You could almost see the tumbleweed, the swinging saloon doors. You could hear that strange little whistle song and feel the anticipation of the shots to be fired.
Tension, of course, is a cousin of excitement, but also of dread. As the periods rolled by and the Canucks and Stars carried a scoreless tie deep into the third period, some people worried that we might all be in for a lengthy overtime.
Overheard on the way to the bathroom: "Oh, God-what if it goes as long as Game One?"
No such luck, unfortunately.
At 6:22 of the first overtime, Brenden Morrow tipped home a point shot from Sergei Zubov, giving the Stars the 1-0 victory and sending series back to Dallas for a crucial Game Six. The Canucks might have traded a few overtime periods for a better result. But the hoary axiom about the playoffs being all about good goaltending was on glittering display Thursday at the Garage.
"It was another game that could have gone either way, and tonight it didn't go in our favour," said head coach Alain Vigneault after the game.
When it can go either way, it's a safe bet you'll be leaning on your goalkeep. True to form, Game Five was all about the men between the pipes. Roberto Luongo
, steady as ever, was perfect in regulation time, making 24 saves. He had a couple of close calls-most notably on a late-game slapper from Philippe Boucher that squirted through him and dribbled just wide of the right post.
Marty Turco continued his fine play, making 21 saves and notching his second shutout of the series. With the victory, Turco improves his lifetime playoff record against Vancouver to 2-3.
Turco could be forgiven for feeling that he'd got one back on Canucks fans.
When Turco stepped onto the ice, even before he'd made his half-turn to face the Stars and Stripes for the national anthem, he was met with a full-throated chorus of jeers from Canucks fans.
Tur-co, Tur-co, went the call, rising and falling in waves.
The 31-year-old from Sault Ste. Marie had the last laugh, though, with a touch (or was it a tip?) of help from Brenden Morrow.
"I needed a hero out there tonight, and who better than No. 10 on our team?" Turco said.
"It wasn't pretty, but it counts," he added. Roberto Luongo
's mood in the locker room after the game was like a splash of April rain-crisp, clean, a touch cold.
Asked whether he regretted having to make the trip back to Dallas, Luongo replied, "It's a seven-game series, and you've got to win four."
"That's the way it is and that's that-there's nothing you can do about it."
Bobby Lou was the busier of the two goalies throughout the game, especially in the second frame, when the Canucks managed just three shots on net.
Turco, it seemed, had such an easy time, he thought he'd take a period off.
That's what it looked like, at any rate, when a bizarre bounce nearly netted the Canucks an empty-net goal at the beginning of the third period. Turco had gone to the bench to put a sixth attacker out on a delayed penalty to Markus Naslund, and that's when serendipity very nearly struck.
A Dallas forward, digging for the puck, threw a blind pass back to the point. It caromed off the centre boards and slid, agonizingly, toward the Dallas goal, which was emptier than Saddam's WMD closet. But it clipped the outside of the post and stayed out.
Turco, usually confident to a flaw handling the puck, looked a little Bambi-on-the-pond at times during the game. He coughed the puck up to Brian Smolinski at the 13-minute mark of the second period, which gave Smoke the chance to lean into a slapshot from the high slot.
Canuck assistant captain Trevor Linden, for his part, is taking the close games in stride.
"We needed an early goal or a break, and we didn't get it," he said.
"That's just the way the games have gone."