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Stars gain momentum with 3rd-period wakeup

by Ken Sins / Dallas Stars

It took a four-goal deficit to get the Stars angry and focused on Tuesday night.

Now they’ll try to build on a spirited third period that gave the sellout crowd at American Airlines Center something to get excited about after a fairly quiet opening 45 minutes.

Captain Brenden Morrow’s pair of third-period power-play goals reduced the final deficit to 4-2. Finishing with a flourish can give the Stars something to build on heading into Game 4 Thursday night at the AAC.

First, they have to do something about that rather mundane start.

“The third period, we got some momentum and we'll look to use that on Thursday,’’ Morrow said.

Said goaltender Marty Turco: “We did gain momentum, but it was too little, too late.’’

Even when they won the first two games in Anaheim, the Stars insisted that their first-round playoff matchup with the Ducks wouldn’t be an abbreviated affair. Talk of the Stars delivering a Game 3 “knockout punch’’ was downplayed in the Dallas locker room despite the two-game advantage.

The Ducks are the defending Stanley Cup champs, and they won’t go quietly. GM Brian Burke recently compared his team to a slumbering bear that takes a while to get rolling in the morning.

Consider that bear wide awake after the Ducks shrunk the deficit to two games to one.

At least the Stars got a little something going in the third period when Mike Modano fed Morrow for a power-play goal with a little over 14 minutes left. That energized fans who started loud but had been essentially taken out of the game early by the Anaheim blitz in the game’s opening 26 minutes.

Morrow’s second man-advantage goal at 7:22 of the third period raised the noise level a few more notches, and at 8:39 Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle burned his timeout to settle down the troops.

Morrow was also the victim of a high-stick by Anaheim’s Mathieu Schneider that gave the Stars a four-minute power play with 9:21 left. But the Ducks killed it off and that was about it for the Stars.

Home ice wasn’t nearly as friendly to the Stars as the Honda Center sheet had been to them in the first two games. The Stars’ home-ice blues in the playoffs continue as they lost for the seventh time in their last eight at home in the postseason.

The Stars are 7-16 at home in the playoffs since they lost three times at Reunion Arena to the New Jersey Devils in the 2000 Stanley Cup Finals.

Anaheim scored on three of its first four shots. Two goals were the result of turnovers by veteran Dallas defenseman Mattias Norstrom, who’d played so well in the first two games.

When Chris Pronger delivered a power-play goal to make it 3-0 less than 15 minutes in, the building was drained of emotion. Pronger hadn’t performed up to expectations in the first two games in California, but he got on the score sheet when he knocked Todd Bertuzzi’s centering pass by Turco with Niklas Hagman in the penalty box for hooking.

Pronger was the best player on the ice on Tuesday night, and he notched another power-play goal at 5:34 of the second period, this on a two-man advantage. That made it 4-0, and the chances of a Dallas comeback against a riled-up team were slim.

“I don't know if it was nerves or what it was,’’ Morrow said. “We were down three and gave them two out of three with missed coverage and turnovers. They came at us hard, created some turnovers. Now we'll be ready for the opening faceoff on Thursday.’’

All the good things the Stars did to win twice in Anaheim deserted them early in Game 3.

A power play that struck six times in 13 chances went scoreless in their first five chances. Penalty killing that negated eight of nine power-play chances by Anaheim in the first two games gave up the two man-advantage goals by Pronger. Turco, who had been airtight with a 1.00 goals-against and a save percentage of .956 in the first two games, didn’t have much of a chance on the four Anaheim goals.

A defense that had been stout made critical mistakes. And top three centers Mike Ribeiro, Brad Richards and Modano had fewer chances after combining for three goals and six assists at the Honda Center.

Now the Stars must regroup. Win on Thursday and they’ll have a commanding lead. Lose and the series again becomes a toss-up with Anaheim wresting back home-ice advantage.

“I think we got what we deserved,’’ defenseman Stephane Robidas said. “This is a good wakeup call for us. We need to compete from the beginning and if we do that, we’ll be fine."

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