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Dispatching Ducks has Dallas flying high

by Brian Compton /

Stephane Robidas, wearing a cage to protect his broken nose, had a goal and an assist in the third period of Game 6 as the Stars sent the defending Stanley Cup champs home.
Dallas' Journey to the Cup
Fresh off a disappointing seven-game loss to the Vancouver Canucks in the opening round of the 2007 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Dallas Stars entered the 2007-08 campaign with hopes of quickly putting that painful memory in the past.

They’re well on their way to doing just that.

After finishing fifth in an extremely tough Western Conference, the Stars stunned the Anaheim Ducks by eliminating the defending champions in six games in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

It marks the first time the Stars have reached the second round of the playoffs since 2003.

They rallied for a pair of goals in the third period of Game 6 to edge the Ducks, 2-1, giving them their first series victory since a first-rounder against Edmonton in 2003. The Stars hadn't closed a winning round at home since the conference finals all the way back in 2000.

“It definitely has been a long time coming, to say the least,” Dallas goalie Marty Turco said. “It does feel good, but we’ve been talking about not one series, (but) winning as many as we can, so we’re looking forward to the next one.”

Considering how the season started -- and ended -- it’s a safe bet that few in hockey circles saw this coming. Dallas won five of 12 games in October, and went 4-8-2 during the final 14 games of the regular season.

A 3-2 overtime loss to the Anaheim Ducks on March 30 all but assured that the Stars would not have home-ice advantage in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. But it turned out they didn’t need home ice.

Dallas took the first two games of the Western Conference quarterfinals in Anaheim en route to winning the series in six.

Dallas took it to the defending champion right from the drop of the puck in Game 1 at the Honda Center. Turco stopped all 23 shots he faced, while Brenden Morrow had a goal and two assists in a 4-0 victory.

Two nights later, five different players found the back of the net as the Stars earned a 5-2 win and took home a 2-0 series lead.

“We need to keep playing desperate hockey and keep pushing,” defenseman Stephane Robidas said at the time. “This series is a long way from being over and we have to win four games, not just two. The next game is the most important game we’ll play, and that’s the mentality we need to keep.”

Robidas was right. The series was a long way from being done.

Anaheim awoke from its two-game coma in Game 3, as captain Chris Pronger scored a pair of power-play goals in a 4-2 win against the Stars at the American Airlines Center.

"We looked jittery and made some uncharacteristic mistakes," Stars coach Dave Tippett said after Game 3. "The reality check came in tonight about how hard this series is going to be."

Looking to put the Ducks on their heels, the Stars received another stellar effort from Turco in Game 4. The netminder came within 7.6 seconds of his second shutout of the series before Mathieu Schneider found the back of the net for Anaheim. Nonetheless, Dallas found itself ahead three games to one in the best-of-seven series with a 3-1 victory.

“I felt really good," Turco said after the 28-save performance. "I had an opportunity to see all the shots that came my way. There were some anxious, scrambly moments in the second period. But the guys were doing all they could to help me."

Needing a victory to avoid elimination, the Ducks finally received some production from some of their top guns. Teemu Selanne and Ryan Getzlaf each had a goal and an assist, while Jean-Sebastien Giguere made 40 saves as Anaheim handed Dallas a 5-2 loss at the Honda Center.

Just like that, the Ducks were just a victory shy of tying the series.

"They were a very desperate team and obviously when you are down 3-1 there's no room for error," Stars forward Brad Richards said after Game 5. "We have to get our mentality the same way. We can't be thinking in the back of our minds that we have a couple more chances. We have to match the desperation and that's how you finish off a playoff series."

Dallas did just that in Game 6.

Back on home ice, the Stars fed off the raucous ACC crowd. Robidas, wearing a cage to protect his broken nose, had a goal and an assist in the third period as the Stars rallied for a 4-1 win. The defending Stanley Cup champ was going home.

"It's very gratifying for a team that's been through a lot," Tippett said. "It's the first step in a mission that we all hope will extend for a very long time. But what it does is it builds a belief system in our group that we can do this."


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