Turco responded with by far his best performance of the Western Conference finals, stopping 33 shots as the Stars beat the Red Wings 3-1 on Wednesday night.
When the game’s Three Stars were announced, Turco was deservedly the last man out of the tunnel.
“He was unbelievable tonight,’’ Stars center Brad Richards said. “It’s been tough on him in some of these games when we’ve done some things that left him out to dry sometimes. Where he goes, we go, that’s how important he is.’’
Beating the team that has been his nemesis throughout his career was huge for Turco as the Stars forced Game 5 Saturday afternoon in Detroit. Turco is 0-9-2 lifetime in Motown, but he’ll enter The Joe feeling a little better about his chances.
““This is a huge confidence boost for Marty,’’ Dallas winger Steve Ott
said. “He knows he can play against any team. I don’t care if it’s Detroit or whoever. But he definitely needed that, and so did our team.’’
In the first three games of the series, Turco allowed 11 goals and had a so-so 3.69 goals-against. After his outstanding play in the first two rounds, Turco allowed five goals on 21 shots in Game 3 against Detroit. He wasn’t awful but he wasn’t great either.
And he wasn’t getting a lot of help from his teammates.
Turco needed to be playing at his highest level if the Stars were to avoid being swept for the first time since the 2001 playoffs when they were four-and-out against the St. Louis Blues. The franchise has been swept only twice in 47 best-of-7 series.
“It was kind of a no-brainer for us, the kind of situation we were in,’’ Turco said. “We got a pretty intense game from everybody on our side. The talk in the locker room was that we can do it. The guys were fired up.’’
Clearly, Turco wasn’t ready to begin a summer on the golf course.
“It’s win or go home,’’ Turco said. “Personally, it’s an opportunity to go back to Detroit and play and get a win, to inch closer to what we know we can do. It’s a big challenge for us and for me personally.’’
Detroit had been so dominant in the first three games that Dallas hadn’t had a player selected for any of the Three Stars. On Wednesday night at the AAC, the Three Star selections were Turco, Brenden Morrow
and Mike Modano.
The Stars had probably their best first period of the series, outshooting the Wings, 9-5. But Dallas failed to convert on the only three power plays of the period, making them 1-for-18 with the man advantage for the series.
Detroit fans thought their team had scored the game’s first goal early in the second period on Pavel Datsyuk’s shot from the right circle on the power play. But the goal was disallowed because the game officials ruled that pesty Tomas Holmstrom’s rear end was in the crease.
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock stood on the bench to complain, and later repeated his disagreement with the call in his post-game press conference.
Turco was down and vulnerable with 7:40 left in the second period, but Morrow cleared the puck off the goal line before it could slide into the net.Loui Eriksson
poked a loose puck past Chris Osgood at 19:37 of the second period to give the Stars their first lead of the series. Dallas was tied or trailed for 219 minutes, 37.3 seconds of the series before Eriksson went hard to the net for his fourth goal of the playoffs.
“It’s important to get the first one, to get some confidence,’’ Eriksson said.
The Stars’ lead lasted only 1:12, however, as Detroit’s Henrik Zetterberg beat Turco from the left circle in the first minute of the final period to tie it at 1.
That was all Turco would give up on the night.
“We were looking for a better team effort and that’s what we got from Marty on out,’’ Stars coach Dave Tippett said.
Dallas took the lead for good on the power play when Modano beat Osgood with a one-timer from the slot off a pass from Sergei Zubov at 5:35 of the final period.
And Morrow gave Turco some breathing room with a goal from close range at 14:34 of the third period, Morrow’s ninth of the playoffs to push Dallas’ lead to 3-1.
While his team defending a final power play, Turco capped the evening with a sprawling save with 55 seconds left, lying on his back like he was doing a Snow Angel. The puck wound up beneath him after Detroit’s Daniel Cleary tried to nudge it into the net.
The Stars still face tough odds. Only twice in 153 attempts have NHL teams rallied to win a best-of-7 Stanley Cup series after losing the first three games. The last team to pull off that trick was the 1975 New York Islanders, who roared back to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins.
“We needed a thread of life and now we have it,’’ Tippett said. “We’ve got some momentum. We’ve got to use it to our advantage, steal a game there and now it’s 3-2 and the ball’s rolling the right way.’’
For that to happen, Turco will need to play at Wednesday night’s level.