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Keeping The Ride Going

by John Tranchina / Dallas Stars

Marty Turco almost single-handedly led the Dallas Stars to victory in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals Saturday afternoon.

Usually when a goaltender is deemed to have been directly responsible for a win, it’s because of his ability to stop the puck and keep the opposition off the scoresheet, and Turco did that in Game 5, turning aside an unbelievable 38 Detroit shots. 

But he was equally as impressive offensively, generating the plays that led to both Stars goals in the 2-1 triumph. Even though Turco earned an assist on just the second one, a beautiful wrist shot from Joel Lundqvist in the second period for the game-winner, he confounded the Wings all night with his ability to move the puck and jump-start the Stars’ transition out of their defensive zone.

For his efforts, Turco won his first-ever NHL game in Joe Louis Arena, improving his career mark here to 1-9-2 and being named the game’s first star for the second straight contest. Turco came through with his best with the Stars facing elimination for the second consecutive time.

“It feels good,” he said of the milestone triumph. “Feels more good about the situation we were in, the environment we’re in, the ability we had to overcome it. It’s a huge challenge that only fractionally got better tonight the way we're looking at it. But if we were able to do this, we thought we needed at least one here, now we’re going to need at least two. For me, it has been a long time. We’re excited to go back home and continue to push this thing along.”

“Marty had a will to win today,” Stars coach Dave Tippett said. “He’s had his frustrations in this building but he got over the hump with a good effort today.

“I thought there was so much battle in him. Our team, one of our themes all year is find a way to win and have the will to win. I think Marty exemplified that tonight. He wasn’t going to be denied in this game. He made enough saves in this game for us to get us the win.”

For the Stars to have a chance at pulling off the monumental comeback that only two other clubs in NHL history (and three in all of professional sports) have done, they will continue to need Turco to play this well again.

“First one here, huge,” center Mike Ribeiro said of Turco’s winning performance. “(Almost) 40 shots, kept us in the game all through the game. He was ready for it. The thing is, going back home again, we need him to do that in back to back games for us. He’s a big part of our team.”

“Any time there’s ever been any sort of pressure on Marty Turco, he’s always risen,” winger Steve Ott added. “For some reason, if it’s during the regular season, a playoff series, when people doubt him or people put the slightest pressure on him, it doesn’t faze him at all. He never gets too high or too low. He keeps going on an even keel. Tonight was another perfect example of Marty being Marty.”

Turco’s puck play was an asset we saw a lot of in Dallas’ first-round triumph in six games over the Anaheim Ducks, and his penchant for retrieving almost all of the opposition’s dump-ins forced the defending Stanley Cup champions to alter their approach into the Stars’ zone, but Turco didn’t have much of an opportunity to do that in this series until this game.

Whenever the Wings dumped the puck in, Turco was out of his crease, on the puck and moving it up ice to facilitate a quick breakout.

“He just looked really aggressive, he didn’t really second-guess himself,” center Mike Modano said of Turco. “He was just going to go out there and play the puck and make the first correct open play that he saw. When he’s jumping out of the net and making plays like that, you know he’s involved, you know he’s into it mentally. 

“His focus was really good tonight and when he’s moving it around, we knew he was going to make some plays and he made some good outlets getting away from pressure, and that’s always been a big plus for us, since he’s been a goaltender for our team. He really has an ability to really neutralize a teams forecheck with his ability to get out of the net.”

Of course, once Turco got the puck up ice, the Stars’ skaters needed to execute offensively, and both Trevor Daley and Joel Lundqvist were able to beat Detroit goaltender Chris Osgood at the other end. On each goal, the speed with which Turco began the transition caught the Wings off-guard, contributing to odd-man rushes that the Stars capitalized on.

“Certainly when they’re making changes, there’s always seams,” Turco said. “But more than anything for me, it’s just the opportunity when it presents itself to grab pucks, to have lanes, to see them, make those plays. I don’t feel like I’m ever going to alter my game from playing the puck. But some nights, lanes are there, sometimes the guys are on the same page. Sometimes you’re just better seeing it. Tonight we were on. Just had the puck in the right spots to make those plays.”

Daley staked the Stars to a 1-0 midway through the first period, after Turco’s pass up the boards was relayed by Niklas Hagman to Brad Richards, whose beautiful drop pass between his legs set up Daley for a quick wrist shot. It was just the second time in the series they scored first.

“We definitely wanted to score the first goal,” said Daley, whose goal was his first of the post-season and just his second in 28 career post-season contests. “Getting the lead was huge. We’re playing hard and this one is done now so we want to focus on Game 6 now. We’re excited.”

The second goal, Lundqvist’s second of the post-season, snapped a 1-1 tie at 6:04 of the second after Turco’s pass up the middle sent Lundqvist and Toby Petersen in on a 2-on-1 before Lundqvist ripped a scorching wrister past Osgood on the far side.

And of course, between the pipes, Turco was outstanding again, delivering another crucial performance to keep the Stars’ season going and get the big monkey off his back.

“I saw it before the game even started, just the focus he had, his preparation,” captain Brenden Morrow said of Turco. “Then once the game started, he was real comfortable back there playing pucks, reading plays, making those passes. I think he hit Hagman for a two-on-one. But, you know, he’s given us a chance to win every night. Unfortunately, it’s a team sport and we haven’t been there for him sometimes. He’s going to get the brunt of the blame. We’re all in it together. Tonight we all pulled through.”

Turco made several huge saves on Detroit sniper Pavel Datsyuk and another on Tomas Holmstrom in the third period as the Wings pressed for the equalizer, but were unable to break through. Now, it’s back to Dallas and Game 6 at the American Airlines Center Monday night.

“We talked about it before the game,” Modano said. “We just felt, give us enough opportunities here, one of these days we’re going to play well, he’s going to stand out and win us a game here. That’s a great thing about sports, you get a lot of second chances, a lot of chances to prove yourself over again and erase a lot of doubt that everybody has in you.”

“Marty is great. He’s been great the whole series, the whole playoffs,” Daley said. “He’s our best player. Tonight, he was awesome.”

And he’ll have to be again to keep this ride going.
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