Thanks to a goal from an unlikely source, the Dallas Stars
are one win away from their best postseason run since their last trip to the Stanley Cup Final eight years ago.
Low-scoring defenseman Mattias Norstrom scored 4:37 into overtime to give the Stars a 2-1 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday night and a 3-0 lead in their best-of-seven series. The Stars get their first chance to become the first semifinalist in this year’s playoffs when they host Game 4 on Wednesday.
"There's a lot of momentum right now," Dallas center Mike Modano said. "It'll be a fun night, an elimination game."
Patrick Marleau gave the Sharks the lead with a shorthanded breakaway goal at 19:25 of the opening period. Sergei Zubov, who returned to the lineup Sunday after missing more than three months with multiple injuries, tied it in the first minute of the third period during a 5-on-3 power play.
The Stars had a chance to take the lead with 9:10 left in regulation when Niklas Hagman was awarded a penalty shot after being hauled down on a breakaway. Hagman tried to beat Evgeni Nabokov with a backhander, but the goaltender slid to his left and gave him no room.
However, the Stars capitalized on a poor clearing effort by San Jose’s Mike Grier for the winning goal. Grier’s weak clearing attempt was picked off by Matt Niskanen, who passed to Mike Ribeiro. His pass found Norstrom at the top of the left circle, and Norstrom’s shot through traffic hit Jeremy Roenick’s and deflected past Nabokov, setting off a celebration at what had been a relatively quiet American Airlines Center.
"I tried to get it on net, it went off a stick. Fortunately, it went in," said Norstrom, sounding as shocked as anyone about his game-winner.
Norstrom has only 18 career goals in 903 regular-season games, and this was only his second goal in 47 playoff games — the first came against Anaheim in Game 5 of the opening round.
"He would have been real deep in my depth chart," captain Brenden Morrow said with a smile of the likelihood that Norstrom would get an OT winner.
The last time the Stars had a 3-0 series lead was in the first round of the 1999 Playoffs, when they swept Edmonton and went on to win the Stanley Cup. This is their 16th postseason series since then.
San Jose, which went 20 games without a regulation loss down the stretch to earn the second seed in the West, is one loss away from another playoff disappointment.
"There's no quit in this room. All the games have been pretty close," Nabokov said. "It's been little bounces here and there. ... We have to regroup and forget these games."
The Sharks outlasted Calgary in seven games in the first round but have only five goals in three games against the Stars and have lost twice in overtime.
"He just got it over me and it hit my stick," Roenick said. "It was another bad break. It's amazing how we can't get a bounce in this series."
After dropping Games 1 and 2 at home, the Sharks came out strong and had a pair of early power plays. It appeared they had scored four minutes into the game when Marleau jammed a loose puck past Marty Turco. But referee Don VanMassenhoven quickly waved off the score, indicating that he had already blown a whistle.
The referee didn't realize that the puck still hadn't been controlled after Joe Thornton's shot because the ref's view from behind the net was obstructed by Turco, who was completely extended and on his side after making the initial stop.
"I was surprised the whistle was blown," Marleau said.
"(The referee) can't see the puck because he's standing behind the net," Sharks coach Ron Wilson said. "The puck's laying in the crease, he put it in. It should be a goal. He made a mistake. There's nothing I can do about it."
San Jose generated only two shots on goal in the game’s first 10 minutes. But the Sharks limited the Stars to just three in the same span.
San Jose caught a break with about nine minutes left in the period when Dallas’ Loui Eriksson was all alone in the slot but mishandled a pass and wound up without getting a shot. The Sharks got another good chance with 5:05 left in the period when Ryane Clowe fired a quick wrist shot from the slot, but Turco stood up to it and wound up covering the puck after a rebound.
Dallas Joel Lundqvist was sent in alone with about 4:15 left, but his quick flip hit the crossbar.
San Jose got the game’s first goal with 35 seconds remaining in the opening period on a great individual effort by Marleau. With Thornton in the penalty box for cross-checking, Marleau broke up a play at his own blue line, raced in on a breakaway and put a quick wrist shot past Turco’s glove for his first goal of the series.
The Stars outshot San Jose 9-7 during a scoreless second period, and Alexei Semenov’s penalty with 54 seconds remaining in the period gave Dallas a power play to start the third period. A hooking call on Christian Ehrhoff 35 seconds into the period gave Dallas a two-man advantage, and the Stars needed just 11 seconds to capitalize. Brad Richards’ passed to Ribeiro in the corner to the left of Nabokov. Ribeiro threw a soft pass to Zubov, whose one-timer from the top of the right circle beat Nabokov cleanly at 46 seconds.
"I thought for the first two periods we played a perfect road game," Wilson said. "We had some good opportunities and snuffed theirs out. We took at bad penalty at the end of the second period and then we put a gun to our head with that 5-on-3 opportunity, and they converted.”
Red Wings 4, Avalanche 3 | Video
Not even the return of Peter Forsberg could give the Colorado Avalanche a big enough lift to derail the Detroit Red Wings.
