NHL: Four-OT thriller ë99-percent funí for winning Stars
By Jaime Aron
DALLAS ó As the third overtime turned to a fourth, more than an hour after Sunday night became Monday morning, Stars goaltender Marty Turco could think back to the other two NHL playoff marathons he played and what it was like afterward.
The dead-limbed weariness. The strange sensation of calm after being so intense for so long. The day-after crash from being so physically and mentally drained.
And, worst of all, the sting of losing a 2-games-in-1 thriller.
This time, though, Turco got to find out how the other half lives. Thanks to captain Brenden Morrowís power-play goal 129:03 after the first puck was dropped, the Dallas Stars beat the San Jose Sharks 2-1 in the eighth-longest game in NHL history. The victory ended their second-round series in six games, earning the Stars a spot in the Western Conference finals for the first time in Turcoís career.
iItís nice to be on this side of it for once,î Turco said. iWeíve had some long ones before. But none of them was more memorable than this one. It was 99-percent fun tonight.î
Pre-dawn finishes are a big part of Stars lore.
Dallas has been involved in five of the 18 longest games in NHL history, more than any other club. All have come since 1999, the year the Stars won their lone Stanley Cup title ó in triple overtime, of course.
Dallas made it back to the NHL finals in 2000, but hasnít gotten past the second round since. Along the way, disappointments have included losing to Anaheim 48 seconds into a fifth overtime in 2003 and losing to Vancouver 18:06 into a fourth overtime last year.
Turco was in goal and Dave Tippett was coaching in both those losses, and for much of the post-2000 skid. So for them, finally getting to the conference finals, and getting there like this, is certainly something theyíll never forget.
iThis one ranks the best for me,î Tippett said. iItís way nicer when it ends this way.î
Turco came away the unquestioned star.
He made a franchise-record 61 saves, one more impressive than the next, especially in the extra periods. The best was a barrell-roll to smother a puck inches from the line in the third OT, a play so close that several Sharks players raised their arms in triumph.
iSick. Just sick,î San Jose veteran Jeremy Roenick said, meaning it as a compliment. iHe made huge save after huge save after huge save. First overtime, second overtime, third overtime. He gave them an opportunity to win. Thatís what a veteran is supposed to do. He might have had some critiquing in the last couple of years, but heís a top-notch, All-Star goaltender.î
Next up for Turco and the Stars is a trip to Detroit to face the Red Wings, starting Thursday night. Thereís sure to be questions about Turcoís struggles against that team and in their arena, but itíll have to wait.
Not only did he deserve a day to soak up the glory of his last performance, he probably needed to soak in a tub or to lay in bed all day. Most of his teammates probably took it easy, too.
Thanks to their vast experience, Dallas players and coaches knew how to handle their unscheduled double-header. Between periods, they loaded up on water and Gatorade and munched PowerBars for energy. After the second overtime, team officials called the arenaís catering company and asked them to round up all the healthiest food they could find at that late hour.