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Turco's JLA troubles continue in Game 1

by Michael Caples / Detroit Red Wings
Turco has the ear of referee Kevin Pollock during a timeout in Thursday's Game 1 of the Western Conference finals at JLA. Turco didn't like that Holmstrom was often in the crease.
DETROIT -- Getting traffic and screens in front of a goaltender is a recipe for success in the NHL playoffs.

The Red Wings have created traffic and screens in the first two playoff rounds this spring, and nothing certainly changed in Game 1 of their Western Conference finals series against Dallas and its All-Star goalie Marty Turco.

Turco, the former Michigan standout, has lead his team to the Western Conference finals, backstopping wins against the defending Stanley Cup champion Anaheim Ducks, and the second-seeded San Jose Sharks. Yet he is the question mark of the third round, due to the fact that he has yet to win a game in Joe Louis Arena in seven NHL seasons (he is 2-10-5 lifetime).

With a series that could easily be decided based upon the play in front of Turco’s crease, all the focus was on how he would perform in Game 1.

Dallas coach Dave Tippett said afterwards that it wasn't his goalie that let the Stars down.

“A lot had to do with the team in front of him tonight," a disgruntled Tippett said. "Not so much Marty.”

Turco looked focused, yet relaxed, before the warm-ups, playing a competitive game of soccer-style volleyball with some of his teammates.  Accompanied by captain Brenden Morrow, Mike Ribeiro, Steve Ott and Trevor Daley, Turco was trash-talking and keeping score (loudly) while playing right in front of the make-shift net in the hallway outside of the Stars' locker room.

Turco has been called the Stars’ ‘third defenseman’ with the way he moves the puck, and he practiced his craft throughout the warm-up - dishing out saucer passes to teammates from behind the net, fielding toss-ins from Morrow and firing them back, dumping the puck back-and-forth along the end boards to Jere Lehtinen.

As soon as the game began, Turco made an impact. He controlled nearly all the pucks that entered his zone, moving it up to the defense, allowing for quick breakouts. His puck-handling abilities could be comparable to 1990s video game goalies – the ones who make a save, pop up, and fire a breakout pass as if they are Wayne Gretzky playing goalie. On one play, he corralled the puck from the circle, skated it back to the crease, and faded a pass back to the defenseman around a Red Wings forechecker.

On one shot, Turco reached behind his blade with his glove, and pushed it forward to his defenseman in one fluid motion.

His battles with the Red Wings’ net-front men started early, and persisted throughout the contest. In his first appearance at the goalmouth, Tomas Holmstrom was welcomed with goalie stick between the legs.  After a scrum out front, Holmstrom chased the puck behind the Dallas net and caught a paddle in front of his skates, sending him down to the ice.

Turco was very active during TV timeouts, too. He had multiple meetings with referee Kevin Pollock about the placement of his water bottle, but the bottle never fully reached it’s designed holder above his net. He switched goal sticks many times, no doubt due to the added amount of work his sticks he sees compared to other goalies. Turco also could be seen drying his blocker on a trainer’s towel.

The Dallas defensemen spent the night attempting to clear out Holmstrom and his friends, with little help. Mark Fistric was whistled for roughing on Holmstrom as he tried to clear him from the net-front, which led to the Wings’ first goal. Turco was forced to the ice to peak around Holmstrom’s big frame as Brian Rafalski brought the puck to the slot. With Turco on his knees, Rafalski fired it into the upper half of the net.  The first “Turco, Turco…” chant of the evening echoed across Joe Louis Arena.

The Red Wings started to bury the puck in the corner halfway through the first, either by lobbing it in or skating it in, neutralizing Turco’s puck-handling skills. The second goal of the contest was created by Dan Cleary, who dumped the puck off the boards to himself, lugging it all the way in to the corner himself.  Johan Franzen positioned himself in front, and once again, Turco was unable to see the point shot.  ‘Mule’ got his stick on the puck, redirecting it through Turco’s legs.

“I didn't see the first one, to say the least,” Turco said.  “The second one I actually did see, but I was just looking so far on one side and you anticipate those types of tips but since it's so far to go without leaving some holes, you just get a piece of it, and a lot of time, most of the time it's enough, but tonight all of them found their way in, off bars, off me, a couple of them.”

Holmstrom set up office on another Red Wings' power play in the second. Turco was so preoccupied with Holmstrom at that point that he was standing behind him, wrapping his glove around him, when the shot came. The goaltender made his case after the goal, yelling at the referees and making motions to the ice in front of him.

For a goaltender in need of confidence in an unfriendly building, the Red Wings got the start that they were looking for, and they cruised to a 4-1 win. Turco appeared to keep his head throughout, making multiple saves on Henrik Zetterberg, including one with the paddle of his goalie stick as he dove across an empty net.  However, Turco surrendered four goals on 31 shots.

“Probably not the most, but every game it's tough to see all the shots," he said. "We've done a great job blocking them and dictating the play of where we want it to come from and that just wasn't the case tonight.”

Most importantly - he’s now 0-for-10 at the Joe. 

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