The hockey gods smiled on the Canucks in Game 7, writes Cam Cole. With the Canucks leading 2-1, Dallas had two gorgeous opportunities to equalize the affair: Once with Stu Barnes left all alone in the slot and a miraculous save by Roberto Luongo, and the second on a one-timer by Mike Modano that fluttered off the crossbar. Not only did it prevent the Stars from tying the game, those two plays seem to effectively suck the life out of the Dallas squad.
"I thought it was in," Barnes said. "[Jeff] Halpern and [Joel] Lundqvist made great plays behind the net, got it out to me and I got a good shot away. I thought ... but the guy made a helluva save. Same thing with [Modano's]. It hits the bar. You do everything you can to get the thing in the net, and it's tough."
Roberto Luongo, who was brilliant all night once again for the Canucks, admits he was lucky on those two shots.
"I was just lucky enough to see it and get a piece of it," said Luongo, who was less lucky than great on the Barnes save, but was completely beaten on the Modano shot, until he heard that happy sound of rubber on iron. "I heard it ping, but I didn't know if it was ping-and-in like the first goal. I just looked around and the puck wasn't in the net, so I just got up as fast as I could. I waited such a long time to get in the playoffs and I definitely didn't want it to end tonight."
Let’s get the basics out of the way. The Stars and Turco had fought back from a 3-1 series deficit to shut out the Canucks twice, forcing a game seven. They had the momentum. Imagine how Vancouver must have felt. Heck, imagine what you would have felt like in April 2016 if Dallas had collapsed to Minnesota in game six (as they almost did) and been pushed to a seventh game. It is not a good feeling to have two games in hand and to lose them both.
Vancouver was so rattled at this point that they went off script and chose to wear their weird third jerseys for game seven (which teams can no longer do in the playoffs) to get out of their funk. Did it work? Well, they would proceed to score zero even-strength goals in game seven, which, well...
Okay, first and foremost: Joel Lundqvist scored the goal of his life, at least in terms of NHL context. (Sweden’s subsequent IIHF championships are nice and golden and all that, but let’s be real here. Stanley Cup Playoff goals are something else altogether.)
I mean, come on. How unlikely was this goal? Luongo was posting a .950+ Sv% in this series so far, and a 4th-liner just cut in between the circles and ripped a wrister past him off the crossbar. This was so not a scoring chance that the rest of Lundqvist’s line had gone for a change, which meant that Lundqvist, after beating Optimus Luongo bar-down with the sort of goal kids dream about, had no choice but to go directly to the fist-bump line at the bench.
Even Dave Tippett, Mr. No Excuses himself, was not exactly thrilled with the way referees Brad Watson and Rob Shick allotted 1⁄3 of the game to Vancouver’s power play:
"In the second period we took five penalties and it just changed the whole complexion of the game," Tippett said. "In the third period we come out and there's a couple of calls that I thought were questionable and we could never get the momentum back in the game. We could never get our feet under us."
Those “questionable” calls included a Jere Lehtinen holding penalty, so I’ll let you decide whether you trust Rob Shick’s judgment over Jere Lehtinen’s. I’ve made my choice.
Honestly, I don’t remember ever seeing a game get so derailed by penalties. Yes, I’m the same person who rails against the moving goalposts of the playoffs when it comes to slashes and interference calls disappearing, but this game had the rug pulled out from under it, and even Turco’s spectacular series of saves on an ealy second-period 5-on-3 wasn’t enough to convince the officials that maybe, just maybe, they should let a classic series do its thing to some extent. (Aside: I believe the Barnes hooking call to put them down two men was also garbage, but this was ten years ago and I can’t find any video of it, so who knows.)
The Canucks had also scored but a single power play goal to this point in the series, so hey, even a huge ol’ anthropomorphic dump truck fulla power plays was no guarantor of scoring, but it’s not like we’re talking about an inordinate amount of penalty calls, right?
Heh, nah. That’s exactly what we’re talking about. Rob Shick (who made the majority of the calls, to my memory) decided to let the Vancouver crowd call a few extra penalties for him, and the Stars were forced to kill ten power plays in a game seven. Even a blind squirrel as lost as the Canucks’ power play was going to find a nut eventually, given that wealth of opportunity, and they would end up finding two. It probably didn’t help that Zubov was also missing from the penalty kill, causing Philipe Boucher to total almost 30 minutes of ice time in his absence.
