DALLAS -- Beaten at their own game, the Dallas Stars will play it again in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals.
This time, with feeling.
The defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings played Dallas' style to the hilt, scoring first and holding the lead with a grinding defensive system, to capture the best-of-7 series opener 2-0 on Sunday. The Wings, though, insist that's their style, too.
"I think these teams are much closer than people depict them," said Detroit forward Brent Gilchrist, who formerly played for the Stars.
"We've had some offense these playoffs, but that's a little deceiving because the truth is, we focus on defense," Detroit's Brendan Shanahan said.
But with 49 goals in the playoffs, as opposed to 25 for Dallas, Detroit clearly holds the offensive edge.
The Stars' scoring efforts stalled after the first period of Game 1, but they succeeded on one front -- holding Detroit's rapid-fire offense to 23 shots and two goals.
"We felt like we outplayed them in the first period and came out with an 0-0 tie," said Dallas defenseman Richard Matvichuk, who led the Stars with five hits. "Then we get a bad bounce on their first goal and we pack it in."
The Stars appeared to abandon their checking game and did little to increase their scoring chances.
"We need to keep our intensity up," said Mike Modano of Dallas. "If we had done that for 60 minutes, the game might have been a lot different. We need to accept the fact that we might be behind at times in this series, and we need to do it fast."
Game 2 is set for tonight in Dallas before the two teams travel to Detroit for Games 3 and 4 on Friday and Saturday. If necessary, Games 5 and 7 will be in Dallas and Game 6 in Detroit.
The series held great promise for physical, tight-checking hockey. But aside from a few scattered bursts of hitting by Matvichuk, Derian Hatcher and Mike Keane, there were few flying bodies at Reunion Arena.
"We feel we can create offense from our checking base," Stars coach Ken Hitchcock said. "If you're patient, good chances will come your way."
Oddly, Dallas matched Detroit in most statistical categories in the Western Conference finals opener, even winning more than half of the faceoffs. And that's important with the Red Wings, who excel at puck possession and control.
But the opportunistic Red Wings also outshot Dallas and punished mistakes, making it clear that things must change for the Stars if they are to have a chance to win Tuesday and pull even in the series.
"This is about as close to must-win as it gets for us," Modano said. "We need to send it back to Detroit 1-1."
The Stars say there are three things they must do to win.
First, Dallas must revive a power play that's gone AWOL -- 9-for-75 -- in the playoffs.
"The only way you can turn the tide is to score on your power play," said Stars forward Pat Verbeek, who has struggled in the playoffs.
Second, the Stars must follow their well-established policy of scoring first and sitting on the lead, which Detroit successfully co-opted Sunday.
"We have to try and get the lead and build from there," Hitchcock said. "When they went into that checking mode after getting a 1-0 lead, they made it very tough for us in the third period."
Third, Dallas has to pressure Detroit goalie Chris Osgood more than it did in Game 1.
"I don't think we ever tested him," Hatcher said.
"Offensively, we have to shoot a little bit more and create more traffic in front of Osgood," center Guy Carbonneau said. "We didn't shoot enough to hopefully get one by him."
In other words, the Stars must take their game back from the Red Wings.
© 2017. All Rights Reserved. | Contact Us