Stars take 3-0 lead, can close out on Wednesday

Thanks to an unlikely goal from Mattias Norstrom, the Dallas Stars are one victory shy of the Western Conference finals.

Norstrom scored from the top of the left circle 4:37 into overtime Tuesday night to give the Stars a 2-1 victory over the San Jose Sharks and a commanding 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.

Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov had already made several impressive saves in the overtime, denying Loui Eriksson twice in the first couple of minutes. The second shot by Eriksson came as he tried to knock in the rebound of Brad Richards' shot that the goalie kicked away.

But Nabokov had too many bodies around him and couldn't see the shot by Norstrom, who scored his second goal in 47 playoff games. He took a pass from Mike Ribeiro and slapped it through the traffic and into the net.

The last time the Stars had a 3-0 series lead was in the first round of the 1999 playoffs, when they swept Edmonton and went on to win the Stanley Cup. This is their 16th postseason series since then.

Dallas can wrap up the series Wednesday night at home.

Nabokov stopped 27 shots, including Niklas Hagman's penalty shot with 9:10 left in regulation when the goalie slid to his left to deny the backhander. Hagman got that opportunity after he was taken down by Christian Ehrhoff skating toward the net with the puck.

Sergei Zubov, whose turnover led to San Jose's short-handed goal in the first period, made amends in the first minute of the third when he tied the game at 1 with his shot from the top of the right circle.

The Stars began the third period on a power play, and 35 seconds later had a two-man advantage when Ehrhoff was whistled for hooking Brenden Morrow when the Stars captain was driving toward the net with the puck. On the ensuing goal, Morrow was in front of Nabokov, providing a screen when Zubov took a pass from Ribeiro.

Sharks captain Patrick Marleau, already denied a power-play goal because of an inadvertent whistle, scored a shorthanded goal with 35 seconds left in the first period.

Zubov, the 15-season veteran and two-time Stanley Cup winner, played only his second game since mid-January after operations to place a screw in a bone in his right foot and to repair a sports hernia. He had the primary assist on Mike Modano's go-ahead goal in a 5-2 victory in Game 2, when the Stars scored four goals in the third period.

But with the Stars on the power play after Joe Thornton's cross-checking penalty, Zubov blindly passed back to an unexpecting Jere Lehtinen. The puck was instead picked up at center ice by Marleau, who drove and shot over Turco's left shoulder.

Only 4 minutes into the game, and already on a power play, San Jose appeared to have an early lead when Marleau knocked a loose puck past Turco. But referee Don VanMassenhoven quickly waved off the score, indicating that he had already blown a whistle.

The referee, whose view of the puck from behind the net was blocked by Turco, who was completely extended and on his side, didn't realize that the puck still hadn't been controlled after Thornton's shot. Marleau poked it into the goal, but it didn't count.


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