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Stars 4, Avalanche 1 @NHLdotcom

DENVER (AP) - Desperation served the Stars well. If they're going to reach the second round, they'll have to play on a similar emotional level again and again and again.

"They've got us on the ropes still," Dallas forward Bill Guerin said after Dallas avoided an early elimination from the NHL playoffs with an impressive 4-1 win over the Colorado Avalanche on Friday night behind Niklas Hagman's first two goals of the postseason.

"We've got to keep playing for our lives," Guerin said.

Colorado's quest for a stunning 4-0 sweep of the second-seeded Stars hit a stumbling block in the second period when Dallas goaltender Marty Turco made a risky move that fired up the Stars, who outshot the Avalanche 19-6.

Two of those shots found the net.

Hagman's breakaway goal off Sergei Zubov's pass broke a 1-1 tie less than 4 minutes into the period, and Bill Guerin's wraparound goal between goaltender Jose Theodore's skates came at 18:41 and took the air out of the Avs.

In between, Turco, who won for just the second time in nine playoff games against the Avalanche, came out of the net to play the puck, colliding with Colorado forward Alex Tanguay just above the right circle.

In the ensuing scramble, Dallas defenseman Willie Mitchell slid over to deflect Ian Laperriere's shot near the net.

"Beat him to the puck," Turco thought as he left the net. "Everything's the same. Whether it's making saves or playing the puck. That's an instinct play that I won't ever hesitate to make. I'm reading it the whole way. I knew I could at least tie him to the puck, and after that I'll take my chances."

The risk paid off as the fired-up Stars produced their best game of the series, outshooting the Avs 39-23. Turco had his best performance of the postseason by far.

"Desperate teams play with the demons," Avs defenseman Patrice Brisebois said. "They played like they had demons. They were relentless, pressuring us in our zone. We'd been able to handle their pressure in the first three games. This time we had breakdowns, bad passes in our zone and in the neutral zone. They jumped on our mistakes and capitalized on them."

Avs captain Joe Sakic said everybody finally saw the intensity that he'd expected all along from the Stars.

"You saw how a desperate team can play," Sakic said. "They were all over us on the ice. That is a pretty good team over there. As a player you don't want the season to end. You want to keep playing."

And so they will. The best-of-seven Western Conference series will return to Dallas for Game 5 on Sunday. The Stars are hoping to join the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs and the 1975 New York Islanders as the only teams in league history to win a playoff series after falling behind 3-0.

Turco didn't think his plucky play sparked anything for Dallas but it was Exhibit A of the Stars' rediscovered intensity.

"I think inspiration was at its peak tonight just based on being down 0-3 and knowing that we could be doing a lot better," Turco said.

For the first three games, every lucky bounce went Colorado's way. There was no such Avalanche comeback in store this time. They couldn't control the pace or the puck enough to take shots at Turco, who had allowed 15 goals in the series.

The Stars simply had too much energy - perhaps a byproduct of coach Dave Tippett's decision to cancel practice Thursday but just as likely the heightened level of adrenaline borne out of the desire to avoid an embarrassing sweep at the hands of the seventh-seeded Avs.

"I thought we were desperate, maybe they were a little more desperate than us," Laperriere said. "In Game 5 we're going to have to match that. They're going to be pumped up in front of their fans. And we're just going to have to raise our level to beat a great team like that."

Hagman's second goal, into an empty net, came with 1:15 left and sent the crowd streaming to the exits.

Colorado went ahead less than 5 minutes in on Brad Richardson's first career goal in the NHL playoffs after he was set up on a pass from behind the net by Antti Laaksonen for a 1-0 lead.

The Stars tied it less than 3 minutes later. Jere Lehtinen slapped the puck past Theodore from the right circle on a goal assisted by Mike Modano, who has been missing in action all series.

"They played desperate hockey," Theodore said. "They were especially desperate in the second period when they really came after me."

Notes: The Avs haven't won four straight since an eight-game winning streak from Dec. 31-Jan. 17. ... Colorado hasn't swept a series since the 2001 quarterfinals against Vancouver. Dallas hasn't been swept since the conference semifinals that year by St. Louis. ... Zubov had two assists.

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