ice, back-up Curtis Sanford was looking to make up for the absence of all-star netminder Roberto Luongo. But after conceding three goals on 11 shots 24 minutes into the game he was in his usual position, opening a door to the Canuck bench while a minor-league call-up took his place.
Sanford was victimized by a puck that bounced over his shoulder on a goal by Trevor Daley, Mike Modano blew another behind him from 45 feet and Stephane Robidas scored on a power-play point shot through traffic as Dallas took a 3-1 lead.
"He didn't have a chance on many of them ... some lasers, some bad bounces ... that's the way it goes," said a sympathetic Turco who made 29 saves, including three close-in chances by Canuck winger Taylor Pyatt.
"With Louie not being here he wanted to give his team a big boost but I'm sure he found it somewhat difficult coming out of a mandatory break and he hasn't been playing all that often either."
The Canucks gave Luongo this game off along with the weekend all-star break to be with his pregnant wife, Gina, in Florida. He'll play Thursday when Vancouver starts a critical four-game road trip in Tampa Bay.
Sanford said his effort put the Canucks and coach Alain Vigneault in a bad position.
"It's embarrassing to get pulled especially to get pulled in front of your own fans," said Sanford. "(Vigneault) had to do that. If I was in his position, I would have done the same thing. It's a pressure position and I have to play better than I did tonight.
"The last two goals are saves I have to make and saves I should make."
While Sanford was shaky, Drew MacIntyre, called up from the AHL Manitoba Moose, took the loss as Steve Ott scored Dallas's fourth goal, and eventual winner, on a two-on-one short-handed break-in.
Henrik Sedin got a deflected puck over Turco's glove in the first period.
Ryan Kesler, who buried Matt Cook's centring pass and Markus Naslund, who scored with MacIntyre lifted for a sixth attacker, made it close with 80 seconds remaining.
Dallas snapped a two-game losing streak to improve to 29-20-5 after entering the all-star break second in the Pacific Division with just five wins in their last 14 games.
The Canucks, who led the Northwest Division earlier this month, dropped to 26-21-5 with their fifth loss in six games.
The Stars were sparked by defencemen Daley and Robidas who got their second and third goals of the season, respectively.
"They're jumping in the play, they're active and that's the way we want them," said coach Dave Tippett.
But Turco had to be good with three young defencemen in the line-up.
"We need our goaltender to be good and basically he won the game for us," Tippett said. "He was the difference." Robidas said the Stars simply wanted to fire pucks at Sanford.
"There's no bad shot," Robidas said. "We got lucky a little bit but we'll take it".
"When you know a goalie hasn't played much you try to put as much traffic and as many pucks at the net as you can because he's probably not in the best game shape." Pyatt, who kept hitting Turco's pads, said the veteran netminder ruined their comeback chances.
"We worked the puck around pretty well and were getting some good time in the zone and getting the puck to the net as much as possible," Pyatt said. "It just didn't seem to work out for us." Naslund, who was minus-two on the night despite scoring, saw his team give up the first goal for the seventh straight game, something that has to end on the road trip.
"We need to get off to good starts and we need to finish better," Naslund said. "We need to score goals here, we just can't rely on the goalies."
NOTES:The Canucks recorded their 200th consecutive sellout ... Vancouver defenceman Lukas Krajicek, who left last week's game against St. Louis with a shoulder injury, was replaced by Mike Weaver ... among other defencemen Willie Mitchell (back) and Kevin Bieksa (lacerated calf muscle) have resumed skating ... Sanford had a 5-0-2 record against the Canucks before he came to Vancouver ... Dallas defenceman Sergei Zubov missed his fifth game with a groin injury ... the Stars also play their next four games against Northwest Division clubs.