The Stars knew they'd be heading back to Dallas after Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals. They're delighted that the Detroit Red Wings
also have to make the trip.
The Stars forced the series to a sixth game with a 2-1 victory at Joe Louis Arena on Saturday, spoiling the afternoon for 20,066 Detroit fans who were ready to celebrate their team's first trip to the Stanley Cup Final since 2002. Instead, the teams will reconvene Monday night at what's sure to be a raucous American Airlines Center for a game that few people thought would have to be played just a couple of days ago.
The Stars looked done for the season last Tuesday after losing 5-2 at home in Game 3 following a pair of losses in Detroit. But a 3-1 win in Game 4 on Thursday gave them a spark, and a solid team effort, combined with Marty Turco's 38-save performance, has the Stars one victory away from getting even.
"It's extremely tough — just to hang around and do it, it's tough," forward Steve Ott said. "But I'm having a blast. We're down 3-2. We were down 3-0. I still am having just as much fun as if I was up 3-0.
"For us, the pressure is still not on us. I think we're just going out there and have fun playing a hard-structured game."
No one had more fun on Saturday that Turco, who had gone winless in 11 NHL games at Joe Louis Arena before the Game 5 victory. He was calm, cool and collected — something that wasn't always the case in the first three games, or in his previous starts at "The Joe."
"There wasn't any better time than now," Turco said about creating some momentum in Motown. "Right from the onset the buildup was there for me. Just being ready and focused was the way I was approaching it."
Dallas is trying to become the first team since the 1975 New York Islanders to rally from a 3-0 deficit to get as far as forcing a seventh game. The Isles and 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs are the only teams to win a series after being down 3-0; the Islanders are also the last club to go from 0-3 in a series to 3-3 — they did it against Philadelphia in the semifinals after overcoming a 3-0 deficit to beat Pittsburgh in the quarterfinals.
While they're not cocky about their chances of getting to a seventh game, the Stars feel momentum is on their side.
"We have momentum right now and it's how you’re going to react Monday, how are you going to come out of the gate," center Mike Ribeiro said. "I think our first period has been good lately and it's the same way, we need to approach it the same way. It's a do-or-die for us."
But it's not like the Stars dominated the Wings in either victory. Detroit has outshot Dallas in each game of the series, controlled the faceoff circle and gotten competent goaltending from Chris Osgood. Turco has made the difference in Games 4 and 5.
Nor were the Wings overconfident entering Game 5 — even if many of their fans might have been.
"I thought we were actually a little uptight at the start of the game," coach Mike Babcock said. "I didn't think we executed at the start at all. We didn't come out of our zone with speed like we normally do. I would say just the opposite of that — you want to clinch so bad that it doesn't happen for you. Saying all that, though, we have a real determined group. We've been determined all year. We've responded well."
So who faces the most pressure on Monday night?
"There's pressure on both teams," Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. "If they lose one game, the series is over. If we win, it's over, too. I don't really feel that pressure. The thing is you have to be ready to play the game that's coming up. You can't think too far ahead."
Added Babcock: "No one wanted to go back to Dallas. I don't think anybody when we started this series thought it was going to be easy. The Stanley Cup Playoffs aren't supposed to be easy. Neither are the Conference Finals."