Work in Sports
DALLAS (Ticker) -- Sergei Zubov returned and put the power back in the Dallas Stars' power play.
After sitting out the first round with a knee injury, Zubov set up power-play goals by Mike Modano and Joe Nieuwendyk as the Stars opened their Western Conference semifinal series with a 4-0 blanking of the San Jose Sharks.
With Zubov watching from the press box, Dallas was only 2-for-26 against Edmonton in the conference quarterfinals. But the Stars scored on two of their first three chances against the Sharks, who are coming off a stunning first-round upset of top-seeded St. Louis.
"The things that he is able to do with the puck opens it up for everyone else. He really dictates the speed of the game," Modano said of Zubov.
"He was good, he looked like the same guy that left us in Florida (on March 29)," Stars coach Ken Hitchcock added. "For his first game back, I thought he was really effective."
Already leading, 1-0, Dallas got its first power play 13:01 into the first period when former Star Todd Harvey was penalized for high-sticking. Dallas needed only a minute to convert as Modano got a rebound of Zubov's shot on the doorstep and swept the puck past goaltender Steve Shields for his third playoff goal.
It also was Modano's 35th career postseason tally, tying him with Steve Payne for first on the Stars' all-time list.
"With the week off, we talked about having to play a real good first 20 minutes," Modano said. "I felt we picked it up where we left off (against Edmonton), and that's a real great sign."
After a scoreless second period, Dallas extended its lead with another power-play goal. Zubov picked up the secondary assist on Nieuwendyk's first playoff tally at 2:48. Nieuwendyk took a pass from Jamie Langenbrunner behind the net, skated to the bottom of the left faceoff circle and backhanded a rolling puck under the crossbar.
"I felt very confident out there. I think that it's the best game that I have played in this year's playoffs," said Nieuwendyk, last year's Conn Smythe Trophy winner. "We're certainly happy with the win, but we know we didn't see the Sharks at their best. We expect this to be a tough series for us."
"We've got to get better on the power play and the penalty kill because special teams are going to be very big in this series. We lost that battle and we lost a lot of other battles," San Jose center Mike Ricci said. "We came out flat and we talked about the reasons why, but those are just excuses."
Aaron Gavey and rookie Brenden Morrow had the other goals and Ed Belfour recorded his ninth career postseason shutout for the Stars, who host Game Two on Sunday. Dallas is 4-0 at home in this year's playoffs.
"You can't evaluate Game One for the visiting team," Hitchcock said. "The home team was expected to win because of the layoff. I think the visiting team will really show up in Game Two. That's why I think Game Two is the most vital."
"This was the worst game emotionally for us," Sharks center Vincent Damphousse said. "We were hesitant with the puck and did not do the things that we did in St. Louis, such as skating well and moving the puck well, probably because the St. Louis series was such a long series and we only had a couple of days rest."
Belfour made only 18 saves as the Sharks managed just one shot over the final 13 1/2 minutes of the opening period.
"I felt real fresh and that I was definitely rested," Belfour said. "It was nice to take a break for a few days and relax. I think we wanted to make a strong statement at the start. We know they played real well against St. Louis and we knew we had to come out and play real hard from the start."
Gavey staked him to a 1-0 lead 5:45 into the game with his first career playoff goal. On the Stars' first shot of the game, Gavey slid a wrister from the bottom of the right circle past Shields.
Morrow's goal came 95 seconds after Nieuwendyk's. Derian Hatcher shot from above the right circle, Morrow deflected it off Shields' left wrist and the puck trickled into the net.
Shields, who made 23 saves, has surrendered 20 goals in San Jose's four playoff losses and only four in the Sharks' four wins.
San Jose captain Owen Nolan appeared to favor his shoulder after taking several hits during the game but did not meet the media afterwards.
"They had a number of good hits on Nolan tonight and we did not respond by hitting their better players," Shields said. "We got into a hole early and it didn't feel like we were much in the game at all emotionally. I don't think fatigue was a factor, it's just that we didn't have the emotion tonight."