The good news is the Dallas Stars clinched a playoff spot, their fifth in a row and 10th in the last 11 seasons.
The bad news is they lost in a shootout to Anaheim, once again coming agonizingly close to pulling out a victory in a game they were in good position to do so.
After Brad Richards put the Stars ahead in the shootout, Anaheim got goals from Teemu Selanne and Chris Kunitz in the tie-breaking contest to give them a 3-2 victory Sunday night at the Honda Center.
A day after the Stars emphatically got back in the win column with a 7-2 victory over the Kings on Saturday, they dropped this one to fall to 2-7-2 in their last 11. With the one point they earned in the standings, however, they moved to 93 points and secured a berth in the post-season with three games left.
The Ducks, however, edged up to 98 with the win and virtually beyond the Stars’ reach for the fourth seed in the Western Conference and home ice advantage that comes with it. Dallas, currently fifth, also still has Calgary and Colorado close on their heels, but would face Anaheim in the first round if the current seedings hold.
Mike Modano and Niklas Hagman scored goals for Dallas in regulation, as the Stars rallied twice to tie it, including Hagman’s equalizer in the third period that pushed the game past regulation.
“To be successful and win in the playoffs you have to win on the road so home ice is important but it’s not everything,” Modano said. “We’re glad to be in the playoffs and we just want to finish out the regular season on a high note.”
“The way the game started, it looked like we were down under but we found a way to get a point,” Stars coach Dave Tippett said. “You want to get to the playoffs and we clinched so we can put that behind us now and start getting ready for the post-season.”
Marty Turco, who faced just 14 shots on Saturday, was excellent in the Dallas crease, making 30 saves, including five in overtime, with several of the spectacular variety. Unfortunately, after Ryan Getzlaf’s opening shootout attempt went off the goalpost, he was unable to stop Selanne and Kunitz.
With the shootout tied 1-1, Kunitz’s nifty deke to his backhand to beat Turco, and then Anaheim netminder Jean-Sebastien Giguere, back in the lineup after missing the previous four contests with back spasms, made a glove save on Jere Lehtinen to win it for the Ducks.
“The guys here are still trying to look ahead and because of the home ice in the first round, we really wanted a regulation win,” Turco said. “We didn’t play our best but we will try and take a lot out of the point we did get tonight. The best way to get your confidence back is by winning.”
In a free-flowing, entertaining overtime, each team had several chances to end it before it reached the shootout, but Turco and Giguere each stood tall.
Anaheim had the first good chance in OT, but Turco stopped Samuel Pahlsson’s wrist shot from the right face-off circle 1:35 in.
Mike Ribeiro expertly stick-handled his way into the Anaheim zone, but Giguere stopped his point-blank backhander with 2:20 left in overtime.
Just 35 seconds later, Richards had an opportunity to win it when he raced in on a partial breakaway, but his wrist shot from low in the left face-off circle, just missed on the short side.
Stephane Robidas then found himself alone in front 30 seconds after that, but Giguere got just enough of his point-blank wrist shot to force it just wide.
Turco then denied Pahlsson’s one-timer from the top of the right circle with 35 seconds left to force the shootout.
“Tonight, Marty was the backbone and kept us in it,” said Stars winger Steve Ott. “He’s done that all year and continues to be our best player.”
Trailing 1-0 entering the middle period, the Stars’ fourth line had a prime opportunity to tie it up 3:15 into the second. Hagman made a nice move in the right face-off circle to get open and unleash a wrist shot that was deflected by rookie B.J. Crombeen right in front, but Giguere made the save. The rebound squirted out front to Hagman, but his wrist shot caught just enough of Giguere to bounce just wide of the left post and into the corner.
Dallas then evened things on Modano’s 20th goal of the season at 6:45. After captain Brenden Morrow exited the penalty box, he received a pass from Modano in the neutral zone and carried into the Anaheim zone, before sliding a nice backhand pass from the sideboards to Modano breaking down the slot. Modano then launched a scorching wrist shot that beat Giguere past his blocker.
The Ducks nearly went back on top just over a minute later, when, on another power play, Mathieu Schneider’s long slap shot from the right point whizzed wide, but ricocheted quickly off the backboards and right to Selanne just beyond the left post. Staring at an open net, Selanne fired right into Turco on the far side of the crease.
Anaheim took the lead back with 5:06 remaining in the second on Schneider’s second goal of the night and 12th of the season. With three Stars trapped behind the goal line, Getzlaf took control of the puck beside the left post and fed a quick pass into the slot to a streaking Schneider, who blasted a one-timer past a defenseless Turco to make it 2-1.
The Stars continued to get in penalty trouble, and found themselves down by two men for 47 seconds after Trevor Daley was whistled for hooking with 1:45 to go in the period. But thanks to superior penalty killing - and Turco - the Stars managed to kill off the sixth and seventh Anaheim power plays of the night.
