DALLAS - Just two games in, the push-and-pull intrigue of these Stanley Cup finals has been delicious. The he-said, he-said accusations have been downright entertaining. The gamesmanship has been championship-caliber.
And that's off the ice.
On it, Dallas and Buffalo continue to trade momentum swings and hard checks as deftly as they do barbs, combining for another taut classic last night at Reunion Arena.
When it ended, Dallas had evened the best-of-seven series with a 4-2 victory on Brett Hull's slap shot with 2 minutes, 50 seconds remaining. Game 3 is tomorrow in Buffalo, where the Sabres are 7-0 this postseason.
Hull beat Dominik Hasek with his game-winner from the right circle after Tony Hrkac hustled down a loose puck in the corner and fed the sharpshooter for a one-timer.
Hrkac was playing in his first game after missing 16 with fractured ribs.
"It doesn't have to be a hard shot," Hull said. "Sometimes you just have to get it on net."
Hull did. And it was.
Derian Hatcher added an empty-net goal with 25.8 seconds remaining.
"We're back in the series," Dallas Coach Ken Hitchcock said. "It's a heck of a series. Every game is going to be like this."
Until Hull's game-winner, the third period was a crusher for Dallas. Sergei Zubov hit the post. Mike Modano left with an injured wrist with 10 minutes to play after absorbing a crushing hit from Jay McKee and didn't return. And the Stars, 0 for 6 on the power play, failed to convert a 5-on-3 advantage that lasted 43 seconds.
Earlier, the first period ended in ornery fashion. Hasek, who had already drawn a charging call on Brian Skrudland, got clipped from behind by Modano. When Hasek angrily went to jaw with the first Star he could find, Jamie Langenbrunner, a melee erupted.
Joe Nieuwendyk drew a fighting major for slugging Brian Holzinger, who also spent the first 5 minutes of the second period in the box.
In all, six players were assessed penalties. In the scoreless first period, the teams combined for just 12 shots but a remarkable 45 hits.