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Stars' Confidence Soars with Vancouver Split

by Staff Writer / Dallas Stars
By Ken Sins

Even after a potentially-deflating quadruple-overtime loss in Game 1, the Stars expressed confidence that if they maintained a similar competitive level throughout the playoffs, they could beat anybody.

Now, with their first-round Western Conference series against the Vancouver Canucks squared at a game apiece, the Stars are even more upbeat about their chances of winning a playoff series for the first time since 2003.

Game 3 is Sunday night at 8:30 at American Airlines Center.

"We went on the road and took home ice advantage away from them," Stars coach Dave Tippett said after Saturday afternoon's session at the Frisco practice rink. "The positive thing is the way we played up there. We played two very solid games.

"We recognize that it's going to be a hard-fought, long series. We have to come out with that same determination tomorrow. We managed to go up and steal a game out of there. Now we have to put a hard focus on protecting our home-ice advantage."

The confidence within the group is based on two steady road performances.

"What we talk about with our group is that you earn confidence," Tippett said. "To earn it, you have to do little things in the game that show you're successful. Getting a win does that, but it's the things we do during the game that give us confidence, the way we play and how hard we compete. Those are the things that give you confidence and turn into momentum. That's the way our team has been all year. We've been down, we've dealt with a lot of adversity and find a way to battle back."

Goaltender Marty Turco has the confidence of his teammates after his first playoff shutout. Turco, whose previous playoff struggles were one of the prevailing themes when this series started, carries a 1.52 goals-against and .945 save percentage as the action shifts to Dallas.

"On the road, in Canada, in an environment like that, that does a lot for his confidence, to get him back feeling good," Stars center Mike Modano said. "Those sort of performances spread throughout the team."

Turco's showing in the first two games will go a long way toward erasing memories of the 8-14 playoff record he brought into this series.

"He's a very focused guy," Tippett said. "In our sport, there's a lot of onus put on the goaltender. But it really is a team sport and when the team plays well, everybody joins in on that. His mindset has been very strong right from the start of this series."

You won't catch Turco getting overly excited about Friday night's shutout, however.

"I did nothing really overly spectacular," he said of the 35-save effort. "It's only one game. That's where we're at...It was a big game for us. We could be down two."

Turco has had plenty of help. In the first two games, the Stars got scoring contributions from a variety of sources. Six different Dallas players have scored the goals, and 14 Stars have registered at least one point.

"That's the way it's going to have to be for our team," Tippett said. "Chances are at a premium. Sometimes those chances come for different players that you don't expect. That's the way our team has been all year long."

Defensively, Dallas has had a clear edge, especially in Game 2 when the Stars got few tactical errors from their top six on the blue line -- Sergei Zubov, Philippe Boucher, Mattias Norstrom, Darryl Sydor, Trevor Daley and Stephane Robidas. The Stars were built to be a strong defending team, and they demonstrated that shutdown ability in Game 2.

"We've been solid," Tippett said. "We're not giving anything away easy, but there's always room for improvement."

The territorial edge has been in Dallas' favor in the first two games during which the Stars got off 103 shots.

"Puck movement, good position, poise and decisions with the puck have always been our thing," Modano said.

One key to Friday night's win at Vancouver was getting first-minute goals in each of the first two periods, the first from Jeff Halpern and the second from Joel Lundqvist. That took the starch out of the crowd and forced the Canucks to chase the game.

"Anytime you score in the playoffs on your first shift, it calms everybody down and settles you into the game," Modano said.

"Usually the team that plays with the lead, especially after a long game like Game 1, it seems like it takes a lot more energy to play catch-up than to play with the lead," Tippett said. "We were fortunate to get that early goal. We did a lot of things well to defend and hold that lead."

Nothing is a given, of course, not between two evenly-matched teams. The Stars will need a repeat of the strong defensive commitment that kept the skilled Canucks off the scoreboard in Game 2. Dallas will remain wary of the Sedins, each of whom had a goal in the first two games. Daniel has 16 shots in the series and Henrik has seven.

"They're so dangerous, so good with the puck," Dallas center Stu Barnes said.

Sunday night's winner will take control of the series, with Game 4 on Tuesday night at 7 at the AAC.

"It's in our hands to continue the momentum and come up with a great game," Modano said. "It's critical to keep this thing going."


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