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Monday, April 7

Updated: April 7, 6:35 PM ET

Turco's marks might blow over without Cup

Associated Press

DALLAS -- Marty Turco's first season as the Dallas Stars' No. 1 goaltender produced the stingiest goals-against average since World War II and the second-best save percentage since that statistic began being kept a quarter-century ago.

Now he's got to prove himself all over again in the playoffs.

Turco capped one of the best seasons ever for a goalie by posting his seventh shutout in the season finale Sunday. The postgame celebration was even sweeter because the victory gave Dallas the top seed in the Western Conference.

The Stars open the playoffs Wednesday night at home against Edmonton.

This has certainly been a magical year, for the team and for myself ... We'll enjoy it for a few hours, but the playoffs aren't that far away. Those will be on my mind pretty soon.
Stars goalie Marty Turco

Before he started looking ahead to the Oilers and his first postseason game, Turco savored what he'd done over 55 regular-season games.

Stomping into the locker room in leg pads and skates, Turco clutched the final puck from a 2-0 victory over Nashville. Someone had already written 1.72 -- his new GAA mark -- in thick black ink on a white piece of tape and slapped it across the puck.

It didn't take much prompting for Turco to hold it up for the cameras.

"This will be the once and only 1.72,'' Turco said, smiling wide. "This is something I'll have forever. Nobody can take it away from me. I can't lie -- it does feel good.''

GAA is the goalie equivalent of a pitcher's ERA. Instead of calculating runs per nine innings, this stat figures goals per 60 minutes.

The modern-era record had been 1.77, set by Toronto's Al Rollins in 1950-51. Chicago's Tony Esposito lowered it by a few thousandths in 1971-72, but not enough for the rounded figure to change.

Turco was at 1.75 going into the finale. He could've taken the game off to protect the mark. Instead, he risked losing it and wound up making it even tougher to beat.

"Anyone who has tinkered around the history of hockey knows it's a remarkable stat,'' Dallas coach Dave Tippett said.

Although Turco grew up in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, the same town where Esposito was raised, he didn't have the number taped to his wall like Tiger Woods did with Jack Nicklaus' records. Turco describes his objective simply: Let as few pucks into the net as possible.

"This has certainly been a magical year, for the team and for myself,'' Turco said. "It puts a little mark on my career so far and it really does feel good. We'll enjoy it for a few hours, but the playoffs aren't that far away. Those will be on my mind pretty soon.''

Turco spent the last two years backing up Ed Belfour, a great regular-season goalie who wasn't considered a playoff star until leading Dallas to the Stanley Cup in 1999. He was even better when the Stars went back to the finals in 2000.

Belfour dipped last season, leading to more ice time for Turco. Dallas decided not to re-sign Belfour in the summer, giving the job to Turco.

Hedging their bets, though, the Stars brought in veteran Ron Tugnutt as the backup. There was even talk of them splitting the job.

But Turco was superb from the start.

He made the All-Star team and was a big reason the West won in a shootout. It was during that weekend that Turco met Esposito.

They chatted and snapped a photo together. As they said goodbye, Esposito told Turco to break the record.

An ankle injury kept Turco out of 18 games in February and March. The Stars began sliding without him.

Then he came back and so did Dallas. Turco won six of seven starts, with the only loss coming in overtime. The Stars closed 7-0-0-2 with wins in the last four. They needed every point to hold off Detroit by one for the top seed.

In addition to the GAA mark, Turco's save percentage was .932, second only to the .936 by Buffalo's Dominik Hasek in 1998-99. That was the season the Stars beat the Sabres in the finals. Save percentage has been kept for individual goalies only since 1976-77.

"I hope everyone realizes what a huge accomplishment that is,'' said Dallas newcomer Stu Barnes, who played alongside Hasek for many seasons. "This is unbelievable.''
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