Down 2-1 heading into the final period, the Stars generated several offensive opportunities in the opening minutes, and ended up getting the equalizer just 1:53 into the third. Toby Petersen, playing just his fifth game since his recall on March 4 from AHL Iowa, pressured Anaheim defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron behind the Duck net and deflected his clearing pass into the right face-off circle. The loose puck went right to Hagman, who quickly fired a snap shot that glanced off Giguere’s blocker on its way past him.
A Dallas turnover, from defenseman Mattias Norstrom in his own zone, led to a prime Anaheim scoring chance a minute and a half later, as Selanne fed Getzlaf in the left face-off circle, but Turco managed to get enough of Getzlaf’s one-timer to send it harmlessly over the net.
The Stars dodged a major bullet three minutes later while on a power play, their third of the third period, when another turnover in their own zone almost gave the Ducks the go-ahead goal. Travis Moen helped pry loose a puck from three Stars in the left corner, and it squirted to Todd Marchant all alone in the slot. Turco dove out to pokecheck the puck off Marchant’s stick, but Moen picked it up in the slot and slid a soft shot under the prone Turco, but it kissed off the goalpost and remained out.
Turco then made two point-blank pad saves on Bertuzzi in front after he was set up by Selanne below the goal line with 4:50 left in regulation.
Giguere then returned the favor at the other end of the ice 25 seconds later on Antti Miettinen’s in-close chance.
Neither team generated another key opportunity before the end of regulation, setting the stage for the OT and shootout.
The Ducks had the contest’s first dangerous scoring opportunity, just 1:25 into the opening period, after Marc-Andre Bergeron fired a slap shot from the blue line that Turco stopped. The rebound went right to Brian Sutherby at the left side of the crease, and staring at an open net, Sutherby shot it, but Turco made a spectacular lunging stop with the outstretched paddle of his goal stick.
Turco came up big again about 6:20 in with Anaheim on a power play, robbing Kunitz twice on the doorstep after he was set up by a nice cross-crease pass from Selanne.
On another power play less than two and a half minutes later, Anaheim managed to solve Turco and take the early 1-0 lead on Schneider’s first goal of the night. Schneider bombed a one-timer slap shot from the right point, which seemed to skip in front of the net, bouncing up and over Turco’s shoulder at 9:43.
Just after the ensuing face-off, Crombeen engaged Anaheim veteran Sean O’Donnell in a fight/wrestling match that saw few punches actually land. It was the scrappy Crombeen’s second fight in three games since he was recalled from AHL Iowa last Monday.
Dallas did not generate much offense in the period, getting outshot 10-3 and not registering their second shot on goal until Modano ripped a slap shot from the blue line on a power play with 4:50 remaining.
The Stars complete their four-game Pacific Division road trip on Thursday in Phoenix (9 pm start, FSN) in the first leg of a home-and-home series with the Coyotes, with the second engagement coming Friday at the American Airlines Center.
Valuable points are still on the line in those games, so the Stars will continue to battle.
“We definitely want to get home ice in the first round and are striving for that,” Ott said. “It’s a great feeling to get in the playoffs and get a little bit of a sigh of relief. But we still have to fight for positioning.”
- Modano became the fifth Star this season to hit the 20-goal plateau after just he and Lehtinen reached that mark last season. This is the 16th time in his 18-year career that Modano has scored at least 20.
- Hagman’s goal was his 27th goal of the year and second in two games after going nine straight outings without a point. He fired four shots on goal, tied with Ribeiro for the team lead.
- With his goal in the shootout, his first attempt with the Stars after joining the club in a deadline day trade with Tampa Bay, Richards is now 3-for-4 on the season.
- Morrow’s assist on Modano’s goal extends his scoring streak to five games (four goals, one assist), although his four-game goal streak was snapped.
- Lehtinen’s assist gives him points in three straight contests (two goals, two assists).
- Petersen registered his second assist in five games as a Star.
- Veteran Norstrom suited up for his 900th career NHL game. He skated 21:46 and had three hits.
- Rookie defenseman Nicklas Grossman returned to the lineup for Dallas after sitting out as a healthy scratch the previous two contests. He replaced fellow rookie Mark Fistric, who was scratched for the first time since he was last recalled from AHL Iowa back in January. In 14:04 of ice time, Grossman delivered two bodychecks and registered a + 1 plus/minus rating.
- Anaheim was still missing one of their top scorers, Corey Perry, who is out with a quad injury, and All-Star defenseman Chris Pronger remained out of the lineup as he continues to serve an eight-game suspension.
- The Stars, now 8-2-2 in their last 12 against Anaheim, completed the season series with the defending Cup champions with a 5-2-1 record, outscoring them 24-15.
- The Dallas power play unit failed to convert on five man-advantages, after going 5-for-15 over the previous three games, scoring at least once in each contest.