The Dallas Stars grabbed a commanding 3-0 series lead on Tuesday night, defeating the San Jose Sharks, 2-1, at 4:37 of overtime at the American Airlines Center. Evgeni Nabokov was stellar in net, making 27 saves including a third period penalty shot by Niklas Hagman.
The Sharks and Stars readied themselves for a crucial Game 3 of the Western Conference Semifinals with San Jose desperately seeking a victory on American Airlines Center ice, having lost the first two games of the series at HP Pavilion.
Nabokov, as expected, started in goal for the boys in Teal while Marty Turco manned the net at the other end for the Stars. Sharks rookie forward Tomas Plihal dressed for his first career Stanley Cup Playoff game and Patrick Rissmiller was the healthy scratch.
On the blueline, Alexei Semenov jumped into the lineup with Matt Carle being a healthy scratch.
San Jose had an early power play and put the puck across the line after a scramble in front, but a quick whistle ruled off the tally although the puck was free. On the advantage, Turco stopped the initial shot, but as Mike Modano pushed the rebound into Turco, Marleau came flying in and slid the shot under the downed Stars netminder.
Dallas survived another close call in the first when a Joe Thornton
pass through the crease rang off the post.
The Sharks had only begun pressing. First, Torrey Mitchell
skated hard at the net and drew a penalty. Then Milan Michalek had a breakaway that he just missed, shooting it a bit high over Turco’s glove hand, as he was lightly tugged from behind.
The Stars had survived the early Sharks rush to keep the game scoreless through the first 13 minutes of the first.
With 6:04 left in the first, Modano had a slap shot that bumped off the shoulder of Nabokov and popped straight up in the air, landing in the crease. The Sharks were able to clear it before it could reach the goal line. Then Nabokov came up huge on a shot in close by Mike Ribeiro to hold the Stars off the scoreboard.
The goal post that had been so unkind to San Jose in Game 3 bit the Stars at the 4:09 point when Joel Lundqvist’s shot struck it and clanged away to safety.
A cheap hit to the back of Michalek by Steve Ott gave San Jose a third power play of the first, but they came up empty.
Dallas drew their first power play of the game with less than two minutes in the first period, but it was Sharks Captain Patrick Marleau
who had the offense at the ready. After a Dallas miscue at the Sharks blueline, Marleau took off on a breakaway and outwaited Turco before roofing the vulcanized rubber to the top right corner.
San Jose took the 1-0 lead to the lockerroom.
The Sharks killed off the remainder of Dallas’ power play to start the second and then just missed on a two-goal lead. A Devin Setoguchi shot slipped under Turco’s arm and trickled behind him. The Dallas netminder reached behind him, but had the good fortune of the puck sliding right by the post.Patrick Marleau
almost provided another tally when he created a rush with Joe Pavelski
. Marleau fed his center, but when the return pass came, it was just out of the reach of the Sharks Captain for the easy tap-in.
With 53.4 seconds left in regulation, Semenov was called for hooking while trying to slow down a Dallas rush and the Stars closed the period up a man just as they did the first stanza. And just like the first period, Dallas would be forced to carry the advantage through the intermission.
After 40 minutes of action, San Jose held the same 1-0 lead they did after 20 minutes.
Unlike the beginning of the second, San Jose could not hold off the Stars power play, especially when an Ehrhoff penalty gave Dallas 33 seconds of five-on-three time. Sergei Zubov unleashed a rocket from the blueline that hit the shaft of Marc-Edouard Vlasic
’s stick and went across the goal line.
Dallas had tied the score at one, but the penalty killers did a strong job of finishing off the remainder of the second penalty and maintained the tie.
It marked the third consecutive game of the series that had been tied during the third period.
The Sharks faced a scary moment when Craig Rivet and Christian Ehrhoff collided in the third and Rivet was down on the ice. He did get up after being tended to and returned on a following shift.
At the 10 minute mark of the third, Dallas came down on a two-on-one rush, but Nabokov read the play and prevented the go-ahead tally.
Nabokov’s biggest challenge of the game came on the ensuing shift when Christian Ehrhoff tripped up Niklas Hagman on a breakaway and a penalty shot was awarded. The Dallas crowd rose to their feet, but was quickly quieted as Nabokov matched Hagman move for move and blocked the effort.
Dallas threatened twice in the final minute of regulation, but a huge save by Nabokov on Matt Niskanen and a big-time block by Jonathan Cheechoo on Stephane Robidas diffused the Stars attack and sent the game to overtime.
Disaster struck 4:37 into overtime when Stars defenseman Mattias Norstrom directed a seeing-eye shot at the Sharks net that appeared to deflect twice before slipping past Nabokov for the Stars victory.
With the victory, Dallas took a commanding 3-0 series lead with the potential series-ending Game Four set for Wednesday night at 6:00 PM (Pacific). LINES
Nabokov-Boucher NEXT GAME
Game 4 will be Wednesday night at 6 p.m. and will be available on CSN Bay Area, 98.5 KFOX and www.sjsharks.com.