Work in Sports
So long, San Jose
Stars crush Sharks, make third straight trip to West finals
Posted: Monday May 08, 2000 04:02 PM
DALLAS (AP) -- Ed Belfour and Mike Modano have been doing what they do best all postseason. Now that Joe Nieuwendyk has joined them, the Dallas Stars feel good about their chances of defending the Stanley Cup.
Nieuwendyk got the Dallas offense going with an early goal and linemate Scott Thornton added a goal and two assists as the Stars beat San Jose 4-1 Sunday night, eliminating the Sharks in five games.
The Stars advanced to a rematch of last year's Western Conference finals against the Colorado Avalanche. The first two games will be in Dallas; the league is expected to release a schedule Monday.
Many consider Colorado the team to beat because of its solid depth and great defensemen. But Dallas is optimistic now that Nieuwendyk and his line look like as much of a threat as Modano and his partners.
"Those guys have lugged a lot for a long time," Nieuwendyk said. "Now, we're chipping in and getting some production. Colorado is a solid group, but we've got a lot of confidence."
Nieuwendyk, the MVP of last year's championship run, started rolling with two goals in a 5-4 victory in Game 4. He followed that with a nifty move to beat goalie Steve Shields midway through the first period for a 1-0 lead.
He basically was picking up where Modano left off. The top-line center scored a goal in each of the first four games and had points in the last eight games before being blanked Sunday. His line still came through, though, as Brett Hull put in a rebound of his own shot for a power-play goal that made it 3-0 early in the third period.
"We talked before the series about this team having two dominant centers," San Jose coach Darryl Sutter said. "I think that showed."
Dallas also has the kind of hot goalie teams often ride to championships.
Belfour won his eighth straight playoff game at Reunion Arena and came within 11:28 of a third straight shutout on his home ice. He ran a scoreless streak to 187 minutes, 25 seconds before being beaten midway through the third period with the Stars already up 4-0.
He also helped continue the Stars' trend of delivering quick knockout blows. This was the sixth straight series Dallas has closed out on its first chance.
"I felt strong today," Belfour said, who revealed he'd been suffering the flu the last few days. "This was huge for us. Nobody wanted to travel back to San Jose."
The Sharks played without Owen Nolan, their leading scorer, or Bryan Marchment, their most physical defenseman. Both were missed as San Jose failed to beat Belfour despite many good scoring chances.
Nolan, who had foot and shoulder injuries, missed this game because of a strained abdominal muscle. Sutter said the team knew after Game 4 that he wasn't going to play. Marchment, who injured a groin muscle, didn't even travel to Dallas.
"I can't skate, I can't push off," said Nolan, who missed Game 2, then scored goals each of the next two games. "I couldn't take explosive strides and couldn't be effective."
The Sharks controlled the puck the first 10 minutes, until Nieuwendyk's goal gave Dallas all the momentum. It led to Thornton's goal three minutes later.
Belfour took over from there.
He maintained the lead by knocking away a great scoring chance by Vincent Damphousse in the closing seconds of the first period. That foreshadowed a second period that included several nice stops on a power play followed by a stop on a shot from Jeff Friesen while sprawled on his side. He made another stop from his stomach in the third period.
"It's definitely a good feeling when you face quality scoring chances and stop them," Belfour said. "I had a couple of lucky saves there and the defense was there to knock away some second chances."
San Jose's frustration began to show early in the final period when penalties for tripping and slashing within 1:18 gave Dallas a 5-on-3 advantage. The Stars scored their final two goals within the next 41 seconds.
With fans chanting "The cup stays here," the only drama left was whether Belfour would keep the Sharks scoreless in three games at Reunion. Patrick Marleau ended it by squeezing the puck past Belfour on a power play.
While Belfour was a steadying influence for Dallas, Shields was either boom-or-bust. he allowed 27 goals in the seven losses and seven goals in the five victories.
"I'm disappointed with the way this game went," he said. "This season, I've been inconsistent at times."
The Sharks will remember this postseason for their first-round victory over top-seeded St. Louis. It was the fifth time a No. 8 seed had reached the second round, but none have advanced beyond.