Avs-Stars Set for Shot at Cup

Saturday, May 27th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

DALLAS (AP) — The Stanley Cup champion Dallas Stars are one victory from returning to the finals. The Colorado Avalanche are one victory from giving Ray Bourque a chance at his first championship.

Which storyline gets fulfilled will be determined Saturday night in Game 7 of the Western Conference finals.

Colorado forced the winner-take-all showdown with a 2-1 victory Thursday night in Denver. Avalanche coach Bob Hartley is trying to use the positives from that game to put his team in the right psyche.

After all, he doesn't want to dwell on Dallas' 8-1 record at Reunion Arena this postseason, or the fact the Stars pounded the Avs 4-1 in Game 7 of last year's conference finals.

The stats Hartley pointed to included breaking goalie Ed Belfour's eight-game winning streak in elimination games, ruining Dallas' great record in games when Brett Hull scores and ending the Stars' obscure NHL record of 13 consecutive third-period shutouts in road playoff games.

``We are entering Game 7 from a different angle,'' Hartley said. ``We have to give the Stars credit. But maybe we are getting on their mind a bit.''

The Stars, though, were able to handle the loss pretty well. They know they still have another chance, and they felt Game 6 was one of their best performances of the series.

``We did all the little things we wanted to do — except score more goals,'' center Guy Carbonneau said.

Dallas coach Ken Hitchcock could counter Hartley's Game 6 stats with some recent history about his team, such as Belfour's 3-0 record in Game 7s and his team's superb performance in must-win games the last three postseasons.

But Hitchcock, who has coached in five previous finales, said he knows better than that.

``You keep it pretty simple,'' said Hitchcock, who is 3-2 in these kind of games. ``You don't dwell on mistakes during the game. You push the intangible things that everybody plays for.''

The dangling carrot is the Cup, which Dallas won last year after falling short in the conference finals the previous year. Colorado fell short in last year's conference finals after winning it in 1996.

Both teams have a core of leaders remaining from their championship teams who understand what it takes — and what it means — to win it all.

``When you've gone this far, you want another opportunity for the Cup,'' said Joe Nieuwendyk, who won with Dallas last year after winning a decade before in Calgary. ``They're not easy to come by.''

Hitchcock said defenseman Richard Matvichuk will be back following a concussion in Game 6. He said forward Jamie Langenbrunner is doubtful, but will skate Saturday morning to test his sore knee.

``They heal very quickly on that team,'' Hartley said, referring to Brenden Morrow missing one game after it was announced that a broken ankle would sideline him for the playoffs. ``I wouldn't be surprised to see Matvichuk, Langenbrunner and maybe even Neal Broten.''

Broten has been out of hockey since 1997. He had a long, distinguished career with the Minnesota North Stars and Dallas Stars, and the team retired his jersey in 1998.

But when Broten won his only championship, he was playing for the New Jersey Devils.

Bourque also has had a long, distinguished career somewhere other than the team with which he's trying to win the title. The Boston Bruins will surely retire his jersey one day, and the Hall of Fame will want it, too.

But Bourque let Boston trade him this spring so he could take a stab at the Cup. Colorado wasn't a favorite at the time, but the Avs became one after he arrived. He immediately lifted their play and became a sentimental rallying point for teammates and fans.

A knee injury in the second round kept him out of the first two games of this series and he was scoreless through five games. Then, in Game 6, he scored the first goal and assisted on the second.

He can't wait for Game 7.

``That's why I came here, to be in that situation,'' said Bourque, whose emotions fired on a post-goal fist pump. ``I'm just thankful for the opportunity to compete and to get this far and to play in a Game 7.''