1 - 2 Final - 4OT
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Morrow sends Stars to conference finals

May 5, 2008 - 8:05 AM
By John Tranchina PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

DALLAS (Ticker) - It took considerably longer than they planned, but the Dallas Stars have finally advanced into the Western Conference finals.

Captain Brenden Morrow scored at 9:03 of the fourth overtime as the Stars outlasted the pesky San Jose Sharks in the eighth longest game in NHL history for a 2-1 triumph in Game Six of their conference semifinal series.

After holding a three-games-to-none lead in the series, Dallas dropped two straight before Morrow's tally eliminated San Jose by a four-games-to-two margin in the best-of-seven series.

"I didn't want to say it to the players, but with a seven-period game and jumping on that plane tomorrow, that would have been no fun, no fun at all," Stars coach Dave Tippett said of the prospect of heading back to San Jose for Game Seven. "I don't know if the players thought that way, but that would be a tough road to hoe, going there."

It was the fourth overtime game of the series and the longest in this year's NHL playoffs.

Marty Turco turned aside 61 shots and Antti Miettinen tallied his first goal of the postseason for the fifth-seeded Stars, who will face the top-seeded Detroit Red Wings on Thursday.

"The exhilaration of that win and the fashion, it can only help the belief system that we have built and are growing," Turco said. "And we're going to need all that against Detroit, they're playing great, they've had a great season up til now. This team's going to be ready to go."

With the victory, Dallas advanced to the conference finals for the first time since 2000, when it ultimately lost to the New Jersey Devils in the Stanley Cup Finals.

Vezina Trophy finalist Evgeni Nabokov made 53 saves and Ryane Clowe scored in regulation for the Sharks, who have now been eliminated in the conference semifinals for the third straight season.

"I thought for the most part, we carried the play," San Jose coach Ron Wilson said. "We have no reason to hang our heads in shame. We showed character."

Sunday's contest was the longest game since the Vancouver Canucks posted a 5-4 triumph over the Stars in four overtimes on April 11, 2007.

"It's just good to be on the right side, especially winning the series in overtime like that, in front of our fans," said Dallas defenseman Stephane Robidas, who set up Morrow's winner. "Marty gave a great show, making huge saves."

With Sharks defenseman Brian Campbell in the penalty box for tripping, Morrow camped out in front the crease and received a centering feed from Robidas. The captain redirected the puck past the outstretched right pad of Nabokov for the series-clincher.

"It was as fitting as anything I have ever seen in sports with Brenden Morrow getting the winner," Dallas coach Dave Tippett said. "He took this team on his back and it's just great to see him get that goal."

Morrow, who scored the overtime-winner in Game One, also set an NHL record by delivering 19 hits - including one on Milan Michalek right before the end of regulation which knocked him out of the game.

"I was pretty ticked about Game Five," said Morrow, who had two apparent goals disallowed in that one. "But it was nice to get that one and close them out."

"I don't think you can pick a better player to score that overtime goal," Robidas said. "I think if there's one guy that deserves it, that's him. Last game, he should have had a hat trick, he didn't get it and I'm sure he'd trade that hat trick for that goal. It's huge, he's a warrior, he's working hard, he's our captain, he's our leader and we're just happy for him."

San Jose was attempting to become just the sixth team in NHL history to rebound from a three-games-to-none deficit and reach Game 7, and just the third to win the series outright.

"We had our chances, I guess, but that's the way it goes," Campbell said. "There was a lot of confidence in the room. Several of these games could have gone either way, especially the overtime ones, so we really didn't feel like we were in that hole that much because we were right there with them."

The Sharks had won three straight times when facing elimination in this year's playoffs, after dropping their previous six contests when up against the wall.

"Every loss is tough. It's the end of a series, but I am proud of those guys," Wilson said. "We ask everybody to play hard on the team, and they all did. We showed that tonight."

Dallas nearly ended it just 91 seconds into the first overtime when Brad Richards blasted a slap shot from the right faceoff circle toward an open net, but Nabokov made an incredible glove save right on the goal line.

Each club had multiple opportunities in the first extra period after that, but each netminder came up with big saves. Turco robbed captain Patrick Marleau with a beautiful, pad-stacking save with eight minutes left in the period, then Nabokov denied Mike Ribeiro all alone in front with 73 seconds to go.

"Nabby made some saves on Ribeiro and Richie and Marty was unbelievable for us," Morrow said. "The previous (overtime games in the series), I don't think lasted five minutes and this one didn't look like it would either and it turned into a marathon."

Ribeiro even rang a point-blank snap shot off the crossbar with 49 seconds left in the first extra session.

"We had some good opportunities and Turco came up huge for them," said Marleau, who led the Sharks with eight shots on goal. "It was a great game. Nabby made a huge save on Richards and we had our opportunities to score, but Turco stopped them all."

Just 10 seconds into the second overtime, a turnover by Robidas led to an uncontested slap shot from All-Star Joe Thornton in the high slot, but Turco made a kick save. San Jose outshot Dallas, 11-2, in the second overtime.

The Sharks thought they had finally won the contest midway into the third overtime when Clowe fed a short backhanded pass to Torrey Mitchell at the lip of the crease, but Turco made a sprawling save, smothering the puck under his outstretched glove, which slid onto the goal line. After a video review, the on-ice ruling stood and play went on.

"You can't say we didn't leave everything on the ice, that's for sure," San Jose center Jeremy Roenick said. "We had a lot of opportunities to win this hockey game and they got the bigger break. It's frustrating, but this team worked hard, showed a lot of character and battled. This game could have gone either way."

When Clowe lifted a wrist shot through a screen from the top of the right faceoff circle to tie the game at 1-1 just 79 seconds into the third period, the Sharks seemed to be on the way to another big comeback. It was the first point of the series for Clowe, who scorched Calgary for eight points in the first five games of San Jose's seven-game triumph in the conference quarterfinals.

Miettinen gave Dallas the early lead, which has been somewhat of a curse in this series as the team scoring first had lost all previous games in the series.

After Nabokov made a nice save on defenseman Sergei Zubov's slap shot from the blue line, Miettinen banged home the rebound past a diving Nabokov at 4:49 of the second period.

The game was the longest in Sharks' franchise history, surpassing a three-overtime thriller they lost in Game Three of the 2006 conference finals against the Edmonton Oilers.

It was the third longest for the Stars.