DALLAS - Maybe it was payback, maybe it was just good fortune. The Dallas Stars aren't going to quibble.
All that matters is Tomas Holmstrom's rear end - and possibly his reputation - cost the Detroit Red Wings a goal and the Stars took full advantage, avoiding the humiliation of getting swept out of the Western Conference finals.
Minutes after Detroit's lead was taken away, Dallas took its first lead of the entire series thanks in part to an officiating non-call. Then, Mike Modano and Brenden Morrow added third-period goals, sending the Stars past the Red Wings 3-1 on Wednesday night.
"It was a pretty intense, desperate game from everyone on our side," said Dallas' Marty Turco, who made 33 saves and staved off 6-on-4 and 6-on-3 threats in the final minute. "We needed that to be successful. We'll have to continue like that just to have a chance."
Game 5 is Saturday in Detroit, a two-day break the Stars are glad to have to rest their bodies and, they hope, for the Red Wings to dwell on their missed opportunity.
"Doubt starts to creep in a little bit," Morrow said. "We've got a couple of days here to let that sink in."
Detroit lost for the first time since April 16, ending a nine-game winning streak that was the franchise's longest in a single post-season. Yet the Red Wings can always wonder how differently this game might've played out if they kept the 1-0 lead they appeared to have taken when a shot by Pavel Datsyuk hit the back of the net.
The goal was waved off immediately, with officials telling Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom that Holmstrom's backside interfered with Turco in the crease. Replays didn't necessarily confirm that, but it didn't matter because it's not a reviewable play. Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said Holmstrom's history of crowding and bumping goalies - as he did to Turco earlier this series - likely factored in.
"That's a reputation call, totally," Babcock said. "Kelly (Sutherland) is a good referee. He just blew the call. That's life."
Turco said he was "not really out there thinking about calls getting evened up."
"I couldn't move freely to make that save on the shot," Turco said. "I really don't think it's a bad call. I don't think it's black-and-white like it used to be. It's the referee's discretion."
With commissioner Gary Bettman in the building, officials hardly discussed Dallas' first goal, scored by Loui Eriksson while he was clearly in the crease.
Eriksson insisted the puck beat him into the crease, which made his presence legal. Detroit goalie Chris Osgood said Eriksson "was right on top of me."
Officials went with Eriksson's version.
"It hit my body and then hit the stick," Ericksson said. "I was just standing there. I didn't hit it with my hand. I knew it was good."
Osgood, who had been 9-0 this post-season, said the rule "keeps floating around."
"I don't know if there's a force field around the crease or how it works," he said. "I'm not quite sure about the logic or interpretation."
Ericksson's goal put Dallas ahead - finally.
It only took 219 minutes, 37.3 seconds ... and it only lasted one minute, 12 seconds, although it felt longer because of the second intermission.
Detroit's Henrik Zetterberg tied it just 49 seconds into the third period, but the Stars weren't about to go away that easily. They seemed to skate faster, hit harder and show more intensity than they had all series.
Modano's one-timer on a power play put Dallas back in front, then some great stops by Turco kept it that way. Morrow's goal with 5:26 left was the extra boost the Stars needed.
"You know, as a group, we played real well," Dallas coach Dave Tippett said. "But it's that little extra desire in the third period. You just love to see that, the character of the group."
Turco beat Detroit for only third time in 21 career starts. But say this about him: He's tough when facing playoff elimination, improving to 5-4. The bigger challenge comes at Joe Louis Arena, where he's 0-9-2.
The Stars came in knowing how hard it is to close a team out because they went from leading the last round 3-0 to needing four overtimes in Game 6 to finally knock out the San Jose Sharks.
Of course, the Red Wings have experience in being up 3-0, having swept Colorado with an 8-2 victory in Game 4.
But Detroit came out defensive, taking only five shots while concentrating on defence. The Red Wings flipped over to an offensive mindset in the second period, but just couldn't get the breaks - or the official's rulings - that they needed.
"The good thing," Detroit's Darren McCarty, "is we're still up and still in the driver's seat going back to the Joe."
Notes: Osgood gave up three goals twice previously in his streak, both against Colorado. ... Play was stopped for a few minutes in the second period because of a broken glass pane behind the net Detroit was shooting at. ... Dallas forward Krystofer Barch made his post-season debut, replacing Lehtinen. ... Yet another indication of how one-sided this series had been: The Stars didn't even have one of the three stars selected from the first three games. This time, they had all three (Turco, Morrow, Modano). ... Detroit was again without NHL playoff scoring leader Johan Franzen (concussion-like symptoms) and Dallas didn't have top-line anchor Jere Lehtinen.
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