*STARS have re-signed Steve Ott to a two-year extension!
Once again, the Dallas STARS are one win away from advancing to another round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. The clichés are becoming repetitive and redundant, but what else can you say? This team is continuing to defy the odds (and the odds-makers) and make short work of very good teams. Though the STARS had their moments during the season, few experts picked them to even make the playoffs this year and practically no one had them beating the Ducks. I guarantee you this as well ... NOBODY BELIEVED THE STARS WOULD BE UP 3-0 ... much less have a chance to sweep! Yet here we sit at the end of 3 ... just livin' the dream!
San Jose came out strong and rowdy in the first. They had several chances and some ferocious hits. For the second game in a row, Dallas spent too much time early on in the box. In fact, all four of their penalties came in the first period. Then the STARS caught a break when the referee lost sight of the puck and waived off Joe Thornton's goal. However they were not as lucky when Marleau took a Zubov turnover and beat Turco on a shorthanded break-away. Finally, some life from the Sharks' captain. Each team had several chances in that first period but Marty and Nabby were strong, to quite strong!
The bulk of the second period and some of the third had the feeling of old school playoff hockey ... lots of hitting, several scoring chances, but no goals. Thankfully the refs decided to put their whistles away and let the players decide the game. After the first period, the only penalties called were ones in which a STARS player got behind the defense and basically had a 1-on-0 against Nabokov. In other words, San Jose players forced the refs to make blatantly obvious calls.
Someone forgot to remind the Sharks that Dallas actually prefers going into the 3rd down a goal. Once again, the STARS withstood the physical attack and began to get their feet under them. Then Dallas catches their own break and receives 35 seconds of 5-on-3 power play time. 12 seconds later, the game is tied. Another power play goal and another timely tally. Then the AAC went wild when Niklas Hagman lined up at center ice for a penalty shot. Unfortunately, he could not convert and the game went to overtime for the second time in the series. The result was the same, however, with Dallas finding the net early ... only this win put the Sharks on the brink of elimination!
The STARS finally out shot the Sharks 29-20 ... 18-11 in the second and third periods combined. Multiple times they have had huge comebacks in the 3rd period to win the game ... specifically the last 4 games. Marty did not have to do much tonight, but he was money when called on. In only his second game back after missing close to 50, Zubov was on the ice more than any other STARS player ... oh, and he scored the game-tying power play goal! And how about Matty Norstrom? If I had not been at the game, I would not have believed the sheet! Coming into the playoffs, he had NEVER scored a playoff goal. Tonight's overtime game-winner gives him 2 in this postseason! Congrats!
Finally, this current run comes down to the very heart and character displayed in the STARS' captain, Brendan Morrow! He finished with a game-high 11 hits ... ELEVEN! This guy is the absolute NUTS! He is fearless, he does not feel pain, he can and does throw hellacious hits (ask Campbell and Rivet), he scores, and he leads. I have always seen Hatcher as the ultimate captain, at least while he was the STARS' ... but there is no question that Morrow has all of the qualities of a leader, has fully enveloped himself in that role, and ABSOLUTELY deserves to wear the 'C' on his chest! For a young man who first tasted the Stanley Cup Finals as a rookie in this league ... Brendan has come full circle, and with so much more on the horizon!
The series is not over but Dallas certainly has a strangle hold on it. More so in this series than when they were up 3-1 on Anaheim. They have fought harder to score goals and have not gone quietly into the overtimes. They have been the better team throughout the entire playoffs. Dallas has earned the position they are in ... now they have to finish it off and not waste time doing it. They have the home crowd and are playing a lackadaisical Sharks' team. It's our turn now! This team is special! No more trips to Southern Cal until the fall. No more 9 or 10pm start times. Finish this thing and be well rested for the Avs/Wings. Give us some time to root for the Avalanche to take their series to 7! Keep up the good work men!