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GAME: Colorado Avalanche at Dallas Stars.
PLAYOFF SERIES: Western Conference quarterfinals; Avalanche lead 2-0.
TIME: Monday, 8 p.m. EDT.
Trailing 2-0 in their first-round series against the Colorado Avalanche, the Dallas Stars are hoping to use one of the NHL's biggest home-ice advantages to pull even.
The only problem is that the Stars will be facing one of the league's best road teams.
The Stars look to avoid falling into a 3-0 hole when the series between fifth-seeded Colorado and fourth-seeded Dallas moves to the American Airlines Center.
The Stars went just 15-19-5-2 on the road this season, and it showed in Games 1 and 2. Colorado dominated those contests, outscoring Dallas 8-3 as the Avs' star players quickly took control of the series.
"Their big guys over there are killing us right now," Dallas center Mike Modano said after Colorado's 5-2 victory in Game 2 on Friday night. "Whoever is on the ice against these guys have to be on their toes and be real sharp and smart. Right now those three, four guys are taking us apart."
Those three or four guys are forwards Peter Forsberg, Alex Tanguay and Joe Sakic, and goaltender David Aebischer.
Sakic ended the regular season with one goal in Colorado's final seven games, but has scored in both games against Dallas. The Stars have had no success in stopping the AMP line of Tanguay, Milan Hejduk and Forsberg, which has eight points in the series.
"There's a lot of desperation out there with those guys and when they get going, they're a tough line to stop," Avalanche defenseman Bob Boughner said. "It doesn't matter who's playing against them. I remember playing against the Avalanche, and when those guys are on the top of their game it's a long night back there."
Aebischer has looked a lot like mentor Patrick Roy in his first two playoff starts, turning away 56 of 59 shots to thoroughly outplay Stars counterpart Marty Turco.
The Avs are also getting strong play from All-Star defenseman Rob Blake, who is back to being his steady self after an inconsistent end to the season, chipping in three assists to go with his solid play at the blue line.
While Colorado's stars are postseason-tested, most of Dallas' top players also have a wealth of playoff experience that hasn't helped the team so far. Modano had the first goal in Game 2, but hasn't had room to create much else. Forward Bill Guerin, Dallas' leading scorer in the regular season with 34 goals and 69 points, has no points and five shots in the series.
The Stars also haven't exhibited veteran poise in their opening playoff series, giving Colorado 14 power plays that have led to three goals.
Defenseman Richard Matvichuk was on the ice for all three Colorado goals in Game 1 and is minus-5 in the series.
Turco finished the regular season with a career-high 37 wins and a 1.98 goals-against average before allowing eight goals against the Avalanche.
"Personally, regardless of the goals, the amount of them, I just (want to) give my team a chance," Turco said. "I've been trying to do that, so it doesn't really matter what has happened. It's what is going to happen that matters the most for us."
Colorado has managed to slow down Dallas' speedy top two lines by standing them up in the neutral zone and the blue line, forcing the Stars to dump the puck in to create offensive chances.
"It's just trying to eliminate their space and time in the neutral zone and not let them wind up with some speed - just executing defensive play in the neutral zone," Boughner said. "I think the guys that are assigned to that job, are doing a heck of job. It's everybody coming together and doing the little things."
Colorado struggled at times to do those little things at home, where it went just 19-14-6-2 this season. The Avs were a much better team on the road, going 21-8-7-5 away from the Pepsi Center.
The Stars are 5-3 in Dallas against the Avs during the postseason, and they'll have to improve to avoid falling into a nearly hopeless situation. Only two teams in NHL playoff history have come back to win a series after trailing 3-0, the last time being in 1975 when the New York Islanders defeated Pittsburgh.
Game 4 is Wednesday night at the American Airlines Center.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Stars - 97 points, 5th seed. Avalanche - 100 points, 4th seed.
PLAYOFF TEAM LEADERS: Avalanche - Forsberg, Tanguay and Sakic, 2 goals; Blake, 3 assists; four with 3 points; Matthew Barnaby, 6 PIM. Stars - Niko Kapanen, Chris Therien and Modano, 1 goal; six with 1 assist; nine with 1 point; Shayne Corson, 12 PIM.
PLAYOFF SPECIAL TEAMS: Avalanche - Power play: 23.1 percent (3 for 13). Penalty killing: 91.7 percent (11 for 12). Stars - Power play: 8.3 percent (1 for 12). Penalty killing: 76.9 percent (10 for 13).
GOALTENDERS: Avalanche - Aebischer (2-0, 1.50 GAA); Tommy Salo (no appearances). Stars - Turco (0-2, 4.07); Ron Tugnutt (no appearances).
REGULAR SEASON SERIES: Avalanche, 3-1. Aebischer started all four games and allowed just three goals in winning the first three matchups, including a 29-save, 3-0 victory in the first meeting Nov. 15. Turco struggled against the Avs, giving up 11 goals in the three defeats before making 15 saves in a 5-1 win on Feb. 20. Tanguay had three goals and two assists for Colorado, while Jason Arnott recorded a hat trick in the final meeting and had four goals and an assist in the series.
|Apr 07 '04||DAL 1 at COL 3||A. Tanguay|
|Apr 09 '04||DAL 2 at COL 5||P. Forsberg|
|Apr 12 '04||COL 3 at DAL 4 - OT||S. Ott|
|Apr 14 '04||COL 3 at DAL 2 - OT||M. Svatos|
|Apr 17 '04||DAL 1 at COL 5||S. Konowalchuk|