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Turco, Kids Propel Stars to 3-1 Series Lead

by Ken Sins / Dallas Stars

The Stars needed Marty Turco to be their best player on Thursday night in a tight-checking, physical Game 4.

Turco, once known as the goalie who would crack under playoff pressure, is rapidly changing that reputation. He delivered another stingy performance, coming within 7.6 seconds of his second shutout of the series.

That took away none of the luster from his 27-save effort in the 3-1 decision as the Stars grabbed a three games to one lead over the Anaheim Ducks in the first-round series.

“Tonight I felt really good,’’ Turco said. “I had an opportunity to see all the shots that came my way. There were some anxious, scrambly moments in the second period. But the guys were doing all they could to help me.’’

Turco had plenty of help from rookie defensemen Nicklas Grossman, Matt Niskanen and Mark Fistric, who handled the big-game heat like veterans.

Turco won his first playoff series in 2003, beating Edmonton in six games. But he was beaten in a six-game duel against Jean-Sebastien Giguere and the then-Mighty Ducks in the ’03 conference semis and has dropped four straight series overall.

That seems on the verge of changing. The Stars can wrap up the series in Game 5 Friday night in Anaheim.

“He had a wonderful performance,’’ Stars coach Dave Tippett said. “Everybody knows he has to be good for our team to be good, and he was excellent tonight. We were under siege a little bit but we found our way out of it. Marty’s going to have to be very, very good, and you saw exactly how good he can be tonight.’’

Last season Turco earned some redemption when he registered three shutouts in a seven-game first-round defeat to Vancouver. Turco had a 1.30 goals-against and .952 save percentage in that series, then shut out the Ducks in Game 1 this season, 4-0.

He was close to his second shutout in the series until Mathieu Schneider scored a late,  meaningless goal.

“We probably gave up a few more chances than we would have liked but Marty stood on his head for us,’’ Stars captain Brenden Morrow said. “He made a lot of saves, made them look easy, but they weren't. We limited odd-man rushes and when they got them, he came up huge.’’

Anaheim held a 7-2 shots edge with less than three minutes left in the opening period, then Turco came up with key saves on choice first-period attempts by Chris Kunitz and Teemu Selanne.

Turco denied Kunitz again, this time from in front of the net with a little over 14:30 remaining in the second period. Turco made a tough stop on Selanne with about seven and a half minutes left in the second, and then, with 46 seconds remaining in the second period, Turco stoned Selanne again.

Turco got some breathing room with 10:59 to play when Mike Modano hit Stu Barnes on a long lead pass. Barnes went in on a breakaway and beat Giguere five-hole for a 2-0 pad.

Selanne’s frustration showed when he plowed into Turco at 11:48 of the final period. Turco was down briefly after Selanne hit him in the throat with his stick, earning a goalie interference penalty.

“I got clocked, but had good feeling,’’ Turco said. “It wasn't an accident. You've got to appreciate his moxie to help those guys win. Their backs are against the wall and he's a competitor.’’

The youngsters on the blue line were under the gun. Anaheim forecheckers tried to separate them from the puck, but they didn’t crack.

Fistric was making his NHL playoff debut because 15-year veteran Philippe Boucher was scratched with a hip strain. Boucher will be out at least a week before he’ll be re-evaluated.

The Stars were also thought to be reeling without their best veteran defenseman, Sergei Zubov, recovering from a hernia procedure.

But the kids showed grace under pressure.

“Fistric in his first NHL post-season game, he did a heck of a job,’’ Morrow said. “They were all under a heck of lot of pressure. They're the last line of defense against a big, physical team like that. We're real proud of those guys.’’

Fistric settled down after some early jitters.

“There were nerves just because it's Game 4 of the playoffs,’’ Fistric said.”I was a young guy watching it on TV. Now I'm a part of it. As the game went on, I relaxed a little more.’’

Now the Stars go for their first series win since 2003.

“We lose that game, it's a 2-2 series and the pressure is really on us,’’ Stars forward Steve Ott said. “Now we're up 3-1 and we have to figure out a way to close it out."

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