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Turco, Morrow Lead Stars Into West Finals

by Ken Sins / Dallas Stars

For five hours and 14 minutes, they’d cracked only once each, matching each other save for save, performing like the elite goaltenders that they are. Who would blink first, Marty Turco or Evgeni Nabokov?

Finally, captain Brenden Morrow’s power-play re-direct off Stephane Robidas’ centering pass beat Nabokov at 9:03 of the fourth overtime to give the Stars a pulsating 2-1 victory, ending the longest game of the 2008 playoffs and third-longest in Stars history.

Morrow was a force all night, finishing with 19 hits and seven shots in 51 minutes of ice time.

“You can't pick a better player to score that overtime goal,’’ Robidas said. “If there's one guy that deserves it, it's him. Last game he could have had a hat trick. But he'll trade a hat trick for that goal. He's our captain, our leader, and he's been great.’’

But Turco deserved top billing, coming up with a franchise-record 61 saves,                  

"Our goaltender was unbelievable for us,’’ Morrow said. “That's how he’s been all season, making highlight-reel saves. He closed the door on them. He deserved to be the No. 1 star.''

Earlier in his career, Turco was known as the goalie who would fold under playoff pressure. But the last two years, he’s gone a long way toward altering that reputation.

“It's nice to be on this side of it for once,’’ Turco said. “We've had some long ones before. But none of them was more memorable than this one. It was 99 percent fun tonight.’’

Nabokov was nearly Turco’s equal, turning aside 53 shots.

“There were miraculous saves by him, something he’s done all season,’’ Turco said.

Now the Stars can turn their attention to the top-seeded Detroit Red Wings in the Western Conference final, with Game 1 Thursday night in Motown.

“We've talked about the Stanley Cup since training camp,’’ Robidas said. “We've got eight (wins). We need to get eight more. It’s a great feeling but we’ve got a heck of a test against Detroit.’’

Turco was outstanding all night. He came up with a critical stop on Ryane Clowe’s rush to the net with 10:09 left in the third overtime. The puck ended up under Turco and replay confirmed that there was no goal.

“Marty put on a great show, making huge saves,’’ Robidas said.

For the Stars, it was a night of near misses and close calls, and a handful of those close calls came in the first overtime.

For a few seconds, the fans thought Stars center Brad Richards had scored the game-winner 1:31 into the initial overtime on a shot from the right circle that was caught by Nabokov.

The red light went on but referee Tim Peele immediately blew his whistle and signaled that the goal was disallowed because the puck had been caught.

The play went to video review to determine if the puck was completely over the goal line when it was in Nabokov’s glove. The answer came quickly from Toronto: no goal.

Video reviews haven’t been kind to the Stars. Twice in Friday night’s overtime loss at San Jose, Morrow had goals overturned on replay, once on a controversial pinball goal off his skate that was washed out because video replay officials ruled that the puck had entered the net on a “deliberate kicking motion.’’

Late in the first overtime on Sunday night, Dallas’ Mike Ribeiro stole the puck, went in alone and had two glorious chances that were denied by Nabokov. Seconds later, Ribeiro’s shot glanced off the right crossbar, adding to the frustration.

Robidas slipped and fell in the first 10 seconds of the second overtime, Matt Carle pounced on the loose puck, and Turco had to come up with a huge save to keep the game going.

Turco also came up with two big stops on Patrick Marleau in the first overtime.

Joe Thornton tested Turco 1:30 into the third OT, but again Turco was there to keep the puck out of the net.

During the overtime intermissions, Turco kept to himself, preferring to concentrate on the next period.

“I wasn't saying too much,’’ he said. “I was getting hydrated. All I ever heard was positive things about what we were doing. Guys could have been upset because we were so close. But this team talks about believing and that's what it comes down to.''

In their first nine playoff games, the Stars owned the third period and overtime with a 19-4 advantage. But San Jose won two straight with five consecutive goals in the third period and overtime until Morrow bagged his third overtime game-winner.

San Jose was trying to pull off the greatest NHL comeback in 33 years. Of the 152 NHL teams that have faced a three games to none deficit, only five have made it to a Game 7 and only two have won the series.

The 1975 New York Islanders were the last NHL team to claw all the way back from a 3-0 deficit. The other team to do so was the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs.

Dallas made sure San Jose wasn’t added to that list.

The Stars set an early physical tone. Only 1:12 had elapsed when Joel Lundqvist’s crunching check on Douglas Murray into the corner boards knocked out a pane of plexiglass, creating a delay of several minutes. Later in the period, Steve Ott lost his helmet on a check. Dallas held a 19-13 edge in first-period hits.

Antti Miettinen capitalized on a rebound at 4:45 of the second period for his first goal of the playoffs, with Niklas Hagman providing a screen.

San Jose drew even at 1 at 1:39 of the third period when Ryane Clowe fired into the upper right corner of the net from the right circle, seemingly catching Turco off guard.

But the Stars didn’t wilt, and neither did their fans.

About 14,000 of the sellout crowd of 18,532 were around to see the game’s end at 1:24 on Monday morning.

It was a night they’ll never forget. Neither will Turco.

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