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Turco sets lowest GAA in NHL modern era

4/7/2003

DALLAS (AP) -- At the beginning of the season, goaltender Marty
Turco and the Dallas Stars had the same objectives as everyone else
in the NHL. Turco wanted to allow as few goals as possible and the
Stars wanted to get as many points as possible.

When the regular season ended Sunday, both met their mark.

The Stars beat the Nashville Predators 2-0, wrapping up the No.
1 seed in the Western Conference while Turco's seventh shutout of
the season dropped his goals-against average to 1.72, lowest in the
NHL's modern era.

"This has certainly been a magical year, for the team and for
myself,'' Turco said. "I couldn't have asked for a better night --
or a better regular season.''

As the top seed, the Stars will face the Edmonton Oilers in the
first round. This will be the sixth time in seven years the teams
meet in the playoffs. The exception was last year, when neither
team qualified.

"Here we go again,'' captain Derian Hatcher said.

The drama surrounding the 82nd and final game was more about the
seeding than the record. Dallas came in tied with Detroit, but the
Red Wings had the tiebreaker. So the Stars had to win and hope for
help from Chicago.

Stu Barnes scored a power-play goal late in the first period to
put Dallas ahead, then Ulf Dahlen scored on the power play in the
second. After that, it was all about protecting it and watching the
scoreboard.

Although the games started at the same time, the Blackhawks won
in overtime with about two minutes remaining in this one. It was
posted on the scoreboard during a timeout with 54.2 seconds left,
prompting a loud standing ovation. Fans stayed on their feet and
screamed even louder when Turco made his 21st and final save with
7.8 seconds left.

"Our guys knew what was at stake,'' coach Dave Tippett said.
"We played hard and were focused on winning.''

The Stars are the West's best in the regular season for the
third time in six years. Last year, however, they failed to even
make the playoffs, making this one extra sweet.

Dallas actually led the West most of the season, but dropped to
third a few weeks ago. The Stars charged back with a 7-0-0-2
finish, including wins in the last four.

Nashville finished going the other direction.

The Predators failed to win their final 15 after beating Dallas
on March 7. They finished 0-10-3-2, scoring only 18 goals in that
stretch with just one in their last four -- none in the last two.
They didn't end the season quietly, though, as the game featured
several brawls.

"We haven't had the confidence offensively,'' said Nashville
coach Barry Trotz, whose team had beaten the Stars five straight
times over the last two seasons. "When we beat them earlier in the
season, we were able to create just enough offense to squeak out a
win.''

Turco was all smiles as he stomped into the locker room carrying
the game puck with 1.72 written in thick black ink on a piece of
white tape. He gladly showed it off to the cameras.

In addition to allowing the fewest goals per 60 minutes since
World War II, Turco also had the second-best save percentage since
that statistic began being kept for individual goalies in 1976-77.

Not bad for a guy who came into this season as a No. 1 goalie
for the first time.

"I'm extremely happy to write history in the NHL, to get into
the record books and just to be associated with the guys who are on
that list,'' said Turco, who has lost only once in his last 21
starts.

Turco came in with a GAA of 1.75, already lower than the mark of
1.77 set by Chicago's Phil Esposito in 1971-72. Rather than sit to
protect the number, Turco opted to play and ended up lowering it.

His teammates went out of their way to concentrate on defense,
taking a season-low 17 shots -- only two in the final period.

Turco made 21 saves, few of them very difficult. The biggest
challenge came at the end when Nashville was on the power play and
pulled its goalie for a 6-on-4 advantage.

"I just said, `Come on, boys. Let's do this,''' Tippett said.

Turco and Esposito are both from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, and
Turco's father went to high school with Esposito. The goalies met
for the first time at the All-Star game and Esposito wished Turco
well in his quest for the record.

Although Turco missed 18 games in February and March with an
ankle injury, he still played eight more games and 423 more minutes
than Esposito did in his historic season.

The victory was Dallas' 28th at home, tying Ottawa and Detroit
for the most in the NHL. The last four Stanley Cup champions have
led or shared the lead in that category.

Game notes
The Stars had the fewest regulation losses in the NHL (17)
and the fewest at home (five). Both are team records. ...
Nashville's Rem Murray played his 85th game this season, tying an
NHL record. He played three more than a full season because of a
schedule quirk. He got in 32 games for the New York Rangers, then
53 after getting traded to the Predators.