Stars coach Dave Tippett hasn’t a superstitious bone in his body, however. To Tippett, the “Curse of the AAC’’ belongs in the same file with the notion of ghosts and vampires.
“My wife talks about where you park, what you wear,’’ Tippett said on Wednesday in Frisco after the Stars practiced for Thursday’s Game 4 at the AAC. “I don’t buy any of that. I believe in reality.
“It shouldn’t matter where we play, it’s how we play. Were the mistakes that we made because we were at home? ‘I turned the puck over’ or ‘I missed a shot’ because we’re at home? I don’t think so.’’
But the numbers say that the Stars have lost seven of their last playoff games on home ice and are 5-10 in the post-season since the building opened in the fall of 2001. And it’s not just the playoffs. The Stars lost six of their last eight regular-season games at home.
If there’s some psychological reason contributing to home-ice woes, the Stars have to get over it, and fast. Falling behind by four goals as the Stars did on Tuesday night only gives the “jinx’’ theory more credence.
“It's not a fear of playing at home,’’ Stars captain Brenden Morrow
said. ‘We're all comfortable here. I know expectations are high. Maybe it took us too long to get motivated. Our competitive level was nowhere near what it was on the road but it has nothing to do with the arena. It's all about individuals, not American Airlines Center.
“Maybe we need to play a simple road game. I don't know the exact reason. And it's league-wide. A lot of teams aren't having success at home. It shouldn't matter what ice surface you're on.''
Whatever the cause, the Stars did not open Game 3 with the same passion they used to take the first two games of the series in Anaheim. The Stars did show some backbone with a pair of third-period power-play goals from Morrow to narrow the final deficit to 4-2, but it was too little, too late.
Carrying the momentum of that third-period rally into Game 4 will be critical for the Stars, who want to go back to Anaheim for Game 5 on Friday night with a commanding three-games-to- one lead. Lose and the series is all square at two games apiece.
"We need to get off to a better start, no doubt about it,’’ Stars forward Steve Ott
said. “We had two key scoring chances early that if we get those, things might have been different. How we react, that has to be our mindset.
“At times in the game we were our own worst enemy, myself included. The start's got to be key now. We've got to get back to what we did in Games 1 and 2, make the hard, simple plays that push the game along and that's what we didn't do. We won a lot of one-on-one battles in the first two games, then lost more than we won in Game 3.’’
Fans might have expected the Stars to advance easily after the team captured two on the road. But nobody within the Stars’ inner circle ever felt that way. These are the defending Stanley Cup champions, so this series won’t be easy.
“They’re still going to be desperate,’’ Stars center Brad Richards said. “They need to win. We can't do some of the things that we did to take away our momentum. Maybe we tried to do a little too much early. We turned the puck over and they capitalized. Those things get magnified because you're on home ice.
“The reality is that they have a really good team. It's reality that it's going to be a series, not four straight. They're built for road wins and for a long series and that's what it's going to be. We're not scared of them but we respect them.’’
The Stars do have some elements to build on. They outshot the Ducks 33-15, struck for two more power-play goals to give them eight for the series, and won 53 percent of the faceoffs. But Dallas had 28 giveaways, eight more than Anaheim, errors that must be corrected.
“They played a hard game and we knew that they would,’’ Ott said. “Down 2-0, you have no choice. Costly mistakes handed them an advantage. But we outchanced them, outshot them. There were parts of our game that were solid. We didn't get the result we wanted but there were still some pretty positive things.’’
Potting the first goal will be critical for Dallas. Forging an early lead has the added benefit of maintaining the noise level in the arena that was present at the start of Game 3. Falling behind early on Tuesday night drained much of the energy from the building.
“The atmosphere was great,’’ Tippett said. “Too bad we couldn't get it more revved up like it was in the third. Now we have to figure out a way to get the excitement all the way through.’’