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Ducks on brink after Game 4 loss

by John Kreiser and Brian Hunter

Third-period goals from Stu Barnes and Steve Ott sent the Stars past the Anaheim Ducks 3-1, giving Dallas that exact same lead in their first-round series.
WATCH highlights from the Stars' win
The defending Stanley Cup champions are one loss from starting their offseason a whole lot earlier this year.

Stu Barnes had a goal and an assist, and Marty Turco came within 7.6 seconds of a shutout, finishing with 27 saves as the Dallas Stars became the first home team to win in this best-of-seven Western Conference quarterfinal. Their 3-1 victory over the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday night at the American Airlines Center gave them a commanding 3-1 lead in the series.

The Stars get their first shot at eliminating the Ducks and squashing Anaheim’s hopes of a repeat in Game 5 on Friday at the Honda Center, where Dallas jumped in front by winning the first two games of the series.

“It’s a challenge, but the reality is we have got to win the next game and then focus on the next one after that,” Anaheim goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere said. “We can’t think about what it’s going to take to win the series. We have got to think about what it’s going to take to win the next game. They are outplaying us, it seems — and when they have a chance, they seem to bury it, which is not OK. We haven’t played to the level we need to be successful.”

Dallas was protecting a 1-0 lead midway through the third period when Barnes provided some breathing room. He took a long pass from Mike Modano and beat Giguere at 9:01, then stole the puck and set up Steve Ott for his second goal of the series with 2:43 remaining.

The rest was done by Turco, who led the Stars to only their second win in their past nine home playoff games. Mathieu Schneider’s goal kept the Ducks from being shut out, but it was unquestionably Turco’s night.

“Tonight I felt really good,” he said. “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.”

Those guys included young defensemen Nicklas Grossman and Matt Niskanen, in their first career playoff series, as well as fellow blueliner Mark Fistric, who was making his NHL postseason debut.

“They have grittiness and skill,” Turco said. “It was amazing to watch.”

Another relative youngster, second-year center Joel Lundqvist, scored the only goal in the first 40 minutes. Lundqvist got the Stars going with 3:21 left in the opening period when he beat Giguere following a steal by Loui Eriksson.

“Dallas is outplaying us,” Giguere said. “We just haven’t played at the level we need to be successful.”

Each team had a goal disallowed. Trevor Daley thought he had scored for the Stars earlier in the first, but Niklas Hagman was whistled for interference after bumping Giguere at the lip of the crease. The Ducks thought they had tied the game in the second, only to have Brian Sutherby’s goal disallowed when video replay ruled that he had kicked the puck into the net.

“We didn’t generate too many quality scoring chances,” Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. “As the game went on, we started to get more of a cycle going on, and that’s our mantra.”

Anaheim continued to play without forward Rob Niedermayer, out with a concussion, but leading goal scorer Corey Perry returned to the lineup for the first time in six weeks. Perry had been out with a sliced thigh and managed three shots and an assist during about 12 minutes of ice time.

“I thought he was a little rusty, but I thought the more he played, he showed the ability to get back in it,” Carlyle said. “You run a dangerous slope in trying to play a guy like that a bunch of minutes.”

Avs edge Wild, lead series 3-2 | Video
Jose Theodore’s goaltending strategy is simple: See the puck, stop the puck.

It’s working well enough that the Colorado Avalanche is one win away from advancing to the Western Conference semifinals.

Wojtek Wolski and Paul Stastny scored 79 seconds apart early in the third period Thursday night, rewarding Theodore and the Avalanche with a 3-2 victory and a 3-2 series lead after weathering a relentless effort by the Minnesota Wild.

''They played a solid game. In the end, we didn't panic,'' Theodore said after stopping 38 of the 40 shots that tied a playoff record for Minnesota. “I just tried to make every save.

“Like I say, they're a great team and I'm going to have to be ready for the next one.''

That “next one” is Saturday night at the Pepsi Center in Denver, where a sellout crowd will be on hand to see if the Avs can advance.

It won’t be easy if the Wild play as well as they did in Game 5.

''We kept going and playing hard and getting chances through the whole game because we felt we would get it,'' coach Jacques Lemaire said. ''But we had no breaks. Nothing. Rebounds, we were close, but never got the puck on the stick, and the great chances we had, he made some saves.''

Lots of them, actually.

Two nights after a dreadful, undisciplined performance in a 5-1 loss at Denver, the Wild came out flying, setting the tone with their hustle and hitting while outshooting the Avalanche 32-14 over the first two periods.

Their reward: a 1-1 tie after 40 minutes.

''He was the only reason we were in the game. Great's not even the word to describe it. Being tied going into the third was almost like winning going into the third,'' Colorado coach Joel Quenneville said.

