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Ten Years Ago: 2007 WCQF vs Vancouver, Game 4 — Willie Mitchell’s Revenge

The former Star picked a jolly time to finally be a clutch playoff defender.

Game 5 - Dallas Stars v Vancouver Canucks
(This picture is actually from game 5, but don’t tell anyone.)
Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images

When the replay slowed down on the overhead scoreboard and the Dallas Stars' home fans loudly registered their opinion, everyone on the Vancouver Canucks' bench paid no attention.

Defenseman Willie Mitchell said it didn't go in. And his word was good enough for them.

Officials agreed, too, ruling that Mitchell swept a trickling puck off the goal line with 2:33 left, preserving a 2-1 Vancouver victory Tuesday night and a 3-1 lead in this first-round series.

"Willie came to the bench and said it wasn't in," Canucks center Trevor Linden said. "You always ask the guy who made the play. He's not going to lie to you."

"He's a pretty honest guy," added Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault. "So I believed him."

That was an excerpt from a postgame story ten years ago. Dallas, desperate to avoid going down 3-1 in the series, would receive plenty of chances to prolong this game, but in the end, it was Willie Mitchell who was half a second in time to prevent Ribeiro’s tying goal from occurring.

Like any game, there were tons of chances for the losing team to have done differently. First among those was probably the nearly two minute chunk of 5-on-3 time in the first that Dallas squandered. Roberto Luongo was pretty good that year. The Stars would end up 0-6 on the job this night (though the Canucks were little better).

Turco, though, was also fantastic (which, you already know this by now). His best save of the game—and perhaps of the series—came on a Trevor Linden chance on a power play that was foiled by a typical Turco contortion.

This was a weird one though, and no mistake. All three goals were scored in the final 11 minutes of the game, and the first one was on an odd rebound off the end boards that Mattias Ohlund was allowed to just step into and put past Turco, who hadn’t yet picked up the rebound. (As a Turco apologist, I’m totally fine blaming this one of the five Dallas players—particularly Phillipe Boucher—who was actually facing the puck and failed to foil Ohlund instead of the goalie, whose back was necessarily to the puck in this case.)

Darryl Sydor, however, was having none of it. After beaver tailing for the puck, Nagy obeyed the clarion call of Veteran Determination, and a sweet screen by, of course, Brenden Morrow would finally be the arsenic to Luongo’s cup of shutout tea. Morrow would return to his office later in the series, as we’ll see.

But Dallas’s heroics could not outpace their foretold doom. Willie Mitchell, of course, let a wrister go from the point that threaded its way in on Turco, and Trevor Linden, this time, was able to make something of the rebound, as the Barnes-Halpern-Lundqvist line took its second minus of the night through lackluster puck-pickup. (By the way, did you know Stu Barnes was the second star of the night when the Stars won the Cup in 1999? You probably did.)

Still, the Stars had one last gasp. I’ll let the (still terribly inadequate) highlights tell the story for me:

Ribeiro, man....

So it was that the Stars were in a deep hole. Things were bleak, and futures were grim, as Dallas had as many playoff demons to fight as anyone.

Dallas could be knocked out of the first round in five games for the third straight postseason. A big part of the Stars' problem has been an inability to win at home. This was their sixth straight home playoff loss covering those three playoffs.

If they don't make it back, this may have been the last home game for coach Dave Tippett, perhaps general manager Doug Armstrong, too.

Still, it could have been worse. Kari Lehtonen and the Thrashers were busy going down 3-0 to New York in what could charitably be called a disappointing result.

So it was that Dallas headed to Vancouver with their heads down low. The offense had been stymied, and the opportunities had not been converted often enough. After scoring four goals in their game one loss, Dallas had been held to four goals total over the next three games of the series. Things would have to change, or else bigger change would be coming to the Dallas front office.

In retrospect, it’s interesting that, as good as Luongo was this year, he never shut out the Stars once, while Turco blanked the Canucks three times, as we all know. Dallas would end up scoring only 12 goals in seven games, which is probably some sort of weird record that I don’t have the spreadsheet acumen to verify. Maybe the eight goals in six games after game 1 is the real outlier, though. In any case, I’m forever fascinated by how a team with so many offensive struggles in this series was dragged to a seventh contest by Marty Turco. Hug Marty the next time you see him, won’t you?

Oh, and finally, here are two more Very Important Notes from that same postgame wrap:

The wife of former Dallas Cowboys fullback Daryl "Moose" Johnston was cut on the head by a puck, but returned for the third period. ... Stars fans got to vote for a song to hear during the second intermission. "Canadian Idiot" by Weird Al Yankovic easily beat out cuts from Canadian natives Celine Dion and Bryan Adams.