GAME: Dallas Stars at Colorado Avalanche.
PLAYOFF SERIES: Western Conference quarterfinals; Avalanche lead 3-0.
TIME: Friday, 10 p.m. EDT.
By rallying late in regulation and winning in overtime for the second straight game, the Colorado Avalanche have pushed the stunned Dallas Stars to the brink of elimination.
The Avs look to complete an unlikely first-round sweep of the second-seeded Stars when the series shifts to Denver's Pepsi Center for Game 4.
The Avs left the Stars in shock for the second time in three days Wednesday night, as Andrew Brunette tied the game at 3 on a power-play goal with 57 seconds remaining in regulation, and Alex Tanguay's pass went into the Stars' net off the skate of Dallas' Willie Mitchell at 1:09 of overtime for a 4-3 victory.
The win closely resembled Colorado's comeback victory in Game 2 at Dallas on Monday, when Brett Clark redirected in Milan Hejduk's pass for a tying short-handed goal with 2:04 remaining, and Joe Sakic tipped in John-Michael Liles' slap shot in overtime for a 5-4 win.
"We got a few lucky bounces," Tanguay said. "We're very fortunate."
The Avalanche, though, have made their own luck with hard work in the third periods of Games 2 and 3 after the Stars had clamped down defensively and limited Colorado's scoring chances. While the Avs had 14 shots in the third Wednesday, Dallas managed to prevent prolonged opportunities for Colorado in front of its net, and Colorado had only four shots on goal in the final 20 minutes of Game 2.
Colorado also benefited from a bad penalty taken by Dallas forward Brenden Morrow, who was called for tripping with 1:45 remaining in regulation, setting up Brunette's goal.
"I take full responsibility," said Morrow, who deflected attention away from Mitchell's inadvertent redirection of Tanguay's shot into the net. "I saw how they were calling it tight the first two games. I should have known better by now. I let my teammates down."
Dallas now finds itself facing an all-but insurmountable deficit. Only two teams in NHL history have rebounded to win a series after trailing 3-0, and none since 1975.
The Stars are 3-7 in Denver in the playoffs, and have lost their last six postseason road games.
"It's the way it's been for us in the series. The bounces haven't gone our way," Turco said. "We have to find a way to win Game 4."
Turco's playoff struggles against Colorado have continued in this series. He fell to 1-7 in the postseason against the Avs, who have scored 32 times against him. He played better Wednesday, turning aside 13 of the 14 shots he faced in the third, but wasn't helped by the Stars' continuing inability to generate more offense. Dallas is averaging under 22 shots per game in the series.
Like so many teams before them, the Stars have been unable to get Sakic shut down at key times. The Avs captain broke a tie with Maurice "Rocket" Richard for most overtime goals in the playoffs with his seventh on Monday, opened the scoring in the first period Wednesday and then set up Brunette's tying goal.
"It was a tight game, Marty played really well for them," said Sakic, who has 20 points in 22 playoff games against the Stars, and 80 career postseason goals. "It was a huge win obviously, to go up 3-0 against a team like that. Now we have to find a way to put it away.
"We don't want to give them any life."
This is the fourth time the Avalanche have taken a 3-0 lead in a series. They swept Florida in the Stanley Cup finals in 1996 and Vancouver in the conference quarterfinals in 2001. They defeated Phoenix in five games in the conference quarterfinals in 2000.
Game 5, if necessary, will be Sunday afternoon at the American Airlines Center.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Stars - 112 points; 2nd seed. Avalanche - 95 points; 7th seed.
PLAYOFF TEAM LEADERS: Stars - Jere Lehtinen, 2 goals; Morrow, 4 assists and 5 points; Niko Kapanen, 8 PIM. Avalanche - Six with 2 goals; Hejduk and Sakic, 4 assists and 6 points; Tanguay, 8 PIM.
PLAYOFF SPECIAL TEAMS: Stars - Power play: 16.7 percent (3 for 18). Penalty killing: 73.7 percent (14 for 19). Avalanche - Power play: 26.3 percent (5 for 19). Penalty killing: 83.3 percent (15 for 18).
GOALTENDERS: Stars - Turco (0-3, 4.54 GAA); Johan Hedberg (no appearances). Avalanche - Jose Theodore (3-0, 2.92); Peter Budaj (no appearances).