Work in Sports
SAN JOSE, California (Ticker) -- Ed Belfour no longer remains a mystery to the San Jose Sharks. Winning a second-round playoff series does.
The Sharks were driven to the brink of playoff elimination with a 5-4 loss to the Dallas Stars, who got a pair of second-period goals from Joe Nieuwendyk and moved within one win of their third straight appearance in the Western Conference finals.
Held to one goal in his first eight playoff games, Nieuwendyk, the 1999 Conn Smythe Trophy winner, broke a 4-4 tie with 1:53 left in the second. He got a step behind San Jose's Mike Ricci as he drove to the net, then made a backhanded deflection of Jamie Langenbrunner's pass for his 49th career playoff goal.
Belfour made it stand up by stopping all 11 shots in the third period, when he drew roughing penalties 37 seconds apart. He finished with 31 saves.
"Eddie losing it for that minute might have been the best thing that happened to him," Stars captain Derian Hatcher said. "After that, he settled down and played more like he can."
"We gave up way too many chances, which made it a nerve-racking game," Nieuwendyk added. "San Jose matched us goal-for-goal. We got caught in too many odd-man situations. We did a much better job in the third period, when San Jose was getting tired. That's when we play our best hockey."
After blanking the Sharks in the first two games of the series, Belfour allowed two goals in a Game Three loss on Tuesday. And San Jose beat him four times on 24 shots in the first two periods tonight.
But the Sharks could not get the equalizer in the third period and are one loss away from getting ousted for the third time in as many second-round appearances.
"It's a long series and they still got to win one more," Ricci said. "If we go down there and win Game Five and bring it back to San Jose, then anything can happen."
Game Five is Sunday night in Dallas.
The teams combined for four goals in the first period after totaling eight in the first three games.
"Neither team wanted to give up as many goals as they did, but sometimes that's just the way the puck bounces," Ricci said.
"However, you can't expect to win many playoff games when you give up five goals. Four should be enough to win this time of year."
Dallas' Mike Modano got it started on the game's first shot, beating Steve Shields from the top of the slot at the 68-second mark.
"When they score on the first shot of the game, I think it's probably going to be it," San Jose coach Darryl Sutter said. "I think there was a lot of pressure on defense for both teams tonight. A lot of the skill guys kind of went up to that level."
The Sharks tied it on the power play at 8:52 as Vincent Damphousse ended a 12-game postseason scoring drought. But the Stars regained the lead on Guy Carbonneau's shorthanded tally at 10:21. With Hatcher serving a high-sticking penalty, Carbonneau finished off a 2-on-1 with Mike Keane for his second playoff goal.
San Jose evened it before the end of the period. Ricci converted a perfect diagonal pass from Niklas Sundstrom at 17:34 after Marco Sturm stole the puck behind the net from Dallas defenseman Sergei Zubov.
The second period featured five goals, although the Sharks never were able to take the lead.
The Stars got another shorthanded tally to break the 2-2 deadlock as Zubov put a wrister from the left faceoff dot by Shields at the 56-second mark.
San Jose got into the shorthanded act just under seven minutes later as Owen Nolan got by Hatcher in the neutral zone and whipped a wrist shot from the left circle into the top right corner of the net for his eighth playoff goal.
Nieuwendyk struck at 10:52 off a goalmouth scramble, but the Sharks tied it for the fourth time on Todd Harvey's power-play goal at 14:08. Patrick Marleau chipped the puck ahead to Harvey, who moved down the slot and flipped a shot that trickled between Belfour's pads.
There were five special teams goals after the teams combined for six in the first three games.
"We knew that this game would either tie up the series or we would get a big bump. I think what you saw tonight was desperate hockey on both sides and both teams were able to capitalize on the other team's mistakes," Dallas left wing Kirk Muller said.