The first Canucks goal was an otherworldly Daniel-to-Henrik Pass on the power play that caught Mattias Norstrom napping just a bit. You don’t even get chances like these in video games, but Henrik had a wide-open one-timer from about eight feet out, and he did not miss. Some mouth-breathing Canucks fans uploaded all the video of Vancouver’s goals here, if you want to watch actual replays for some reason instead of the Sellotaped cobblings of last decade’s NHL video staff.
The second one was even crueler, if that’s possible. Trevor Linden tipped a Mattias Ohlund wrister, and it leaked through Turco’s five hole. But unlike so many pucks that had found a way to slow down, veer aside, or otherwise avoid crossing the goal line behind Luongo, this one crept juuuuuuust barely inside the far post, crossing the goal line just as Jon Klemm arrived to do his best Willie Mitchell impersonation. Klemm’s game was, unfortunately, more representative of the 2006 Dallas Stars Willie Mitchell, which is simply to say it was Jon Klemm we are talking about here.
Yes, Modano hit a post/crossbar combo with four minutes left as well, but it wouldn’t matter, because why would the Stars’ former captain get a break like the Canucks’ former captain got? (This is the sort of woebegone whining that was popular among Dallas Stars fans back in 2007.)
Once more with feeling: Marty Turco left it all out there in this game. The Canucks scored two power play goals that you can hardly pin on Marty, and added two empty netters. Turco was as red-hot as a goalie can be, but were the officials going to let Luongo and Turco duel it out? Of course not.
After shutting out the Canucks in Games 5 and 6, Turco started strong in Game 7. He made four fantastic saves to kill off a 5-on-3 Canucks power play early in the second before Sedin finally beat him on another power play with 4:48 left in the period, ending his career-best shutout streak at 165:45.
To add insult to injury (and at no time is this phrase more apropos), Brenden Morrow was whistled for slashing one game after Alex Burrows’s suspendable attack on his knee went unnoticed. There was irony in the cruelty as well.
And so the Stars were eliminated in the first round for a third straight
year season. Turco finally had folks saying that maybe, just maybe he wasn’t a terrible playoff goalie after all, but he had the misfortune of proving this point opposite a team with the only goalie in the league who was up to the task of stopping him.
Who were the Dallas Stars in 2007? They were Brenden Morrow, Marty Turco, some older guys you had known before then, and Joel Lundqvist. And ultimately, two of those older guys would fail to convert their chances (and one of them is now heading up the Dallas power play), handing the narrative of clutchiness to Luongo. (At least, until Luongo borked up and got his team bounced by Anaheim in the next series.)
And while some of the local media picked this moment not to give due credit to a team that came that close to overcoming an elite goalie while holding the Sedins off the board for five of the seven games and forcing a game seven after losing three of four, we can still remember, with less pain than ever, what 2007 was like. It was wonderful, painful, and frustrating. It was kind of like now, actually, just with a team of slightly older guys. A twilight symphony of sorts, whose final movement would follow in 2008.
Oh, and by the way, one local writer who chose to talk about how the Stars collapsed under pressure and garbage like that actually had a bit of an ominous throw-in note about then-owner Tom Hicks’s conspicuous absence from the game.
Once again, the Dallas Stars have managed to tease and disappoint, writes Jean-Jacques Taylor. Taylor, the writer who in yesterday's paper guaranteed a Stars victory, was not only disappointed in the loss but the way in which it occurred.
"There's no shame in playing your best hockey and losing, but that's not what happened in Game 7," writes Taylor. "The Stars succumbed to the pressure. What else do you call five penalties in the second period? That's when the Canucks seized control of the game, outshooting Dallas (26-11) in the final two periods."
Taylor appears to also be concerned about the future direction of the franchise and the support that owner Tom Hicks will sink into it, criticizing the owner for not attending Game 7 instead taking in a Texas Rangers baseball game instead.
"The Stars owner has a new toy in his Liverpool soccer team and he's focused on developing the area around the Rangers' baseball stadium to create new revenue streams before the Cowboys' new stadium gets up and running," writes Taylor. "No one really knows where the Stars rank on Hicks' priority list. We're about to find out."
Thankfully, this was all much ado about nothing, and Tom Hicks would end up propelling the franchise to glorious new places through his stable financial planning. So I guess this story has a happy ending after all.