Sabres 2, Stars 1
Dallas' suddenly slumping power play is becoming costly.
After misfiring on all seven man-advantage opportunities in their loss to Columbus on Tuesday, the Stars went scoreless on six more power plays in their 2-1 loss to the skidding Buffalo Sabres on Thursday night at American Airlines Center.
Stu Barnes scored the lone goal for Dallas, which lost its second straight while finishing a four-game homestand with a 2-2 mark. Dallas came in having won 11 of its past 13 home meetings against Buffalo, dating back to the 1990-91 season.
"We rely on some people to make our power play work, and it's just not working right now," coach Dave Tippett said. "We didn't have the urgency we needed. Our margin for error is very slim, and our errors are hurting us. Losing is frustrating and we all hate to lose."
Derek Roy broke a third-period tie and scored both goals for the Sabres, who came in winless in their past eight road games. After enduring a 10-game winless streak, Buffalo has won two of its last four games.
The loss put the Stars lead in the Pacific Division in jeopardy -- pending the outcome of late Thursday night games involving Anaheim and San Jose -- as the league heads into the All-Star break. Dallas led the Ducks by a point and the Sharks by two.
"It's discouraging and frustrating to head into the break like this," center Mike Modano said. "It's been a tough stretch for us, but I think some time off mentally will do us some good."
The Stars were able to generate chances up a man, but unfortunately had several of their shots from high-percentage spots blocked before they got to Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller. When they did get pucks through, Miller was able to turn aside the opportunities.
"We had plenty of power play chances, but there were too many on the perimeter and not enough to the net," Modano said.
Miller made 24 saves.
"We came up short even though we knew we were going to have a desperate team tonight going against us," Barnes said.
With the score deadlocked at 1, Roy scored the winner five minutes into the third with his team-leading 18th goal of the season. On a 2-on-1 rush with only Matt Niskanen
back, Roy slid a pass over to Thomas Vanek, who immediately gave the puck back to Roy. Roy quickly deposited it into a gaping net when Dallas goalie Marty Turco was unable to recover in time following Vanek's pass.
"There was a lack of desperation on our part, which is both confusing and a little embarrassing," said Turco, who finished with 17 saves. "We're at our best when our leaders are at the top of our game, and it's most evident when we're playing desperate hockey."
Dallas had a glorious opportunity to send the game into overtime with less than 10 seconds left in regulation, but Mike Ribeiro
was foiled by Sabres forward Jochen Hecht. Brenden Morrow
sent a nifty between-the-legs pass to Ribeiro at the top of the crease, but Hecht swatted the puck off the Dallas All-Star's stick. Ribeiro was staring at an open net, as Miller was out of position.
"When you don't get quality scoring chances in the third period of a game like this, you have a problem," Tippett said.
Down by a goal after one period, the Stars began to turn up the offensive pressure in the second, and were rewarded when Barnes tied it at 1 with his eighth of the year with just under three minutes remaining. Barnes, the former Sabre acquired in a trade in March 2003, drove hard to the net and tapped-in Mattias Norstrom's perfect pass from the left circle.
It was Barnes' second goal in the last three games.
Turco kept the Sabres at bay early on in the second with consecutive stops on Ales Kotalik and Daniel Paille. Buffalo also had a power-play goal disallowed when it was ruled that Vanek deflected a shot with a high stick midway through the stanza.
The Sabres opened the scoring early, as Roy gave Buffalo a 1-0 edge just 1:51 into the game. From the outside edge of the left circle, Drew Stafford sent a backhand pass to the front of the net where Roy was standing. Roy then chipped it over Turco to give Buffalo the quick lead.
Niklas Hagman nearly tied it while the Stars were killing a penalty late in the first period when his wrist shot squirted through Miller but went wide. Hagman was able to get to the loose puck and swat it back in front, but Miller sprawled on it to kill the threat.
"We could have played a lot better with more consistency tonight," Turco said.
The Stars will take the next four days off for the All-Star break, and will return on Tuesday when they begin a three-game road trip in Vancouver (9 p.m., FSN). It'll be the second meeting between the two teams that faced each other in the first round of the playoffs last season. The Canucks defeated Dallas 3-2 in December.
Vancouver snapped a seven-game winless skid with a 3-2 shootout win over St. Louis on Wednesday, their final game before the break.
"We were playing catch up for most of the game, so hopefully we can come back after the break and be a more consistent team," Barnes said. "I think that's one thing we will definitely be striving for following this break."
--Left wing Jussi Jokinen returned after missing the past 13 games due to a knee injury.
--Defenseman Sergei Zubov missed his fourth straight game with a groin injury, and his absence is certainly hindering Dallas' power play.
--The last time the Sabres played in Dallas was on March 31, 2003. Turco earned a 3-0 shutout by making 18 saves in the game.
--Forward Krys Barch, two black eyes and all, got into a scrap with Andrew Peters in the first period. Peters wanted to go with Steve Ott
, who upended the Sabres forward with a thunderous hip check in the neutral zone, but Barch stepped in.
--The Stars and Sabres are the only two teams in the league to have seven different players score 10 or more goals each.
--Dallas has scored just one time on the power-play in its last six games.
--Defenseman Stephane Robidas
had a solid outing, finishing with a game-high 28:40 of ice-time while registering three shots and a team-high six hits.
|Three star selections