In a season of individual firsts for the Sharks, perhaps their most important came Friday night in San Jose.
Using an aggressive checking defense in the neutral zone, the Sharks kept Toronto's scoring opportunities to a minimum and made the most of their own in a 5-2 victory over the Maple Leafs that gave San Jose a 2-1 lead in their Western Conference semifinal series.
Ulf Dahlen finished the first playoff hat trick of his career with 2:22 to play after taking a lead pass from Tom Pederson.
He skated down the ice with Todd Elik, looking to his teammate as if he was about to pass before flipping the puck above goaltender Felix Potvin's left shoulder.
San Jose goaltender Arturs Irbe faced only 12 shots through the first two periods and 21 for the game.
Bob Errey and Jamie Baker took turns assisting each other for the other goals by the Sharks, who took 27 shots.
Nikolai Borschevsky scored both of Toronto's goals, his first of the playoffs.
San Jose used a three-goal second-period burst that included the second by Dahlen, acquired March 19 in a trade with Dallas, to go up, 4-1. A Toronto power-play goal by Borschevsky cut the deficit back to 4-2.
In a reversal of roles from San Jose's first goal, Errey passed off to Jamie Baker at the top of the right circle and Baker wound up and slapped the shot into the net 29 seconds into the second period.
Ninety seconds later, Dahlen picked up a loose puck from teammate Gaetan Duchesne along the boards, skated behind the net and stuffed a wraparound shot past Potvin to put San Jose up, 3-1.
The Sharks added a power-play score by Dahlen at 14:25, who beat Potvin up close for his fourth goal of the playoffs.
With Toronto on a power play, Borschevsky skated down the middle and put in a rebound at 16:59 after Doug Gilmour's shot glanced off Irbe's pads.
Dallas 4, Vancouver 3--Neal Broten scored twice and Mike Modano scored the go-ahead goal early in the second period, leading the Stars to a victory at Vancouver and cutting their deficit to 2-1 in the best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal series.
Game Four will be in Vancouver on Sunday.
Dave Gagner and Mike Modano also scored as Dallas erased an early two-goal deficit.
The Stars scored four consecutive goals to win their third consecutive NHL playoff game on the road, with Modano putting Dallas ahead in the second period.
The Canucks' five-game winning streak was stopped, despite two goals by Trevor Linden and another from Pavel Bure.
Vancouver managed only two shots on Dallas goalie Andy Moog in the last period. The Stars outshot Vancouver, 36-24.
Vancouver led, 2-0, midway through the opening period on power-play goals by Linden and Bure, both set up by defenseman Jeff Brown.
Dallas tied the score when Broten scored late in the first period, converting a rebound of a shot by Craig Ludwig.