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Norstrom Unlikely Game 3 Hero

by Ken Sins / Dallas Stars

Mattias Norstrom is your old-time D-man. His stick has barely a curve and nobody looks for him to make the nifty play, a la Sergei Zubov. Anytime he hits the score sheet, it’s a bonus. His job is to prevent goals, not score them.

But there was Norstrom celebrating his overtime game-winner on Tuesday night against the San Jose Sharks, giving the Stars a 2-1 victory and sending Dallas to a three games to none edge in the semifinal series.

“I tried to get it on net and it went off a stick,’’ Norstrom said. “Fortunately it went in. I don't score a lot, so it was the biggest goal of my career.’’

Norstrom notched a mere two goals in the regular season and has 18 in 14 seasons, but he’s become an offensive factor in these playoffs. His assist set up Brenden Morrow for the overtime winner against San Jose in Game 1, and he has two goals and three assists in the playoffs.

Before this season, the native of Stockholm, Sweden had never registered a goal in 38 previous playoff games.

Norstrom’s shot from beyond the left circle glanced off the stick of San Jose’s Jeremy Roenick and over the shoulder of Starks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov at 4:37 of overtime.

“We were putting the pressure on, the puck popped out to me and I tried to get it on net as quickly as I could. It hit his stick and it ended up in the net,’’ Norstrom said. “I’ll take it off sticks, off feet, as long as it goes in. I've never had a bigger goal. It feels

In an age when most players have severely curved sticks, Morrow looks at Norstrom’s straight-bladed lumber and shakes his head. But the Stars captain sure appreciates the results.

Asked where he would have ranked Norstrom in any game-winning-goal pool, Morrow laughed and said, “He would have been real deep in my depth chart.

“He's picked up his offensive game, shooting the puck and seeing plays the rest of us aren't seeing. I don't know if anyone's seen the curve on his stick, he does a heck of a job playing with something like that.’’

Norstrom did far more than put the puck in the net on Tuesday night, logging more than 17 rugged minutes of ice time in a very physical game.

“Nordie is a warrior,’’ Stars coach Dave Tippett said. “He’s a guy who leads by example and lays everything on the line. When he gets some points and scores a goal, he gets recognized more, but even if the goal doesn’t go in, he’s putting it on the line every night. You need guys like that who are willing to do whatever it takes to win.’’

His teammates appreciate what Norstrom brings every night.

“He’s had a great playoff,’’ Stars forward Stu Barnes said. “He’s made both the plays on the overtime goals. He’s a solid player, a good team guy who works hard and does a lot of the tough work, getting pucks out of corners. And he’s a calming factor out there too. He’s real patient and that’s a good thing.’’

“He deserves it,’’ goaltender Marty Turco said. “We've got a lot of guys in here that are playing great, but there's one guy that's been there
for us all year long, with a lot of injuries to veteran guys, a man that's been vocal, that's played a lot of minutes, that's been asked to do a lot, without much fanfare.  That's his game.  He doesn't care, he
wants this team to win and he's the kind of guy you need this time of year, to be on top of his game. It's great for him to see that one go in.’’

Norstrom was paired with Zubov, who logged a surprising 25 minutes and 42 seconds in only his second game back after sitting out since January with a groin injury.

Dallas’ first power play of the night ended in ashes when Zubov’s blind pass to Jere Lehtinen was picked off by Patrick Marleau, who skated in alone and beat Turco with a high wrist shot at 19:25 of the opening period.

But Zubov has been around far too long to hang his head over a mistake. Only 47 seconds into the third period and with the Stars on a 5-on-3, Zubov tied it at 1 when his one-timer from the point got through the pads of Nabokov while Morrow was screening the goalie.

Except for Zubov’s mistake, he and Norstrom were a solid pair.

Dallas hasn’t led a series three games to none since 1999 when the Stars swept the Edmonton Oilers in the first round en route to their only Stanley Cup.

Norstrom and his teammates expect the best effort of the series from the Sharks in Game 4 on Wednesday night at the AAC.

“If you would have told me at the start of the series we'd be up 3-0, I'd say no, not against a team like this,’’ Norstrom said. “But we've done a good job showing the desperation we've needed. We haven't had 20 minutes where we've played poorly.

“Tomorrow we're going to try to end their season. They know that so the desperation level will be higher and we have to match that and exceed it.’’

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