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Stars weather storm in Game One win

by J. Douglas Foster / Dallas Stars

SAN JOSE, CALIF. -- Weather the storm.

It’s a challenge rarely met by the meek and weak-willed. But for those who want to reach their ultimate goal – be it in sports, business … whatever –  there are going to be hard times, difficult odds and circumstances that appear not to be in your favor.

The least-knowledgeable hockey fan was probably aware the Stars would be faced with an intense storm early in Game One of their Western Conference semifinal series against San Jose. The Sharks and their fans, after all, were still buzzing from Tuesday’s Game 7 win against Calgary in the conference quarterfinals, and the thought of advancing against their hated Pacific Division rivals had to have everyone in Northern California champing at the bit.

They came out charging, quite hard.

The Stars weathered it.

They scored first.

The Stars weathered it.

They rallied to tie the game, and the Stars weathered that.

The prize for their resiliency? A 3-2 overtime win, and a 1-0 lead in the series.

“It’s well documented that when teams win a Game 7 how well they start the next round, especially when they are playing at home,” Stars goaltender Marty Turco said. “You just have to stay with it. This team has learned over the years that you have to play to the end, and I’m not surprised at all with this team’s ability to refocus.

“We know that it’s not all peaks. There are going to be some valleys, and you have to fight through those valleys. That steadiness is important. There was never a thought in my mind that we wouldn’t stay with it right to the end.”

Stay with it they did, much to the chagrin – and maybe even to the shock – of the Shark Tank faithful. Even as San Jose jumped out to a roaring start, hit two posts in the first period and eventually outshot the Stars by a 10-2 margin in the opening 20 minutes.

No worries. Score still tied, mostly because Turco was outstanding.

“Marty was great in the first period,” Stars captain Brenden Morrow said. “He kept us in the game.”

The Stars still didn’t break when San Jose took a 1-0 lead early in the second. In fact, they rallied for a power-play goal by Mike Modano, and even took a lead three minutes after that on Morrow’s fourth goal of the postseason.

“We’ve kind of found that spark where even when we get down, we know we’ve got a team that can find some goals,” Morrow said. “We’re not the same team we were two or three years ago where we would get a couple of goals and lock it down.”

Seemingly on top and en route to a series lead, the Stars faced their biggest adversity to date of the 2008 postseason. For the first time in these playoffs, they surrendered a lead, in the game’s final four minutes no less, off the stick of Jonathan Cheechoo.

A crushing blow, no doubt.

But again, crying’s not for them. They know they’ll never stop the rain by complaining (thanks to Hal David & Burt Bacharach).

So right out of the Cheechoo goal, the Stars had arguably their best shift of the night. They answered with several quality scoring chances camped out in San Jose’s end of the ice, and eventually drew a penalty that led to power play in the game’s final three minutes.

Even when a goal didn’t blossom from that opportunity, Dallas once again simply regrouped. And just more than four minutes into overtime, they pushed all those storms, loud fans and anything else that hoped to reduce their chances of victory aside with Morrow’s second goal of the night, the eventual game winner.

Hey, maybe it was a little later than they wanted. Maybe they would have liked an insurance goal earlier.

But when the poop hit the fan, it was the Stars – not the energized Sharks and their loud supporting cast – producing the game’s biggest plays.

“You’ve just got to jump back on the horse,” Stars coach Dave Tippett said of his team’s ability to overcome adversity. “They were a desperate team and they were coming hard, but we weathered it for a while. And when you give up the one goal (to tie it), you’ve just got to get back in the battle.”

Oh they got back in the battle all right. And they made it clear to San Jose that this series will be just that – a battle, no matter what the Sharks throw at them.
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