DALLAS - Chris Pronger finally led like a captain and the Anaheim Ducks finally played like the defending Stanley Cup champions - and avoided a nearly insurmountable deficit.
Basically a nonfactor in the first two games Anahiem lost at home, Pronger scored two power-play goals after assisting on the first goal as the Ducks built an early lead and held on for a 4-2 victory Tuesday night over Dallas. The Stars blew a chance to take a commanding lead in the first-round Western Conference playoff series.
"It was nice to chip in," Pronger said. "We had a lot of guys step up and improve their efforts. It was better than it was in Anaheim, that's for sure. ... We realize the mistakes we made. We did a good job correcting those the first 33 or 35 minutes."
Outscored 9-2 on their home ice, the Ducks scored three times in the first 14 1/2 minutes of Game 3 - on only four shots.
The Stars trailed 4-0 before captain Brenden Morrow scored two power-play goals only 1:39 apart in the third period. But they still lost for the seventh time in their last eight home playoff games.
"We looked jittery and made some uncharacteristic mistakes," coach Dave Tippett said. "The reality check came in tonight about how hard this series is going to be."
Game 4 is Thursday night in Dallas, with Game 5 the following night in Anaheim.
Pronger was already in the penalty box less than three minutes into Tuesday night for a cross-checking penalty. Then, the 15-season veteran in his 12th playoffs finally had made a positive impact.
Tangling with Mattias Norstrom in the corner to the side of Dallas' net, Pronger forced a turnover that turned into an assist. Travis Moen took over the puck and fed Todd Marchant for his first goal of the series - and a 1-0 lead only 6:39 in.
Norstrom made an even worse mistake only a couple of minutes later from the same corner, when his flippant pass was intercepted by Ryan Getzlaf, who pushed a backhander passed Marty Turco for an unassisted goal and a 2-0 lead midway through the first period.
"In these situations you want to keep it as simple as possible. There was pressure to play a good hockey game," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. "We had to play our best game of the series and we did. Are we going to have to play better? For sure. ... We were fortunate to jump out to an early lead. But we found a way to keep it exciting at the end."
Coming home with a 2-0 series lead for the first time since moving to Dallas 15 years ago, the Stars gave out 15,000 black T-shirts that were blank on the front and had the slogan "Believe" on the back. Dallas also wore black jerseys.
But the Stars, first-round flops the last three playoffs, found the excitement taken out of the building because of the early deficit. And it remained a pedestrian crowd until Morrow's late goals, with Pronger adding to the early miserly with his power-play goals, the second a 5-on-3.
"It's the start we wanted," Pronger said.
Jean-Sebastien Giguere stopped 31 shots, four after Mathieu Schneider was given a four-minute penalty for high-sticking Morrow. The penalty came after Carylyle called a timeout to regroup his squad after the Stars' two quick goals.
"We showed can win against this team," Giguere said.
Dallas had plenty of traffic in front of Giguere during that span, but never could get a third goal.
"There were 45 minutes where we played well," Morrow said. "We battled hard, outshot them and maybe outchanced them. The third period, we got some momentum and we'll look to use that on Thursday."
With 5:29 left in the first period, on the Ducks' fourth shot of the game, Pronger scored on a centring pass from Todd Bertuzzi.
The Stars couldn't convert after starting the second period on the power play, then gave Anaheim a man advantage when Stephane Robidas was called for tripping.
Turco stopped Ryan Carter's backhander before Teemu Selanne missed wide of the net. Then Matt Niskanen got whistled for delay of game, and 12 seconds into a 5-on-3, Pronger made a slap shot from high in the slot on a pass from Selanne.
"I'm very disappointed in the outcome. But we're in a fix-it mode, not get angry mode," Tippett said. "We were chasing the game early."
Turco stopped 11 shots.
The Stars didn't get score until Morrow poked a puck past Giguere after Mike Riberio's crossing pass to Mike Modano with 14:17 left. Dallas was quickly back on the power play, and Morrow knocked in a rebound when Modano's shot bounced off the goalie and onto the stick of the Stars captain.
But that was too late.
"We have to play the way we did there," Robidas said. "We have to be ready to jump right off the bat and be willing to compete with them. ... We've got to realize we have to play well at home too and give a better effort."
Notes: Ducks RW Rob Niedermayer missed the game because of an apparent concussion sustained in Game 2. Niedermayer didn't travel to Dallas, and instead remained home after complaining of concussion-like symptoms. It wasn't clear if Niedermayer would join the team for Game 4 on Thursday night, or his status for the remainder of the series. ... Anaheim is trying to become the first defending Stanley Cup champion since Colorado in 2002 to get past the first round in the playoffs. Carolina missed the playoffs last year.