After the San Jose Sharks seemingly got too comfortable with a 3-0 lead and eventually fell 4-3 to Calgary in Game 3 of their first-round playoff series, goaltender Evgeni Nabokov ripped his teammates.
"It takes men to play this sport, not a bunch of boys," he said.
Buoyed by their goalie's comments, the Sharks responded in Game 4 with Joe Thornton scoring the winning goal on a deflection with eight seconds remaining for a 3-2 decision in Calgary. San Jose went on to win the NHL Western Conference quarter-final in seven games.
Nabokov will be looking for the same response Sunday (6 p.m. PT) in Game 2 of a conference semifinal against the visiting Dallas Stars.
First, the Russian netminder realizes he has to step up his game.
Nabokov, who faced just 18 shots in Game 1, got burned by Mike Modano's shot from the blue-line that got past him through a maze of players and sticks.
On Brenden Morrow's overtime winner, Nabokov overcommitted on a move by Stephane Robidas and was unable to regain his positioning in time for Morrow's slapshot.
"It's the playoffs," said Nabokov, who sports a 2.49 goals-against average and .889 save percentage in this year's playoffs. "You have to overcome adversity and overcome losses. We just have to come out better."
Tenacious forechecking and speed were huge factors for the Sharks in eliminating Calgary, but weren't evident in the opener against Dallas.
"They weren't playing an aggressive, physical game, and we kind of got lulled into playing their game," said San Jose coach Ron Wilson of the Stars. "They trap, and we literally fall into a trap of not being aggressive."
The Sharks simply have to play like the more desperate team than Dallas, which has prevailed in seven of its last eight visits to San Jose, including four times this season.
Another energetic performance from veteran forward Jeremy Roenick, who notched two goals and four points in Game 7 versus the Flames, would be welcomed. How about better defensive play from centre Patrick Marleau? Or Thornton outplaying his shadow, Modano?
"We've got to make Mike Modano's life a little bit more miserable," Wilson said. "He seems to love playing here, and we never got a hand on him [in Game 1]."
The coach noted the Sharks' goals came when one of his players was standing in front of Stars goalie Marty Turco.
"We wore them down and had a bunch of traffic in front of the net, three guys standing in front, and Cheech [winger Jonathan Cheechoo] when he gets involved and gets his nose dirty, he's going to score," said Wilson.
"We need to jostle [Turco] a bit. He'll dive but we need to get in his face and make him work."
Dallas coach Dave Tippett, who expects an improved showing by San Jose, believes his team has more to give.
"Are we just going to concede [Game 2]? They're going to be a desperate, desperate hockey team, and we have to make sure we bring our best game," he told Dallas reporters.
The Stars might even bring their best defenceman, Sergei Zubov, who hasn't played since Jan. 17 while a sports hernia heals. He will be a game-time decision, while fellow blue-liner Philippe Boucher (hip) remains out.
Sharks rearguard Kyle McLaren (groin) is doubtful for Sunday's game.With files from the Associated Press