SAN JOSE, Calif. —Mike Modano and the Dallas Stars probably don’t want to leave the Shark Tank. At least they’re heading home with a two-game lead in a second-round series that’s turning into a rout.
Modano scored the tiebreaking goal early in the Stars’ four-goal third period, and Marty Turco made 29 saves in a 5-2 victory over the Sharks in Game 2 on Sunday night, sending Dallas home with a commanding series lead.
Brad Richards scored the tying goal on an awful San Jose turnover in the opening minute of the third period, and Niklas Hagman added two insurance goals in the Stars’ eighth victory in their last nine trips to San Jose. Mike Ribeiro also scored an early goal before Dallas put a tremendous finish on another profitable night at the Shark Tank.
Dallas hasn’t reached the conference finals since 2000, when the Stars beat San Jose in the second round on the way to their second straight Stanley Cup finals appearance.
Games 3 and 4 are back-to-back, starting Tuesday night in Dallas. The Sharks might have a better chance to get competitive in Texas, since the NHL’s best road team during the regular season has won three of its last four games in Dallas.
Milan Michalek and Joe Pavelski scored for the second-seeded Sharks, who are 4-5 overall in the playoffs with none of the momentum they acquired during their 20-game regular-season streak without a regulation defeat. Evgeni Nabokov stopped 21 shots, but was no closer to top form than his teammates.
San Jose nursed a 2-1 lead heading into the third period, but Richards tied it just 32 seconds in on a giveaway by Pavelski. Modano then put the Stars ahead with 16:21 to play on a goal set up by an exceptional play from defenseman Sergei Zubov, who was in Dallas’ lineup for the first time since Jan. 17.
Zubov, who had been out with a sports hernia, made a stunning cross-ice backhand pass out of a graceful pirouette, and Modano buried his second goal in two games against San Jose—and his sixth in six games at the Shark Tank this season alone.
When Hagman banged home his first goal, thousands of fans headed for the exits in souvenir teal T-shirts handed out by the Sharks before the game. Hagman added an empty-netter with 1:15 to play.
Dallas won the opener 3-2 on captain Brenden Morrow’s overtime goal, using its trapping defensive style to neutralize the Sharks’ offensive talent as effectively as they did against Anaheim in the opening round. San Jose has struggled to adjust to a slower pace after beating the run-and-gun Calgary Flames in the first round.
Zubov returned to the Stars’ lineup after missing nearly three months, but defenseman Philippe Boucher remained sidelined with a strained hip. Zubov, a two-time Stanley Cup winner, hadn’t played since Jan. 17, and he underwent surgery in Germany earlier in the month.
The Stars took a handful of undisciplined penalties in the first period, but the Sharks couldn’t capitalize on their power-play time, including 76 seconds of 4-on-3 advantage, until Pavelski deflected a pass from Craig Rivet over Turco’s shoulder.
The Stars tied it late in the first on another heady play by Ribeiro, who scored from behind the Dallas net by banking the puck off Nabokov’s skate at a near-impossible angle for his 11th point in eight playoff games.
San Jose reclaimed the lead late in the second when Rivet and Brian Campbell made sharp passes to set up Michalek on a breakaway, which he converted easily after Turco’s overeager attempt at a poke-check. Michalek, the Sharks’ second-leading scorer during the regular season, went scoreless in seven games against Calgary before notching a goal in each of his first two games against Dallas.
But Richards tied it when Pavelski fell down at the blue line and handed the puck to the former Tampa Bay playoff star, who beat Nabokov cleanly.