By Sarah Kwak, SI.com
Before Wednesday night's Game 4, Dallas coach Dave Tippett noted: "We've been chasing [the Red Wings] this series from the get-go." A pretty obvious observation given the Stars hadn't held a lead at any point in the first three games. But with just 22 seconds left in the second period, Dallas took a 1-0 lead into the break when Stephane Robidas' shot pulled a magic bullet, bouncing off of Detroit goalie Chris Osgood and then off of Dallas winger Loui Eriksson and then his stick before landing in the net. An admittedly ugly goal, but it gave Dallas a taste of what it's like to lead.
That taste turned out to be more like a whiff after Detroit winger Henrik Zetterberg got one past goalie Marty Turco just 49 seconds into the third. But by the end of the night, thanks to Mike Modano (pictured), the Stars sat down to a full meal, as they send the series back to Michigan and avoid the dreaded four-game sweep after beating the Red Wings 3-1 in Dallas.
If the first goal wasn't pretty, Modano's more than made up for it with a gorgeous one-timer off a pass from defenseman Sergei Zubov on a third-period power play. It was the Captain Emeritus' first goal since April 27, when he scored the winner in the second game of the San Jose series, and it was Dallas' first power-play goal since the first period of Game 2. Against Detroit, finding success with the man-advantage has been difficult for the Stars, which entered the Western Conference finals leading the league with 15 power-play goals and a 25 percent success rate. They saw that percentage drop to 21.3 after falling behind three games to Detroit; the Red Wings' power play, incidentally, pulled ahead of the Stars' going from 20.4 to 21.9 in those three game. Dallas again staring at the Red Wings' backs.
If the Stars want to play a successful game of catch-up, now down two games in the series, they'll need those two things: big contribution from their leaders and better results on the power play. They need to take advantage of opportunities when they're presented. As the first period of Wednesday's game showed, Detroit definitely knows a smart penalty from a stupid one, and when push comes to cross check, they're not afraid to take their chances in the box to avoid giving up an easy look. Ask Red Wings captain Niklas Lidstrom, who took an interference penalty about 10 minutes into the game to keep Dallas center Joel Lundqvist from getting an easy look on a developing 2-on-1 break. Against the Red Wings, teams earn wins; they don't just happen to stumble upon them, especially with how well Osgood's played this postseason.
And so, while the Stars still have plenty of ground to cover, they at the very least took a few strides in the right direction in Game 4. Gaining ground on Detroit won't be easy, but if there's a team that's familiar with do-or-die difficulty this postseason, it's certainly the Stars, who lead the league, for now, in games played. They watched their opponents in the first two rounds -- Anaheim and San Jose -- push it to six. Maybe now, it's Dallas's shot.
On the disallowed Pavel Datsyuk power play goal, questionable would be a pretty generous characterization. The explanation was that Tomas Holmstrom's bum was interfering (or rather, inter-rear-ing...). He was indeed in Marty Turco's way, and he was glancing back over his shoulder to make sure he was perfectly aligned with the Stars goalie, but that's his job; that's where he excels. Saying he didn't think it was a bad call, Turco explained that he felt that he wasn't able to move freely to make a save of Datsyuk's shot. But Holmstrom's skates were pretty clearly out of the paint; so, unless he's been working out with Jessica Biel's trainer...
"What do you want me to say?" Detroit coach Mike Babcock said of the call after the game.
Maybe... "Hey, at least he was facing the play."