It was a scary night at the American Airlines Center Wednesday night, not because it was Halloween, but because the Dallas Stars lost a third-period lead late in the game and succumbed 5-4 to the Chicago Blackhawks.
It was the second consecutive game that the Stars held the lead late in the third and then saw the opposition score two late goals to steal a victory that was in their grasp, as they fell 4-2 to San Jose Monday.
Jason Williams’ second goal of the game with just 20.4 seconds remaining leaves the Stars at 5-5-2 and spoiled an opportunity for them to jump past the Sharks into first place in the Pacific Division. The loss also snapped a 10-game home unbeaten streak against Chicago (9-0-1), dating back to March 2001.
Making matters worse, while it was announced in the building that Mike Modano tied the all-time NHL record for points by an American-born player, the assist he was originally awarded on Sergei Zubov’s third period goal was taken away because he never actually touched the puck. That made for an awkward scene where the 14,756 in attendance gave him a standing ovation for his 1,232nd point, even though he knew he didn’t deserve it.
“Someone screwed up, I wasn’t even near that,” Modano said of the play. “It’s unfortunate, another list of things that have happened lately that have been surrounded by me. It kind of caps up the whole month, so I’m glad it’s over tomorrow.”
So Modano remains at 1,231, one behind Phil Housley, and looks to tie it on Friday at home against Phoenix.
“That can’t get over soon enough,” Stars coach Dave Tippett said of Modano’s record. “That will help our team to get it over with, that’s for sure.”
Offensively, the Stars were led by Zubov, who contributed a goal and two assists, while Mike Ribeiro and Philippe Boucher each collected a goal and an assist. Niklas Hagman also scored, connecting on a momentum-changing short-handed goal early in the third period that tied the game 3-3.
“It doesn’t really matter when you lose,” Ribeiro said of his recent hot streak. “It’s still good that we’re still producing, still creating chances, but the bottom line is you have to win these games. No matter what you do, when you lose, it doesn’t really matter. The only thing I’m trying to do is to help the team win games and create the offense that I need to get a chance to win.”
The way in which the Stars fought back from being down 3-1 going into the third period to go ahead 4-3 only to lose it late, frustrated coach and players alike.
“The urgency and commitment to get things done wasn’t there at times,” Tippett said. “At times, we go in flourishes, and other times, it’s not there. We have to find a way to get it done all the time. We’ll keep pounding away. We’ve got to find ways to win hockey games. Right now we’re finding ways to lose hockey games, and it’s not who we are. We aim to be better than that.”
“We came out in the third to win the game, and played hard enough to come back and take the lead, and again, the last five minutes, they scored two goals again,” Ribeiro said. “Mental mistakes, small mistakes are costing us right now. It’s something we need to fix and quick. Even not playing well, we could be in first today. After taking the lead 4-3, we felt good and then again, back to back goals. It’s something we need to be mentally sharper and keep believing that once we take the lead, to keep the lead.”
Trailing 3-1 after two periods, Dallas got one back on the first shift of the third. Zubov picked up a loose puck in the left face-off circle, cut into the slot, and launched a wrist shot that Chicago netminder Nikolai Khabibulin stopped, but the rebound ricocheted back out to Boucher at the point. Boucher’s first shot attempt was blocked, but he got the puck right back and snapped a quick shot that whizzed past a screened Khabibulin and in.
For Boucher, who matched a franchise record for goals by a defenseman with 19 last season, it was his first of the year.
“That’s good for him, he needed that one,” Tippett said of Boucher. “He’s been around it for awhile, it was good to see that one go in.”
Just 20 seconds later, Modano almost tied the record for real he as raced into the Chicago zone and ripped a high wrister that Khabibulin snagged with the glove.
The Stars then got the equalizer on Hagman’s team-leading seventh goal of the season at 5:14. Zubov set up the play by speeding into the Chicago zone, then stopping short to lose a defender and then waited for Hagman to crash the net before directing the puck there. Hagman managed to get his right skate on the puck and angled it past Khabibulin. The play was briefly reviewed to confirm that Hagman didn’t kick it in.
“I stopped in front of the net and I think it hit my stick a little bit, too, but I knew that I didn’t move my legs,” Hagman said. “I just stopped and once it went in, obviously, I turned, and it got me right on top, too. You never can be sure, but I knew that I didn’t move my feet.”
With the Stars already on a power play, Morrow initiated some rough stuff after he leveled Chicago’s Brent Seabrook with a devastating open-ice check. Some Chicago players objected and rushed Morrow, leading to a scrum with lots of pushing and shoving and resulting in Jim Vandermeer being whistled for a roughing penalty.
That gave the Stars a 5-on-3 power play, and for the first time this season in seven attempts, they were able to capitalize on the opportunity. Ribeiro made a pretty no-look backhand pass between his own legs while along the left sideboards that Zubov accepted in the slot before launching a wrist shot over Khabibulin’s shoulder for the 4-3 lead at 10:07.
