Trailing by a goal, 20 minutes from letting a 3-1 series lead dissolve into a Game 7 on the home ice of the reigning Stanley Cup champions, coach Dave Tippett had a simple message for the Dallas Stars.
"Stay with it," he said.
Tippett liked what he'd seen so far and was confident more of the same would be rewarded. He was right, as Stephane Robidas quickly scored a tying goal, then set up Stu Barnes with the go-ahead goal 52 seconds later. Another score by Loui Erickson and an empty-netter by franchise icon Mike Modano gave Dallas a 4-1 victory over Anaheim on Sunday night, sending the Stars into the second round for the first time since 2003 and ending the Ducks' hopes of repeating as champs.
"In the coaches' room after the second period, we thought we had a good chance at winning this game," Tippett said. "We were competing hard, blocking shots and doing whatever it takes to win the game. For that to happen the way it did, that's a great feeling."
Dallas became the second team Sunday to advance in the Western Conference playoffs, joining the Red Wings, who beat Nashville 3-0 in Game 6.
Calgary forced a Game 7 in its series with a 2-0 victory over San Jose.
Dallas hadn't won a series since a first-rounder over Edmonton in 2003 and hadn't closed a winning round at home since the conference finals all the way back in 2000, when the club played at a different arena.
"It would be easy to feel good and stop right here, but that's not the case," said Dallas goaltender Marty Turco, who took the brunt of criticism for first-round exits in 2004, '06 and '07. "For all we've been through, we talk about doing what we're capable of and not just one series. We want to win it all. That's why it's been so disappointing over the years."
The Ducks are the fifth straight defending Stanley Cup champions to fail to make the second round. The NHL hasn't had a repeat winner since Detroit in 1997-98. No defending champion has even made the Finals since the Stars in 2000.
Dallas' next opponent hinges on Game 7 of the Calgary-San Jose series.
If Calgary wins, Dallas will be at home against Colorado. If San Jose wins, Dallas will open on the road against San Jose.
"It's disappointing because we believe we could do better," said Anaheim defenseman Scott Niedermayer, the Conn Smythe winner as MVP of last year's postseason who retired then decided to return to chase another Cup. "Our sights were set higher than this."
Anaheim trailed this series 2-0 and 3-1, but made things interesting. The Ducks led 1-0 early in the second period on a goal from Corey Perry and it seemed like a good omen for a Game 7 in Anaheim; the team that scored first had won every game so far.
But the Stars dominated the third period. The Ducks had only one shot the first 15 minutes, then Turco handled tough chance after tough chance down the stretch.
"There were a couple of games where we just couldn't mount much of an attack," Ducks captain Chris Pronger said. "You've got to give them a lot of credit, but part of that falls on us, too."
Coach Randy Carlyle blamed it on a lack of execution.
"It's hard to understand," he said. "It's so fresh in your mind that we're not playing past April 20 when we played into June last year. ... You try to create those elite organizations that compete consistently into May. For various reasons, we weren't able to get that done."
Dallas grabbed control of the series by scoring on eight of its first 18 power-play chances. Then the Stars went 0-for-18. The drought ended when Modano ripped a shot wide of the net and Robidas knocked the carom past goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere for his first career playoff goal.
On the next shift, he skated right at Giguere, then fed Barnes for a shot right in front of the crease. The 37-year-old Barnes was so happy about his goal that he gave a flying chest bump to the glass.
"Robi got by a couple guys and found me in the slot and all I had to do was put it in," said Barnes, who also had the winning goal in Game 4.
Perry scored a relatively soft goal early in the second period to put the Ducks up 1-0.
Perry, Anaheim's leading goal scorer this season, missed six weeks with an injury, returning for Game 4. At game's end, he was doubled over at the blue line for several seconds, hardly moving, realizing all the months of healing time now ahead of him.
Red Wings 3, Predators 0
At Nashville, Tenn., Nicklas Lidstrom and Jiri Hudler each scored, and Detroit closed out the Predators in Game 6.
Brian Rafalski added an empty-netter with 4.8 seconds left. Goalie Chris Osgood stopped 20 shots for the shutout in his second straight playoff start as top-seeded Detroit became the first road team to win in this series.
With the victory, Detroit passed Toronto for second on the list of playoff series won with its 59th. They'll go for No. 60 in the Western Conference semifinals.
Nashville's Dan Ellis stopped 40 shots after setting a franchise playoff record with 52 saves in Friday night's 2-1 overtime loss in Detroit.
Flames 2, Sharks 0
At Calgary, Alberta, Miika Kiprusoff made 21 saves, Owen Nolan and Daymond Langkow scored, and the Flames forced a Game 7.
The decisive meeting Tuesday night will be the first Game 7 the Sharks have hosted in franchise history after playing five on the road.
Facing elimination in front of raucous home crowd that braved freezing temperatures and snow to get to the Pengrowth Saddledome, the Flames checked San Jose relentlessly along the boards.
Nolan, a former Sharks star, opened the scoring midway through the first period and Langkow made it 2-0 with 57 seconds left in the second.
Evgeni Nabokov made 23 saves for the Sharks.
Robidas gets Stars past Ducks; Stanley Cup champs eliminated