After a sub-par effort in Game 1, the Dallas Stars came up with a much better performance Saturday night, but still fell just a bit short.
A power play goal by Henrik Zetterberg snapped a 1-1 tie late in the first period and the Detroit Red Wings managed to milk home a 2-1 victory over the Stars in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals.
With Detroit super-scorer Johan Franzen sitting out with concussion-like symptoms, Dallas had an opportunity to draw even in the best-of-seven series, but ultimately was unable to pull off the split they were seeking.
Detroit now leads two-games-to-none as the series shifts to the American Airlines Center in Dallas for Games 3 and 4 Monday and Wednesday nights.
The Red Wings won for the eighth straight game overall and have yet to lose in seven home games in this post-season.
The Stars played much better on this night than they did in Game 1’s 4-1 loss here on Thursday, but were still outshot 34-18 and had trouble capitalizing on their opportunities. Some of this was due to an excellent performance by Red Wing goaltender Chris Osgood, who made 17 saves in improving his post-season record to 8-0.
“We battled harder in front of the net, that’s for sure,” Stars coach Dave Tippett said. “We gave up less easy chances there. We battled harder.”
Marty Turco was outstanding again in the Dallas net, turning aside 32 shots, while defenseman Stephane Robidas scored the only Stars goal on a first period power play to account for the only offense.
Despite the low shot total, Dallas had many outstanding scoring opportunities, but inexplicably kept missing the net on the vast majority of their best chances.
“It was frustrating, we have to hit the net,” Tippett said. “We had three or four chances and he didn’t even have to make a save.”
“We got outshot but did a lot better than we did in Game 1,” captain Brenden Morrow said. “We just need to keep getting shots at the net and create traffic. We had some good opportunities tonight but we couldn’t find the back of the net. We need to play as a pack better, Detroit does a good job of that and they are a tough defensive team, frustrating to play against.”
The Stars’ fourth line of Brad Winchester, Toby Petersen and Steve Ott was excellent, hemming the Wings in their own zone on multiple occasions and setting a physical tone with some big hits as well.
Down 2-1 going into the final period, the Stars had two fantastic opportunities to get the equalizer, but could not break through. First, Mike Ribeiro found himself alone in the high slot 4:10 into the third and whipped a quick wrist shot, but Osgood made the save.
About a minute later, Mike Modano, who grew up in nearby suburb Livonia, outraced 46-year-old Wing defenseman Chris Chelios to a loose puck in the Detroit zone, poking it loose, and then, right in front, executed a nice spin-around backhander that Osgood turned aside with a huge pad save.
Dallas had another chance with 5:25 left as Brad Richards snapped a quick shot from the right circle, but Osgood again came up with the stop.
Turco made a big stop on Pavel Datsyuk while hugging the left post with 2:52 to go and then vacated the Dallas net for an extra attacker with 1:15 to go.
While the Stars desperately pressed for the equalizer in the Detroit zone, captain Brenden Morrow was called for a holding penalty with just 17.5 seconds remaining that basically killed their comeback hopes.
There was some rough stuff after the final buzzer, as Ribeiro went to hit Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom behind the net and was clipped by the butt end of Osgood’s stick as he went past the net. Ribeiro then retaliated with a slash over the top of the net to Osgood’s shoulder, causing the veteran netminder to fall to the ice like he’d been shot and setting off a major scrum.
Ribeiro was assessed a match penalty, which brings with it a mandatory review by the league office and might result in a suspension.
“When he went by, Osgood put his stick in the face,” Tippett said. “Ribeiro was actually letting up. He’s not going to do that unless he’s provoked. Whether Osgood thought he was going to run or not...”
“Even if I did butt into him, it was an accident,” Osgood said. “I was more or less trying to protect our best player, making sure they didn’t get a clean run at him with two seconds left. If I did, it was an accident. But I don’t think that justified a two-hander over the top of the net. He could have went about it a different way or said something to me.”
The Stars came out of the chutes blazing, generating several scoring opportunities in the first six minutes. The first came just 30 seconds into the contest, after Richards stole the puck behind the Detroit net and fed an open Loui Eriksson in front, but Eriksson’s backhander went wide.
Two minutes later, the fourth line had a chance, as Winchester, suiting up for just his second game of the post-season, stole the puck behind the net again and fed it out to a wide open Petersen in front, but Petersen couldn’t control the pass and it was poked away.
Then, 5:35 in, the Stars found themselves on a 4-on-1 rush, with Morrow feeding Ott in the slot, but Ott’s wrister zinged wide.
Just 21 seconds later, a Stars turnover led to the opening goal by the Red Wings, rookie Darren Helm’s first-ever NHL goal at 5:56. After Jiri Hudler intercepted a pass in the neutral zone, he dished off to Helm in the left circle, and Helm’s wrist shot beat Turco over the glove just off the upper post and in.
After Lidstrom was whistled for a delay of game penalty due to shooting the puck into the crowd from his own zone, Dallas went on their first power play of the contest. They would need just 14 seconds to convert, as Ribeiro hit Robidas with a sweet cross-ice pass at the top of the left circle and Robidas’ one-timer bomb beat Osgood to tie it 1-1 at 10:41.
Less than two minutes later, Detroit had an apparent goal nullified by a hand pass call. As Zetterberg penetrated the Dallas blue line, the puck was deflected up into the air and went off his glove before falling to the ice, where Datsyuk swatted at it in the slot. At that point, the whistle blew down the play, so when Datsyuk hit the puck again and beat Turco with a quick wrist shot, it didn’t count and was immediately waved off.
