So that's what it takes to beat the Red Wings in these playoffs: Dallas' best effort, certainly of the series and perhaps of the post-season. (And that's saying something when you take a moment to recall how efficiently Dallas dispatched the defending Stanley Cup-champion Ducks in the first round.)
The Stars threw everything they had at the Wings, from the opening minute of the first period through to captain Brenden Morrow's clinching goal with about five minutes remaining in the third. It was an impressive outing for Dallas – in all likelihood it merely delays the inevitable elimination, but hey, give Big D some credit – and perhaps most telling was the Stars' ability to recover from Henrik Zetterberg's game-tying goal in the first minute of the third after Loui Eriksson had given the home side a 1-0 lead in the final minute of the second.
Eriksson, who nearly scored late in the second on a wraparound, jumped over the boards for one more shift at the end of the middle frame and shoveled in a Tomas Holmstrom-esque, blue-ice special when he gave the Stars their first lead of the series at 19:37.
While Eriksson's goal wasn't pretty (did we mention it was Tomas Holmstrom-esque? More on him later…) the Stars' second and third markers were identical beauties that even incorporated some time-space continuum stuff. And let's face it, sci-fi doesn't happen nearly enough in the game of hockey. Former captain Mike Modano, the longtime face of the franchise, scored an old-school Stars power play goal when he took a tic-tac-toe pass (Sergei Zubov on the left half-boards provided the tac, Brad Richards on the point started it off with the tic) and one-timed a slapshot from the slot past Chris Osgood.
How many times have we seen Zubov-to-Modano-and-in? How many times has old Mike, old Mr. America, blasted home a third period game-winner for Dallas? Let's leave it at "lots" and just enjoy the moment.
OK, about that time-space continuum stuff. As Dallas clung to its 2-1 lead in the middle stages of the third, you know coach Dave Tippett's heart was thumping like Tomas Holmstrom in a goal crease (not yet; we'll get to the Nemesis Of All Netminders later). But Tippett has a player like few others, and he happens to be the Stars' current captain.
And Brenden Morrow, in a poetic nod to Modano, happened to score the 3-1 goal from the exact same spot and in nearly the exact same manner as Mikey Franchise's game-winner, hammering a slapper from the slot past Osgood at 14:34. Zubov didn't make the pass to Morrow, but he did make the pass to the player (Mike Ribeiro) who made the pass. Finally, Morrow even celebrated with the same joyous fist-pump that Modano threw out after his moment of glory. So, old team leader chips in, new team leader closes out the deal, and Dallas lives to fist-pump another day.
Holmstrom. Right. You all know his game. He stands in front of opposing goalies, agitating and screening like a Swedish Dino Ciccarelli for the 21st century.
Holmstrom does it well, probably better than anyone in the league, and we always seem to be talking about him in the playoffs; at least, a lot more than we talk about most of the league's other 20-goal scorers. He's a playoff guy. But, his on-the-edge (of-the-crease) reputation may have hurt the Wings in Game 4.
With Detroit on a power play in the second period, Holmstrom fell/bulled into Marty Turco and Detroit nearly scored. Looked like goalie interference, but no goal, so all is forgotten. Except…a few seconds later, with Holmstrom clearly on the white ice inches outside the crease's blue paint (inches!, we say) and not interfering with Turco (screening, yes; interfering, no), the Wings scored what should have been the first goal of the game.
Except…the referee immediately waved it off. Huh? Even more confusing, there's no penalty on Holmstrom for goalie interference (which he wasn't, but if you're waving off the goal for that reason…seems like grounds for a penalty).
Long story short. Should've been a goal. Would've been 1-0 Detroit. Could've been a completely different outcome to Game 4. The Wings won't waste much time on the shoulda, coulda, woulda, but you know GM Ken Holland is mailing NHL head ref Stephen Walkom the videotape on that one. Because, irony of ironies, Holmstrom was the innocent victim. This time, anyway.
Stop of the game? How about Marty Turco's right pad on Kirk Maltby's one-timer from the slot with Dallas clinging to a 2-1 lead in the third? It was a good one, but there were plenty to choose from: Detroit outshot Dallas 29-13 over the final 40 minutes.
And finally…the Wings had a 6-on-3 in the final minute of the third period. It was only for 19 seconds, but try telling that to Turco.
THN.com's Playoff Blogs, featuring analysis and opinion on the night's action with insight on what happened and what it all means going forward, will appear daily throughout the NHL playoffs. Read more entries HERE.
Sam McCaig is The Hockey News' senior copy editor and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Tuesdays and his column, From The Point, every second Friday.
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