The relentless Red Wings moved within a game of eliminating the Avs with a victory in Denver, giving Detroit a 3-0 lead in their best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal series. The Wings can advance to the Western finals with a win on Thursday.
''The Red Sox came back on the Yankees,'' Colorado captain Joe Sakic said, recalling Boston's recovery from a 3-0 deficit in the 2004 AL Championship Series. ''It's happened. We just have to go in and worry about Game 4.''
It’s happened just twice in NHL history, and not at all since 1975. Nor do the battered Avs seem to have enough healthy bodies to challenge the Wings — they got Forsberg and defenseman Scott Hannan back, but were without forward Ryan Smyth due to a foot injury and lost top scorer Paul Stastny in the first period with a knee injury. The Avs said he’s gone for the series.
''Everybody's got bumps and bruises and injuries are going to happen,'' said Colorado forward Andrew Brunette, who scored twice. ''It happened all year, and it happened to other teams, too. It's something you have to battle through. You can't sit there and say, 'Oh, so-and-so's out.' It's something you battle through.''
Pavel Datsyuk scored twice for the Wings, who’ve scored four or more goals in all three games of the series. Chris Osgood made 30 saves as Detroit held on despite two power-play goals by Andrew Brunette and a Colorado barrage in the final 15 minutes after Brunette’s second goal cut the margin to one goal.
''There were no defensemen on either goal,'' Datsyuk said. ''All I had to worry about was the goalie.''
Detroit dominated the first two games at home, and that domination continued despite the switch to Denver and the return of Forsberg, who missed the first two games with groin problems, and Hannan, who missed the first two games with an upper-body injury.
The return to the Pepsi Center and a raucous sellout crowd gave the Avs a lift, and they didn’t need long to turn all that enthusiasm into a goal — Cory McLeod’s deflection past Osgood 5:17 into the game put the Avs ahead, 1-0.
But the Wings weathered the early storm and scored twice in less than a minute to take a 2-1 lead.
With Detroit on a power play, Henrik Zetterberg’s perfect pass through the defense sent Datsyuk in alone for a quick wrist shot past Jose Theodore at 12:14. Just 58 seconds later, Johan Franzen dug a rebound out of Theodore’s pads, stepped to his left and put the puck into the net for his NHL-best eighth playoff goal.
''My shots are finding the back of the net,'' Franzen said. ''It's going good right now, but you never know when that will stop.''
Only a couple of fine saves by Theodore kept the Avs’ deficit at one goal in a period in which they were outshot 19-10.
Detroit continued to dominate in the early minutes of the second period and made it 3-1 at 6:36 when Brian Rafalski put a half-shot, half-pass on net. Theodore stopped the puck but was unable to control it, and the Avs’ poor coverage left Datsyuk alone. As Franzen had on the second goal, he controlled the rebound and put the puck into the open side of the net.
The Avalanche was in danger of being blown out, but a holding penalty to Darren McCarty at 7:38 gave Colorado its first power play. The Avs needed less than 30 seconds to capitalize, as John-Michael Liles one-timed Sakic’s pass and Brunette, stationed in the slot, deflected the puck past Osgood at 8:08 for a power-play goal — Colorado’s first of the series.
But Forsberg took a four-minute high-sticking penalty for clipping Mikael Samuelsson, and after the Avs killed the first two minutes, the Wings cashed in on the back end. Zetterberg fed Datsyuk in the right circle, then drifted behind the net and out into the bottom of the left circle. That put him in perfect position to take Datsyuk’s hard cross-ice pass and slam the puck into the open left side at 12:24.
''I didn't realize I hit him,'' Forsberg said. ''But I guess he was bleeding so I guess I did hit him, so I have nothing to say. If he's bleeding, it's four minutes. I didn't think I hit him that hard.''
Osgood kept the lead at 4-2 with 90 seconds left in the period when he stopped Ian Laperriere’s wrister on a 2-on-1 break, then stopped rookie T.J. Hensick from close-in after Hensick had first overskated the rebound.
Detroit killed off one bench minor for too many men early in the third period, but was called for a second one just two seconds after the first one expired — and Colorado took advantage. Sakic deked Franzen to the ice and carried down from the left wing to the lower left circle. He put a low shot into Osgood’s skates, and Brunette jammed the rebound home at 5:19 to make it a one-goal game.
But Osgood, who has secured his spot as the Detroit’s No. 1 goalie, preserved the lead.
''Our power play was good and we played great 5-on-5,'' Osgood said. ''We put pucks on the net and created goals. We took too many penalties to let them back in the game and gave them some momentum at the end. But we held on at the end.
''It was good to have that cushion, to have our guys get us four goals after two periods.''
The Avs are just wondering when all these injuries will cease.
''We've definitely had our share,'' Sakic said. ''But this organization has never made any excuses with injuries, and we're not going to start now. The guys in the lineup, we have to find a way to win the next game.''
Material from wire services and team online media was used in this report.