The Avs went ahead 5:06 into the third period when Wolski beat Niklas Backstrom through the pads during a power play. Stastny made it 3-1 at 6:25 with his first of the series, taking Milan Hejduk’s pass and pivoting to lift a backhander over Backstrom.

“The third goal was a great play. It was nice to see Paul get one,” Quenneville said of the Avs’ top regular-season goal-scorer.

Brian Rolston beat Theodore with 2.5 seconds remaining, but all that did was leave the Wild a goal short.

''He made quite a few saves, obviously,'' said Rolston, who had eight shots on goal. ''We outshot them pretty good. I think more traffic is needed, obviously, all the cliches I'll throw at you. But he played well. He played very well. This is the playoffs, and sometimes it takes a little bit more to score in the playoffs.''

Andrew Brunette gave Colorado a 1-0 lead when he banged in a rebound 12:24 into the game. Pierre-Marc Bouchard tied it with 40 seconds left in the first period. It was the first goal scored by the Wild before the third period in the series.

One reason for the Wild’s lack of offense has been the struggles of top scorer Marian Gaborik. After posting career bests of 42 goals and 83 points in the regular season, he’s been held without a point in five games.

''We just have to try to stay positive and keep working hard. The chances are there,'' he said.

Though more than 80 percent of teams with a 3-2 advantage go on to win their playoff series, the Avs aren’t ready to declare themselves winners.

''They won the division for a reason,” Stastny said of the regular-season Northwest Division champions. “They're not going to whine and pout about it.

They'll come right back out on Saturday.''

Cheechoo’s pair gives Sharks 3-2 series lead | Video
Jonathan Cheechoo’s two third-period goals appeared to have put the game away for the San Jose Sharks. As it turned out, they would need every last bit of the insurance Cheechoo had provided them.

Evgeni Nabokov made 33 saves and survived a late comeback attempt by the Calgary Flames as the Sharks delighted the HP Pavilion crowd with a 4-3 win, giving them a 3-2 lead in their Western Conference quarterfinal series.

San Jose, which once trailed 2-1 in the best-of-7, can advance to the second round for the fourth consecutive season with a win in Calgary on Sunday.

“You’re probably not going to win too many series if you don’t string at least a couple together,” captain Patrick Marleau said. “We were fortunate to get one tonight. The next one is going to be the toughest.”

Nabokov, who faced only 10 shots in Game 4, was a lot busier Thursday as the Flames tested him with 27 over the first two periods. He stopped all but one, allowing the Sharks to escape the first 40 minutes with a 2-1 lead on goals by Joe Pavelski and Marleau.

Cheechoo extended the lead to 4-1 with goals 3:30 apart, the second coming at 8:22 of the third period off a nifty pass from Marleau on a 2-on-1 break.

“It’s just nice to contribute,” said Cheechoo, whose 23 regular-season goals were his fewest since 2002-03, his rookie season. “In the postseason, everybody has to contribute in their own way, whether it be on the scoresheet or defensively blocking a shot. Whatever it may be, it’s time to lay all the cards down.”

But the Flames — who rallied from a three-goal deficit to win Game 3, nearly did it again. Daymond Langkow answered on a power play 44 seconds later, and David Moss made it a one-goal game with 1:17 remaining.

Calgary could get no closer, and after being five minutes away from holding a 3-1 lead just two nights earlier, the Flames are one loss away from a first-round exit.

“We were physical. We got shots on net. We had a couple of breakdowns that wound up in our net. That was the difference,” Flames forward Stephane Yelle said. “We have to go home, regroup and be ready for Sunday.”

Following a scoreless first period in which the Flames enjoyed an 11-5 advantage in shots, captain Jarome Iginla got them on the board 4:03 into the second during a 5-on-3 power play.

Marleau, the Sharks’ captain, then took control. He drew a hooking penalty on Yelle that led to Pavelski’s game-tying goal at 11:32, and then put San Jose in front to stay with a wrist shot past Miikka Kiprusoff at 18:07. That gave Marleau 22 postseason goals since the 2004 Playoffs, one behind Iginla for the NHL lead during that span.

“Patty was doing everything: forechecking, backchecking, winning faceoffs,” coach Ron Wilson said. “He scored a great goal that gave us a chance to breathe a bit going into the third period. ... Patty’s leading by example. You can’t ask for anything more.”

Meanwhile, the Flames took some heart in their effort and still feel confident heading back to the Pengrowth Saddledome in a must-win situation.

“That was a lot better tonight than the last game,” Iginla said. “Unfortunately we didn’t get it done tonight, but we’re going to do more of the same and go regroup and just get ready for Game 6. We really believe we can get Game 6 and we come back here for Game 7.”

Material from wire services and team online and broadcast media was used in this report.

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