With 5:50 left in the first, a nice move by Ribeiro along the right sideboards set up a pretty pass to a cutting Sergei Zubov into the slot, but Zubov’s scorching wrist shot zipped just wide.
When Zubov was banished to the penalty box for hooking with 5:11 remaining in the period, it put the Wings on the power play for the first time since they burned the Stars for three extra-man goals in Game 1. Well, they wasted little time striking again, as Zetterberg connected for his eighth goal of the playoffs just 24 seconds later, booming a one-timer from the top of the right circle after receiving a nice cross-ice pass from Datsyuk.
Dallas had a prime chance to even it up again with 1:30 left in the period when Richards hit Niklas Hagman with a nice lead pass, allowing the speedy Hagman to split the Detroit defense and race in on a breakaway, his second of the series. Hagman, fighting off two defenders, got a short shot off, but it slid just wide.
“We had some good chances early but we have to hit the net,” Richards said. “We need to bear down and improve on that.”
Then with just five seconds on the clock, Ribeiro’s snap shot from the right face-off circle got a piece of Osgood’s arm and fell into the crease behind him, but was swept out of the crease by a Wings defenseman before it could trickle over the line.
While the Stars seemed to be skating right with the Wings in the first period, the stats showed them trailing 12-4 in shots and 21-8 in hits.
Trailing 2-1 entering the second, the Stars continued to get some chances. About 5:50 into the period, Richards set up a nice opportunity, pausing just inside the Detroit blue line before hitting a charging Nicklas Grossman, whose slap shot from the top of the left face-off circle was turned aside by Osgood.
The Stars kept the pressure on, and less than a minute later, rookie Matt Niskanen’s slap shot from the point was re-directed in front by Winchester, despite having Chelios draped all over him.
That led to a penalty on Chelios, and on the ensuing power play, Zubov fed a pass from low in the left circle into the crease, where it pinged off Osgood’s stick and off Ott camped in front.
When Petersen was tripped by Brad Stuart, Dallas ended up with a short eight-second 5-on-3, but was unable to capitalize. Their best chance on the second one-man advantage came when Niskanen ripped another slap shot from the blue line, but Osgood made the stop through a screen set up by Morrow.
A couple of minutes later, Detroit ended up with their own power play, but Turco made back-to-back saves on Zetterberg and Lidstrom to keep the Stars in it. The Red Wings even had their own 12-second 5-on-3, but also couldn’t cash in.
With Detroit still on the advantage, Hagman had a glorious shorthanded opportunity with 7:03 remaining, racing into the Wings zone and firing a wrist shot from the left circle, but it sailed just wide of the upper right corner of the net.
About 40 seconds later, the Red Wings nearly capitalized on the advantage, as Zetterberg sliced through the Stars’ defense, but Turco made a fantastic pad save on his point-blank wrist shot. Datsyuk followed up with the loose rebound, but backhanded it over Turco but just wide.
Dallas was back on the offensive late in the period while on a power play, as Ribeiro made a spectacular move at the Detroit blue line to dipsy-doodle past two Red Wing defenders and then drilled a slap shot from the right circle, but Osgood made the stop.
So after not facing a whole lot of adversity in this spring’s Stanley Cup run, the Stars are deep in it now, facing a crucial Game 3 Monday on home ice (7 pm start, VERSUS).
“We are going to see what we’re made of now, down two games against the best team in the league,” Morrow said.
The players are confident that an arena full of black-clad Stars fans will help them rebound.
“We all know the history when you fall behind 3-0, so it’s a big one,” Richards said. It’s one of those games we have to win. We’re going to feed off the crowd and we need to play well.”
“We have to stay with the plan and we have to move forward and focus on our next two games in front of our fans,” Robidas said. “They have good players and they play well as a team and work extremely hard. It’s far from being over and we are going to continue fighting.”
- Robidas’ goal was his second of the post-season and first since his power play tally tied Game 6 of the Anaheim series. His nine points are tied with Lidstrom for second among all defenseman in the playoffs.
- Ribeiro’s assist on Robidas’ goal was his 12th of the playoffs, tying him with Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby for the NHL lead. Ribeiro led all Stars with four shots on goal in the game.
- Morrow also earned an assist on Robi’s goal, giving him points in four straight games, although his three-game goal-scoring streak came to an end.
- Winger Jere Lehtinen left the game early in the second period after skating just 10 shifts for 6:28 of ice time. He has a leg injury and is listed as ‘day-to-day.’
- Niskanen returned to the lineup after sitting out the last two contests as a healthy scratch. He had two shots on goal and one blocked shot in 18:41 of ice time. To make room for him, Tippett sat rookie Mark Fistric.
- Richards led the Stars in ice time with 23:13. He was second on the club with three shots on goal.
- Despite the fact that he’s now made 59 saves in the first two games, Turco has still not yet won an NHL game in Joe Louis Arena (0-9-2). However, Turco was 18-5 in this building as a member of the University of Michigan Wolverines, where he won two national championships.
- For the second straight night, the Stars were dominated on face-offs. After winning just 21 of 56 face-offs in Game 1 (38 per cent), Dallas triumphed on just 16 of 55 draws in Game 2 (29 per cent).
“It’s a big part of the game and starting with the puck, it’s easier to win games,” said Zetterberg, who was 12-5 on draws in Game 1 and 9-5 in Game 2. “It’s a thing we’ve been trying to work on lately and right now, it’s going pretty good.”
“That is something we have to take care of but its something that we can do with home ice,” said Richards, who won just three of 13 face-offs. “Getting the second stick down is an advantage.”