Barnes Is at Center of Plan for Stars

Times Staff Writer

In Saturday’s game against the Mighty Ducks, the Dallas Stars wanted to jump out to an early lead of more than one goal, get offensive contributions from second-tier players and dictate the play against a lesser-skilled opponent.

They achieved all that and more in a 4-1 victory that cut their deficit in the best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal playoff series to 3-2.

And right in the middle of it all was veteran forward Stu Barnes, who centered a line also including Pierre Turgeon and Claude Lemieux, a trio that stepped onto the ice for Game 5 with a combined 416 games of playoff experience.

The threesome combined on a goal that gave the Stars a 2-0 advantage only 14 minutes 20 seconds into the game, Barnes taking a pass from Turgeon in the slot and beating Jean-Sebastien Giguere for his second goal of the playoffs.


“They found me in front of the net all by myself,” Barnes said of Turgeon and Lemieux, who had sent the puck to Turgeon. “I just kind of tried to step away from the goalie a little bit, kind of spread him out a little bit and throw it in.

“It didn’t get across that line very hard, but it made it.”

Barnes, who led the Stars with five shots, put the Ducks two goals down for the first time in nine playoff games. He also logged four minutes on the penalty-killing unit, which held the Ducks scoreless in six power-play chances.

It was his combination of versatility and competitiveness that made him attractive to the Stars, who picked him up March 10 in a trade that sent prospect Mike Ryan and a second-round draft pick to the woebegone Buffalo Sabres.

“He’ll give you everything he has,” Coach Dave Tippett said Saturday, “and that’s what makes him a great player.”

Barnes, 32, has twice played on losing teams in the Stanley Cup finals, falling short with the Florida Panthers against the Colorado Avalanche in 1996 and with the Sabres against the Stars in 1999.

Joining the Stars in March, he said, “was a huge thrill.”

So was skating on a line with Turgeon, whose 98 games of playoff experience give him nine more than Barnes, and Lemieux, who played in his 232nd playoff game to move into second place on the all-time list, four behind Mark Messier.


“They’re so good and so experienced and so smart, it’s a lot of fun being out there with them,” Barnes said. “We seem to work well together.”

Lemieux thought so too.

“We’re three guys that complement each other very well,” said the veteran winger. “Pierre, with his soft hands, he sees the ice so well, myself working the corners, doing the dirty work, and Barnesy being so reliable both ways. It was nice to get together right from the get-go and create some offense.”