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Hull, Stars Even Series


For the Dallas Stars, the devil wasn't in the details this time.

Brett Hull, one of the greatest clutch scorers in Stanley Cup playoff history, scored two goals Thursday night the second with 4:16 to play and the Stars rebounded from one of their worst playoff losses ever to beat the New Jersey Devils 2-1 in Game 2.

Dallas goaltender Ed Belfour, pulled after allowing six goals in an admittedly embarrassing 7-3 loss in Game 1, bounced back to turn aside 27 of 28 shots and give the Stars the road split they were fearful they wouldn't get after Tuesday's dismal game.

``After that first game when we played so bad, you've got to take your hat off to everyone in the room,'' Hull said.

This time, the Stars tightened up defensively and got an exceptional game from Belfour, who has won his last nine playoff games after a loss.

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  • ``He's really shown his mettle,'' Hull said of Belfour.

    The game-winner came after nearly two scoreless periods. Mike Modano pushed the puck between the legs of Devils rookie Brian Rafalski to Jere Lehtinen, who fanned on a shot as he skated to the left of the net.

    But the puck floated directly to Hull, who pushed it past Martin Brodeur for his 11th goal of the playoffs and 88th of his career.

    ``We know it's going to come down to us making a play,'' Modano said. ``We know the pressure's on us. That's what makes it fun.''

    The Stars now have one huge statistical edge on their side going back to Dallas, where they have won 11 of their last 12 home playoff games: the team winning Game 2 has won 25 of the last 28 Stanley Cups.

    The Stars also were 1-1 after Game 2 last year against Buffalo, and went on to win four of the next five to win their first Stanley Cup.

    The Stars, 3-0 in Game 2s in these playoffs, also got their first lead of the series from a familiar source Hull, whose nickname is ``The Sniper.''

    Hull scored his 10th of the playoffs and fourth in four games, putting a hard wrist shot over Brodeur's glove that hit off the crossbar and fell across the goal line at 4:25 of the first.

    Modano also set up the goal, focing a turnover from Rafalski sound familiar? along the boards 15 seconds after play resumed following a six-minute delay to fix some broken glass.

    But, just as it did in Game 1, the first period ended 1-1 as Alexander Mogilny answered for the Devils at 12:42, snapping a shot from the edge of the left circle off Scott Gomez's pass from the blue line. Gomez occupied three Stars in the neutral zone, allowing Mogilny to get a step on the defense.

    It was a first for a Stanley Cup final one of the first stars to defect to the NHL from the former Soviet Union hockey dynasty being set up for a goal by the league's first Hispanic player.

    The Stars played just as they promised to after a Game 1 in which Belfour looked dazed and confused from cold medicine he was taking, allowing six goals on 18 shots.

    Belfour was on his game in Game 2, thrice turning aside Randy McKay shots on the doorstep and, another time, stopping Bobby Holik at point-blank range.

    He also held New Jersey's top line of Petr Sykora, Jason Arnott and Patrik Elias scoreless after they produced four goals and 11 points in Game 1.

    And Dallas' top line, so silent in Game 1, generated nearly all of the Stars' scoring chances, and made Hull's two goals stand up behind Belfour's big night in goal.

    Hull said the Stars' attitude on Game 1 was ``it's a bad game. Let's go out and show 'em what it's all about.''

    The Stars were well aware of the dangers of losing Game 2 and falling down 2-0 to a New Jersey team that had won four straight games, including the final three of the Eastern Conference finals against Philadelphia.

    Only three teams since 1939 have rallied from a 2-0 deficit to win the Stanley Cup: 1942 Toronto, 1966 Montreal and 1971 Montreal. No team in 29 years has done it.

    It was the first loss in six games in Devils' Stanley Cup finals history. They swept Detroit as a big underdog in 1995 the last Stanley Cup won by an Eastern Conference champion and Game 1 of this series.

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