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Dallas Stars emerge from Shark Tank with 2-0 lead in best-of-seven series @NHLdotcom

DALLAS - As strange as it sounds, the Dallas Stars might have preferred staying on the West Coast even though they are coming home with a 2-0 series lead.

It's San Jose that instead really needed to escape the Shark Tank.

What about home-ice advantage? Well, there doesn't seem to be any whenever the Sharks and Stars play, whether in the regular season or the playoffs. The home team has won three of the past 16 games dating to last season.

"Always one of the big diversions in the playoffs is home ice," Stars centre Brad Richards said. "I know it sounds funny, but our next game will be the toughest one we've played so far. It's a series, and you have to stick with it."

Game 3 of the best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal is Tuesday night at the American Airlines Center, with Game 4 the next night.

As they did in their first-round series against defending Stanley Cup champion Anaheim, the Stars won the first two games on the road. But they lost Game 3 against the Ducks, which was the seventh loss in eight home playoff games over four post-seasons for Dallas.

"It was a big trip for us," Mike Modano said late Sunday night after scoring the tiebreaking goal in the third period of the 5-2 victory at San Jose. "Now it's up to us to respond to this at home."

Dallas has won five of its six games this season at the Shark Tank, where Games 5 and 7, if necessary, will be played.

But the Stars also lost three of four at home against San Jose, which can match Dallas' impressive mark and even the series in a span of less than 30 hours.

"We believe it. That's all that matters," Sharks coach Ron Wilson said. "We've been counted out a number of times this year. We'll bounce back. Our record showed that during the season that we're the best road team in the NHL. Now we have a chance to prove that."

San Jose was 27-10-4 on the road during the regular season, which ended with a 4-2 loss in Dallas three weeks ago in a meaningless game that turned into a prolonged brawl with 160 penalty minutes, including 95 in the first period.

None of that seemingly has carried into this series - not yet, at least. But imagine how feisty the Sharks might be coming back in a two-game hole and needing some real momentum.

The Sharks had a 2-1 lead Sunday night when Joe Pavelski fell after losing a skate edge in the opening seconds of the third period. Richards capitalized on the turnover with a wrister that beat Evgeni Nabokov on the stick side.

"You hate to see it happen like that," Pavelski said. "We had a chance right after that and didn't bury that one. Then they came back and got another one."

While it was a lucky break for the tying goal, Richards later assisted on three more for Dallas, which had its fourth multigoal third period in eight playoff games this month.

Richards, the 2004 playoff MVP for Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay who was acquired in a deadline trade this spring, set a Dallas franchise playoff record with his four-point period.

"I got a huge break with (Pavelski) falling down," Richards said. "I've been fighting it a bit through the first five periods, and that's not a good feeling. I kept grinding away, trying to make things happen, and then sometimes you catch a break."

Not only did Richards get on track, the Stars got back defenceman Sergei Zubov. The 15-season veteran and two-time Stanley Cup winner played for the first time since January after operations to place a screw in a bone in his right foot and to repair a sports hernia.

Zubov made a nifty pass for the primary assist on Modano's goal with 16:21 to play.

"To put the puck right on the tape, spinning around, that's a special play," coach Dave Tippett said.

But now it's San Jose's turn to try to put on an impressive road show.

"It's where we've succeeded," Pavelski said. "We've got to grab a couple out of their building."

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