Last spring featured one of those unbelievable playoff feats you may never see again: a goalie gets his team three shutouts in a seven-game series, and still they lose.
That's right. Marty Turco secured three goose eggs for the Dallas Stars in their first round series against the Vancouver Canucks.
But then Vancouver won Game Seven 4-1 (it was actually 2-1 until the Canucks scored two late empty netters to make it seem like a blow out), rendering Turco's achievements inconsequential.
Another big story arose from that series. The top two draft picks of the 1988 NHL Entry Draft—the Stars' Mike Modano and the Canucks' Trevor Linden—were still playing.
Modano looked like he still had it, tallying his 500th career NHL goal and becoming the career leading goalscorer among American-born players just a month prior to the series.
Meanwhile Linden, who seemed to have been signed for sentimental reasons, had long since been diminished as a dominant offensive threat, finishing with just 12 goals in 80 games.
But it was Linden who got the last laugh, potting the series winner seven minutes into the third period in Game Seven with his second game-winning goal of the week. All this while Modano was shut out in the finale, finishing with a disappointing two points for the series.
The Stars and Canucks hooked up again at GM Place last night in what was Vancouver's 200th straight sellout at the building also known as The Garage. It was the first game for both teams following the All-Star break.
Radio color commentator Tom Larschied proclaimed before the game began that Linden usually plays his best hockey in the second half of the season, promising big things from the ex-captain for the rest of the year.
But it was Linden who was shut out this time around, and Modano scored the big goal for Dallas. Actually, it was more like a fluke, but they all count anyway. Modano's slap shot from just inside the blue line early in the second stanza somehow eluded goaltender Curtis Sanford, who just waved at it. This gave Dallas a 2-1 lead, and the Stars would build a 4-1 cushion and hang on for a 4-3 victory.
For Modano, it was a big goal (and just half of his two-point night), but let's not call it a clutch play. Had the Canucks' No. 1 goalie Roberto Luongo—still in Florida with his pregnant wife—been in net, that puck might not have gotten in.
And though Modano has been productive this season (15 goals, 36 points, third in team scoring), he is also a dreadful -12, worst (by far) on the team.
For the Canucks, it was the seventh straight game in which the opposition scored first, and the sixth in a row in which they have not had a lead at any point during the contest. They currently rank at seventh place in the Western Conference with 57 points, just one more than the three teams battling for the final eighth spot. If the Canucks go on to miss the playoffs, they can lament Sanford waving at that Modano shot.
The Stars, battling for first in the Pacific Division—they have 63 points, same as the Sharks—can see Modano's goal as a positive. They took advantage of the struggling Canucks who failed without their top goalie.
Nine months after that playoff series between the two teams it appears that the Stars are in much better shape, and they’ll be able to maintain the upswing if their 500-goal man continues to deliver those timely goals.