Turning on the power — Dallas’ power play had been MIA in the Western Conference Finals. Entering the third period of Game 4, the Stars were 1-for-18 with the man advantage against Detroit, a big reason the Red Wings were 20 minutes away from a sweep.
The Stars generated little in three first-period power plays, but finally made the extra man pay off early in the third period when Mike Modano scored to break a 1-1 tie. Dallas went on to a 3-1 win that extended the series to a fifth game.
“We've been struggling a little bit on the power play. It hasn't been really working out for us as far as the plays and things opening up,” Modano said. “They're really good at anticipating things and shutting down lanes, really clogging things up. And you don't get many second or third chances on 'em, too.”
Dallas got a break when Detroit forward Dan Cleary broke his stick. Sergei Zubov’s pass whizzed right past the stickless Cleary to Modano, who ripped a shot from between the hash marks past Chris Osgood for the go-ahead goal.
“We were able to get it set up finally,” Modano said. “Zubov down low on that side is someone that can really thread the needle, find the open guy. Once it came down to him, I was able to get off a little bit, get the shot off before (Kris) Draper came behind me.”
Staying tough — You could almost feel the air go out of the crowd at the American Airlines Center when Detroit’s Henrik Zetterberg scored 49 seconds into the third period of Game 4 to pull the Red Wings even at 1-1.
On another night, the Stars might have folded. Not this time.
"We were mentally tough after that," captain Brenden Morrow said about his team's ability to rebound from what could have been the beginning of a Detroit surge. "Everyone gutted it out. A lot of teams with a big goal like that, it could crush them. But we gritted it out."
The goal came after one of the Stars’ few bad plays — a bad pass by Toby Petersen that led to an odd-man rush.
“When you're in the situation we are, where there's no tomorrow, you might as well keep playing,” coach Dave Tippett said. “You're in a do-or-die situation. The guys talked about it. As soon as it happened on the bench, that's not going to deter us tonight. The play was made by Toby Petersen. He tries to make a good play, got intercepted, it's back in our net.
“I was real glad to see that that wasn't a factor in the outcome because Petersen's line played excellent for us tonight.”
Nothing you can do — Detroit coach Mike Babcock wasn’t happy about having an apparent goal by Pavel Datsyuk waved off in the second period. Datsyuk rifled a shot past Marty Turco during a power play, but referee Kelly Sutherland waved off the goal, saying that Detroit’s Tomas Holmstrom was in the crease.
In Game 1, Holmstrom was in the crease and had a puck deflect into the net off his leg. That goal was allowed to stand. This time, it looked like Holmstrom’s feet were outside the crease, though he appeared to be leaning into the blue paint.
“I guess the way I look at it is this: In the League there's lots that goes on the ice,” Babcock said. “Sometimes a guy gets tripped and you miss it. Some things go wrong and you miss it. Just don't make stuff up, that's all.
“These men are doing their very best, just like us. They want to get to the Stanley Cup Finals. Kelly is a good referee. He just blew the call. That's life.”
It’s not over ‘til it’s over — There’s nothing like desperation to get a team to pick up the level of its play.
“When your desperation level's as high as ours was tonight, knowing a loss could send you on your way for the summer, you rise up,” Dallas captain Brenden Morrow said after the Stars’ 3-1 win over Detroit in Game 4.
Goaltender Marty Turco said his team has the right attitude to come back despite losing the first three games of the series.
“Over the last couple days, we've been talking about doing the right things,” he said. “I think in years prior, other, different circumstances, we've not entirely talked about the right things. We had a firm grasp on how to act, how we need to play, how we're gonna do it, and it's together.
“It's amazing things you can do, you know, when you bond together. When you're down 0-3 in the Conference Finals, there's no greater time to bond and play together. Our situation really doesn't change much going into Detroit. We're gonna need to continue to have that feeling. To say it's easy to quit, you know, I'm sure it is. But I don't think anybody does anything easy in our locker room.”
Scheduling break — The Western Finals have been on an every-other-day schedule through four games, but the Stars and Red Wings will have an extra day of rest before Game 5 in Detroit on Saturday.
Dallas coach Dave Tippett is glad for the extra break.
“We got two days off now,” he said. “We've given ourselves some life. Two days of rest should really help us.”
Considering that two of Dallas’ key players — Modano and defensemen Sergei Zubov — are on the far side of 35, an extra day off won’t hurt. Captain Brenden Morrow, who’s playing despite a sore shoulder following an awkward fall in Game 3, probably won’t mind the rest, either.
"We're going to get rest and go and have the same effort there," Morrow said. "We haven't had a lot of success there, but we're going to try and break that and hope that doubt starts creeping in (for them)."