Stars face uphill climb in series against Avs

Updated: April 29, 2006, 8:21 PM ET
Associated Press

DALLAS -- The Dallas Stars finally put it all together -- their stars played like stars, their defensemen limited shots and their goalie stopped nearly all the ones that did come his way.

Rather than wonder where that combination was the first three games of their series against the Colorado Avalanche, the Stars just hope they can sustain it for Game 5 on Sunday.

"Every one of us knows if we play the way we're capable, we're going to be right back in the series," left wing Brenden Morrow said Saturday. "We've got to keep it simple, basic. Sometimes the more you look at the big picture, the farther away it seems."

Dallas avoided the humiliation of getting swept out of the opening round by seventh-seeded Colorado with a 4-1 victory Friday night.

The encouraging part for the Stars was the way they won.

Mike Modano set up the first goal, which was scored by Jere Lehtinen. Bill Guerin, who was active all night, was rewarded by scoring the backbreaking third goal. Perhaps most importantly, goalie Marty Turco stopped 22 of 23 shots after allowing 14 goals the previous three games.

All told, it was the first time this series Dallas looked like the team that won 52 games and earned 112 points, second most in the Western Conference this season.

"We have to continue to show our best game," coach Dave Tippett said. "There is no other alternative."

The Stars must win three more times if they're going to join the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs and the 1975 New York Islanders as the only NHL teams to win a playoff series after losing the first three games.

Colorado only has to win once to avoid joining the '42 Detroit Red Wings and the '75 Pittsburgh Penguins as the only teams to blow 3-0 leads.

"All we can do is forget about (Game 4) and concentrate on the next one," Avalanche goalie Jose Theodore said. "They skated better than they had in the first three games, and they had the puck more than we did. They had more shots. They were shooting from everywhere, put more traffic in front of me. It was different than the other three games."

Although Colorado won the first three games, the Avalanche only dominated the opener. They pulled out Games 2 and 3 with pluck and desire, erasing late deficits and winning both in overtime.

"Going into the series, we knew it wasn't going to be easy," Colorado captain Joe Sakic said.

Going into Game 4, Tippett was taking even more heat than Turco for Dallas' mess. Although the coach said he didn't shake anything up, he did cancel practice Thursday, taking the players to lunch instead.

Still, he insists it wasn't gimmicks, pregame speeches or a newfound strategy that snapped his players out of their funk. It was simply getting back to playing solid hockey.

"When you're in do-or-die mode, there's probably extra desperation factor there. That's just human nature," he said. "But the other side of it is we did get some breaks, we earned some breaks. We hadn't gotten any in the series, and last night we got some."

To keep it up, Tippett merely wants the Stars to play with "poise," a word he said Saturday that he's been emphasizing the last three games.

"Play like a good team instead of a team with jitters," he said. "Mistakes can be a factor if games are going to be close. The more poise you can have, the more of those mistakes you're taking out of the game, right?"

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press