The Vancouver Canucks regained their scoring touch in the nick of time, counting a pair of power-play goals and empty-netters to win Game 7 and avert a colossal collapse.
Trevor Linden's power-play goal broke a 1-1 deadlock seven minutes into the third period as the Canucks dispatched the Dallas Stars 4-1 in Game 7 of their NHL Western Conference quarter-final in front of 18,630 fans at General Motors Place on Monday.
"It obviously feels great to contribute," Linden told CBC Sports. "Our team played great."
It was Linden's second winning goal in the best-of-seven series and his sixth in a Game 7, the most among active NHL players.
"I thought Trevor did what I expect from him, what his teammates expect of him, and what he expects of himself," Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault said of Linden, the longest-serving Canuck.
"He's been a great player in this league for a long time. He's got a lot of experience, and we needed that experience to come out."
The Canucks enjoyed a seemingly comfortable 3-1 series lead, but Marty Turco posted back-to-back shutouts to force a decisive seventh meeting.
Turco also blanked the Canucks in Game 3, matching the NHL record of three shutouts in a playoff series set by Martin Brodeur of the New Jersey Devils in the 2003 Stanley Cup final.
"The important thing is how we responded," Linden said. "We responded the right way."
Henrik Sedin matched Linden with one goal and one assist, both on power plays, and Roberto Luongo turned aside 19 of 20 shots for the third-ranked Canucks.
"We showed a lot of character," Sedin said. "It would have been a real disaster to lose the seventh game."
"Nothing beats it [Game 7] when you win," Luongo said. "I just tried to do my job and knew the guys would come through in the end."
Vancouver's power play sputtered in the series, going 1-33 before doubling its output with two goals in 10 chances in Game 7.
"We knew if we could score one goal, we'd be in good shape," Vigneault said. "Our power play had been good since Christmas."
With Turco pulled in favour of an extra attacker, Taylor Pyatt and Bryan Smolinski scored 16 seconds apart into the empty net to clinch it for the Canucks.
Joel Lundqvist had the only goal for the sixth-seeded Stars, and Turco made 28 saves in a losing cause.
"Right now, I don't take anything away other than losing in the first round again," Turco said.
"He gave us a chance to win every game," Stars head coach Dave Tippett said. "That is all you can ask of your goaltender."
Sergei Zubov, who was averaging almost 31 minutes in ice time, was scratched because of a strained stomach muscle suffered in Saturday's 2-0 win at Dallas.
Losing Zubov was a major blow, but nothing frustrated Tippett more than the officiating.
"It's a mystery to me how the standard can change," he said. "It was a different refereed game than the other six: baffling."
"Some of the calls … it's Game 7. Let's let the players decide it."
Lundqvist fools Luongo
Lundqvist opened the scoring 16:32 into the contest, carrying the puck into the offensive zone and cutting into the middle to unleash a wrist shot that banked off the left goalpost and behind an astonished Luongo.
It was Lundqvist's second goal of the series.
"I thought we came out and were a little tentative in the first period," Linden said. "But our game picked up in the second."
Vancouver outshot Dallas 15-4 in the second period, and even skated 5-on-3 for 48 seconds.
But Turco kicked out a slapshot from Markus Naslund and smothered the rebound before Linden could whack it into the open net.
Even after the first penalty expired, the Canucks kept pressing for the equalizer, but Daniel Sedin had a shot blocked in the slot and Naslund's slapshot from the faceoff circle was kicked aside by Turco.
Turco later stuck out his left pad to deny a pinching Mattias Ohlund from the slot, and Brendan Morrison had the puck knocked off his blade before he could sweep home the rebound.
However, Jon Klemm was penalized for cross-checking on the play and Henrik Sedin finally ended Vancouver's scoring drought on the ensuing power play.
Daniel Sedin won a battle for the puck along the boards and slid a backhand pass across the slot to Henrik, who swept it into the net to knot 1-1 with 4:48 left in the period.
"It was a great pass and I don't think Marty knew I was there," Sedin said.
First goal in 167 minutes
It was Vancouver's first goal in 167 minutes and five seconds, and first at home since Henrik Sedin's winning tally with 1:54 left in the fourth overtime period in Game 1.
The momentum gained from that goal carried over into the third period, with Daniel Sedin almost deflecting Naslund's slapshot past Turco and Kevin Bieksa nearly converting Naslund's pass through the crease later in the power play.
When Jeff Halpern was whistled for hooking, the Canucks capitalized as Linden tipped Ohlund's low shot from the point between Turco's pads for a 2-1 lead with 13 minutes remaining.
"I knew I had tipped it between his legs," Linden said. "But I wasn't sure it had enough to get over.
"I didn't see it until much after. I don't even know if it touched the back of the net."
It was Linden's 34th playoff goal, tying Pavel Bure's franchise record.
Luongo stood firm from there, robbing Stu Barnes from the slot with a spectacular glove save and later stopping a screen shot by Stéphane Robidas.
"Once we took the lead, Roberto had two game-saving saves to make — which he did," Vigneault said.
With four minutes to go, Luongo lunged for, and missed, a slapshot from Mike Modano, only to watch it strike the crossbar and stay out.
"I'm going to see that for a while … picture that puck a couple of inches away,"Modano said.
The Stars have trailed 3-1 in a playoff series 13 times in franchise history — and never won.