Put away the brooms, Detroit fans — and get out those Game 5 tickets. The Dallas Stars won’t go away just yet.
Dallas avoided being swept for only the third time in franchise history by beating the Detroit Red Wings 3-1 on Wednesday night in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals. The Stars finally solved Detroit goaltender Chris Osgood, who had been unbeaten in nine games since taking over for Dominik Hasek midway through the first round.
Marty Turco, who has never fared well against the Wings, made 33 saves in his best performance of the series.
The odds are still against the Stars — only two teams have ever come back to win after dropping the first three games of a series — but they still have a chance, though winning Game 5 in Detroit won’t be easy.
Before all you Pittsburgh fans get your brooms ready for Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals against Philadelphia, here are a few items to consider from the West.
1. Dallas’ big guns finally fire
The Stars got nothing from Mike Modano and Brenden Morrow in the first three games against Detroit. That had to change for the Stars to avoid a sweep in the Western Conference Finals, and in the third period, it did.
Modano had been held without a goal through the first 11 periods of the series until he connected on a power play at 5:35 of the third period to break a 1-1 tie. It was his first goal in eight games and only his second point of the series.
Morrow, who was playing despite a shoulder injury sustained in Game 3, had been held off the scoresheet since Game 1 before he beat Chris Osgood from nearly the same spot as Modano — between the hash marks, about 15-20 feet in front of the net.
For the Stars to send the series back to Dallas and a sixth game, Modano and Morrow will have to continue to produce.
2. The goal that wasn’t
The game was scoreless and the Wings were on the power play early in the second period when Pavel Datsyuk’s shot zipped past Marty Turco and into the net, giving the Wings the lead.
Not so fast.
Referee Kelly Sutherland waved off the goal, ruling that Tomas Holmstrom, one of the NHL’s best crease-crashers, was in the crease. No penalty was called, but the goal was disallowed.
It was the reverse of Game 1, when Holmstrom was clearly in Turco’s lap in the blue paint when Nicklas Lidstrom’s shot hit him and went into the net. That one was allowed to stand, much to the consternation of Turco and the Stars.
Wings coach Mike Babcock understandably wasn’t thrilled with the call. He said Sutherland told him “his (Holmstrom’s) butt was in the blue.” But he didn’t blame the call for his team’s 3-1 loss, saying the Wings’ failure to finish off their chances was the real reason for the loss.
Don’t expect Holmstrom to change his style because of one waved-off goal. He makes his living making life miserable for goaltenders, and Turco can expect to see a lot of him in Game 5.
Dallas coach Dave Tippett made one tactical move for Game 4 that paid off — he gave more ice time to the checking line centered by Toby Petersen.
Petersen (19:56) and linemates Joel Lundqvist (16:39) and Loui Eriksson (16:40) gave the Stars a spark, Eriksson scored the game’s first goal with 22.7 seconds left in the second period, and all three were involved in shutting down Detroit’s top unit of Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Tomas Holmstrom. The Wings’ lone goal came on one of the line’s few mistakes — a bad pass by Petersen that led to an odd-man rush.
Tippett said Petersen’s line “played excellent for us tonight” and used its speed to do the job defensively.
Assuming Dallas keeps that trio together for Game 5, it will be interesting to see if Wings coach Mike Babcock opts to try to juggle line to get his big scorers out against another unit. As the home team, the Wings will have the last change on Saturday.
4. Déjà vu
By now, everyone in the hockey world must know that the only teams to overcome a 3-0 deficit and win a series are the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs and the 1975 New York Islanders. They did it 33 years apart — and it’s been 33 years since the Isles shocked the Penguins with their comeback in the quarterfinals.
But Dallas coach Dave Tippett is looking no further than his team’s most recent series for inspiration. The Stars led San Jose 3-0 in the Western Semifinals, lost the next two games and had to go four overtimes before eliminating the Sharks in Game 6.
When asked at his postgame news conference what he had learned from that experience, Tippett drew laughs when he replied: “You can get nervous when the other team starts winning. That's where we were.”
One difference in the two series: San Jose won Game 4 on the road and was able to go home for Game 5. For the Stars to stay alive, they’ll have to win at Joe Louis Arena, where the Red Wings are 7-0 in this year’s playoffs.
5. Quicker on the draw
One area in which the Stars helped themselves in Game 4 was faceoffs. Detroit dominated draws in the first three games — and the last thing you want to give a puck-possession team is more chances to possess the puck.
In a game that saw only 49 faceoffs, the Stars won 23 and lost 26 (46.9 percent) —not great, but a big improvement from the first three games, in which they won 60 draws and lost 105 (34.3 percent).
The biggest turnaround came from Mike Ribeiro, who won just eight of 30 faceoffs in the first three games. He was credited with 10 wins in 11 tries. In contrast, Brad Richards lost all six of his draws.
Detroit’s Henrik Zetterberg is still the fastest on the draw in this series. He took 24 faceoffs in Game 4 and won 16 of them — 66.7 percent. For the series, he’s won 47 of 72 faceoffs, a 65.3 percent success rate that’s a big reason his line is dangerous every time it’s on the ice.