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Avalanche 5, Stars 2 @NHLdotcom

DALLAS (AP) - Their lowest playoff seed in nearly 20 years. Ten losses in their last 16 regular-season games. A two-goal deficit on the road.

None of that bothered the Colorado Avalanche in Game 1 of the Western Conference playoff against favored Dallas.

Rob Blake and John-Michael Liles scored power-play goals only 2:04 apart in the second period and seventh-seeded Colorado beat the Stars 5-2 on Saturday.

"We've had four really competitive games with Dallas, and felt evenly matched," Avalanche coach Joel Quenneville said. "Some times starting on the road is not the worst-case scenario. You're a little more relaxed."

Colorado cut a 2-0 deficit in half before the end of the first period, and had three goals in the second. Rookie winger Wojtek Wolski tied the game at 2 before Blake and Liles scored.

"We felt pretty good today, and we'll feel good tomorrow," said Avs captain Joe Sakic, who had two assists to start his 12th playoff appearances. "We're pretty excited about winning, but Monday we have Game 2.

"That's a great hockey team over there," he said. "I thought they were flat. It was a bad day for them."

Jose Theodore stopped 16 shots in only his sixth game for Colorado.

For the Stars, it's already eerily similar to their last playoff series two years ago. Colorado won that first-round series in five games and twice scored five times against Dallas goalie Marty Turco.

There were plenty of problems Saturday. Three of the seven Dallas penalties came in the decisive second period.

"Work ethic, turnovers, penalties ... that sums it up," Stu Barnes said.

"The calls were made because we were out of position," said Stars captain Mike Modano, whose only two shots came in the third period. "We were chasing the puck all day long and that's not a recipe for success."

This is the Avalanche's 25th playoff series since moving to Denver in 1995 - more than any other team. But they were 6-10 down the stretch for their lowest playoff seeding since 1987 while still in Quebec.

"I don't think it's an on-off switch," Quenneville said. "I thought we did a lot of good things with the puck. ... We had the puck a lot, particularly down in their end."

This is the fourth time in seven years the two teams have met in the playoffs. Dallas won a pair of incredible seven-game Western Conference finals in 1999 and 2000 to get to the Stanley Cup finals.

Dallas went up 2-0 Saturday when Jason Arnott slid by the net and made a backhand pass to Bill Guerin, who slammed the puck behind Theodore with 4:58 left in the first period.

That came only two minutes after a one-timer by Brenden Morrow on Dallas' third shot of the game.

But the Stars didn't hold on to that momentum very long.

"I felt really good even though we got two goals down," Theodore said. "I felt in control. We didn't panic. I knew if we could keep going the same way we were, we'd be able to get a couple of goals."

Less than two minutes after Guerin's goal, Turco was sliding to his right when Sakic pushed the puck back toward the middle. Milan Hejduk knocked it into the open net.

Another defensive mistake led to Colorado's tying goal 5 1/2 minutes into the second period. Turco was still on the side of the net after playing the puck when defenseman Jon Klemm gave it away. Jim Dowd passed the puck to Wolski and Turco couldn't get back in time.

After Blake's power-play goal, a puck through traffic that Turco didn't see until it was too late, there was only 15 more seconds of play before Colorado was on the power play again. Liles scored past a sprawling Turco, assisted by Sakic and Andrew Brunette.

Turco stopped 26 shots, but has allowed 23 goals in six playoff games against the Avalanche.

Theodore was 1-3-1 down the stretch for Colorado. The former league MVP didn't make his debut for the Avalanche until a month after coming from Montreal at the NHL trade deadline March 8 for David Aebischer, the goalie who beat Dallas in the series two years ago.

The Stars didn't make Theodore work too hard after the goals. Dallas only had four shots in the second period, and their nine in the third period matched their total before that.

"Hopefully this is a real good slap in the face for us," coach Dave Tippett said. "The level of urgency has to be turned up several octaves now."

Notes: Dowd and Wolski assisted on Brett Clark's goal in the third period. ... Wolski is a rookie who had 128 points in 56 games in the Ontario Hockey League before being added to Colorado's playoff roster. ... Dallas had a 3-1 advantage in the season series, two of the wins coming in shootouts.

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