The curse of the Stanley Cup continues.
Stephane Robidas scored his first career playoff goal and set up the game-winner as the hometown Dallas Stars posted a 4-1 victory over the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday night to send the defending Stanley cup champions crashing out of the post-season.
The Stars exploded for four goals in the third period to clinch the best-of-seven Western Conference quarter-final in six games.
Anaheim becomes the latest in a long line of Stanley Cup champions to either miss the playoffs or go out in the first round in the season following their championship. The Colorado Avalanche, in 2002, was the last team to advance to the second round after winning the Cup.
The Detroit Red Wings were the last team to repeat as champions in 1997 and 1998.
"It's disappointing because we believe we could do better," said Anaheim defenceman Scott Niedermayer. "Our sights were set higher than this."
As for Dallas, they exorcised their playoff demons by disposing of Anaheim: the Stars had not won a first-round series since 2003 when they dispatched the Oilers in Edmonton and proceeded to fall in six games to Anaheim in the West Conference semifinals.
"It would be easy to feel good and stop right here, but that's not the case," said Dallas goaltender Marty Turco. "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."
"It's very gratifying for a team that's been through a lot," offered coach Dave Tippett. "It's the first step in a mission that we all hope will extend for a very long time. But what it does is it builds a belief system in our group that we can do this."
A tight-checking game saw few scoring chances in the opening 20 minutes, although Turco was called upon to make a few difficult saves.
Anaheim only registered three shots on net in the middle frame — compared to eight for Dallas — but one of them found the back of the net. Corey Perry took a pass from Scott Niedermayer and beat Turco with a wicked shot from a bad angle inside the circle at 2:11.
Stars found net in third period
Dallas pressed for the equalizer, only to be thwarted by the Anaheim defence time and time again.
But the Stars finally broke the Ducks' resistance with a pair of goals early in the third period. Anaheim centre Ryan Carter took a holding penalty 17 seconds into the period, and the Stars took full advantage when Robidas scored at 1:18 on a one-timer after a Mike Modano point shot rebounded off the end boards.
Prior to Robidas's goal, the Stars went 0-for-18 on power play.
The Stars struck again 52 second later, this time with Robidas assuming the role of playmaker. The Dallas defenceman picked up the puck in the neutral zone and squeezed by Anaheim's Mathieu Schneider along the boards before quickly cutting to the inside, driving to the net and playing a perfect pass in front to Stu Barnes who slotted it home.
"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 scored the winning goal in Game 5.
Barnes's goal marked the first lead change in the series, a testament to just how tight and defensive this quarter-final has been.
The floodgates were now open and the Ducks, clearly rattled, were no match for the surging Stars, who made it 3-1 when Loui Eriksson took advantage of a bad defensive pinch by blue-liner Chris Pronger and beat Anaheim goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere on a breakaway.
Modano scored into an empty net with four seconds left in regulation.
"This feels pretty good right now," he said. "Our young guys did great and it's nice to see them experience success like this."