DALLAS -- Before the Western Conference finals, the Dallas Stars and Colorado Avalanche had never met in the postseason, not even when they were the Minnesota North Stars and the Quebec Nordiques.
It hasn't taken long to start a rivalry.
Four exciting, intense games between top-seeded Dallas and second-seeded Colorado have stirred strong emotions towards one another. The series is tied after four games with Game 5 Sunday at Reunion Arena.
"I think we came in with respect and fear. The fear is pretty well gone and that's been replaced by hate," Stars coach Ken Hitchcock said Saturday. "That's good. It makes for healthy play."
It also makes for physical play, and the rough stuff has escalated with each game between defensive-minded Dallas and offensive-oriented Colorado. Bodies were flying throughout Colorado's 3-2 overtime victory Friday night.
"Whenever you play a team in the playoffs, you get that fire between the two teams," Avalanche forward Adam Deadmarsh said. "You definitely can say the fire is lit."
Colorado coach Bob Hartley was still fuming Saturday afternoon about two blows from Dallas defenseman Richard Matvichuk.
The first smack broke the collarbone of Avalanche rookie Milan Hejduk, ending a postseason in which he'd had six goals and six assists. Peter Forsberg was shaken up by the second one, but he returned and will play Sunday.
"It was a very borderline hit on Hejduk. And the one against Forsberg, that is clearly checking from behind," Hartley said. "You can see it clearly on the video. He is going right for him like he is under a mission."
Matvichuk hurt his groin after hitting Forsberg, but Hitchcock said he'll be back Sunday.
Hartley said Game 1 hero Valeri Kamensky, who missed Game 4 with a wrist injury, could be back Sunday. Hartley said a decision would be made at game time.
Dallas went into Game 4 knowing that a victory would give it a chance to eliminate Colorado on Sunday. But the Avalanche scored on their first two shots, putting the Stars in a survival mode.
Dallas scored goals in the second and third periods, but Colorado won on a goal by rookie Chris Drury with 31 seconds left in overtime.
Hitchcock said it was a quiet flight back to Dallas, which worried him going into a team meeting Saturday. He came out smiling, though, as his players were upbeat.
"I know this is a funny thing to say, but I think our players are enjoying the moment so much right now that they're willing to do anything -- ANYTHING -- to win," Hitchcock said. "There's a point you reach as a team where you enjoy paying the price. That's where we're at and it looks like that's where they're at, too."
Both teams understand what has to be done now that the series has been reduced to best-of-3.
Colorado was tied after four games in its first two rounds and won both times in six games. Dallas was in the same situation in the second round.
"There is no time to waste," Hartley said. "There will be no waste of energy at the wrong spots. I think our priorities are real clear."
Hitchcock said whichever team can dictate the style of play will win the series.
"Both goaltenders are playing outstanding and there's a lot of passion on both sides," he said. "Both teams are playing with desperation and recognizing that certain aspects during every game can deliver a knockout punch.
"I think that's the way it should be when you've got two real heavyweight teams going at it the way they're going at it right now."