That was the goal that Modano also initially had an assist on, as he was skating near Ribeiro before his pass to Zubov. At the next TV timeout, the milestone was announced on the ProStar scoreboard and the appreciative Dallas fans gave Modano a nice ovation. It wasn’t until after the game had already ended that the official scorers changed the ruling on the goal.
“It’d be nice to get it over with Friday for sure, and not go on the road with it lingering,” Modano said.
With the building still buzzing and the Stars seemingly back in control of the contest, Chicago then tied the game again with 7:11 left in the third. Robert Lang made a nice play, button-hooking inside the Dallas blue line and then hitting a wide-open Williams cutting to the net low in the right circle. Williams deftly re-directed it past goaltender Mike Smith, who made six saves on eight shots after relieving starter Marty Turco in the Dallas net midway through the second period.
Smith then made a series of nice saves to keep the game tied, stopping Blackhawks’ super-rookie Jonathan Toews’ wrist shot from the slot with 5:25 to go, and then kicking out James Wisniewski’s booming slap shot with just 35 seconds left.
But then Williams carried the puck into the Dallas zone and blasted a slapper from the top of the right circle that eluded Smith on the blocker side with just 20.4 seconds on the clock.
“We’re shooting ourselves in the foot,” Modano said. “Little things have added up to goals against and mistakes that seem minimal at the time are costing us points and games, so it’s unfortunate.”
Tied 1-1 going into the second, Turco, who stopped 18-of-21 shots in 30:59 of playing time, made the first big save of the period six minutes after Toews intercepted Mattias Norstrom’s clearing attempt in the high slot, and then drilled a slap shot that Turco turned aside.
Less than two minutes later on a power play, Turco made two more larcenous stops. Toews’ shot attempt ricocheted to Patrick Sharp in the slot, and Turco blocked his wrist shot, and then the rebound bounced out to Williams to the left of the crease, and his shot pinged off the side of a fallen Turco’s mask and out.
Later on the same man-advantage opportunity, the Blackhawks broke through and took the lead. Wisniewski ripped a slap shot from the blue line that beat a screened Turco to the far side at 8:30.
Just over two minutes after that, Chicago went ahead by two on rookie Patrick Kane’s fifth goal of the season. Wisniewski’s shot from the blue line was stopped by Tuomo Ruuttu in the right circle, and tapped over to Kane in the slot, who spun and whipped a low shot just inside the far post.
That goal prompted Tippett to insert Smith and pull Turco 20 seconds later.
“Trying to do anything to jump start us,” Tippett said of the move.
Chicago had the first prime opportunity of the contest, as Martin Lapointe ripped a wrist shot from the slot on a 3-on-2 rush that clanged off the crossbar and out of play just 2:45 in.
The Stars got on the board first, as Ribeiro scored for the third straight game at the 4:02 mark of the opening period. Boucher shot from the blue line was deflected wide of the net and bounced off the back boards right to Ribeiro on the other side of the goal, where, from behind the goal line, he banked it in off Khabibulin and in.
The goal marked the ninth straight game that the Stars have scored in the first period.
The Blackhawks even the score two and a half minutes later when their ‘Kid Line’ struck for the first time. Ruuttu dished off a slick backhand pass from the right corner to a cutting Toews in the slot, who rammed it through Turco’s pads and in. It extended the rookie’s point-scoring streak to an impressive 10 games - every game he’s played so far in the NHL.
Dallas had two outstanding opportunities with about eight minutes remaining in the period when Jussi Jokinen and then Antti Miettinen were each robbed by Khabibulin on one-timers from the slot.
Brenden Morrow’s one-timer from low in the left circle was also knocked down by Khabibulin’s glove with 36 seconds left.
Dallas continues its three-game homestand Friday against Phoenix at the American Airlines Center (7:30 pm, my27), and resumes it’s stretch of 10-of-11 games against Pacific Division opponents.
- Hagman’s third shorthanded goal of the season leads the entire NHL, and matched the club total for all of last season. He had just four career shorties entering this season. “Obviously, we try to bring a little more offense everywhere, and that’s one of the areas,” Hagman said. “You just got to be smart.”
- Ribeiro extended his point-scoring streak to seven games (four goals, 11 points), matching his career-high set in Nov. 2003 when he was a member of the Montreal Canadiens.
- With an assist on Boucher’s goal, Morrow also continued a career-high seven-game point-scoring streak, during which he’s netted three goals and nine points.
- Turco entered the night with a stellar 12-2-1 career record against the Blackhawks, with a 1.55 goals-against average and three shutouts. He didn’t get the decision, as Smith was tagged with the loss because the deciding goal was scored against him.
- The Hanson Brothers from the legendary hockey movie ‘Slap Shot’ made an appearance, coming out on the ice during the first TV timeout with the Ice Girls. They also signed autographs for the third period on the concourse.
- It was good to see many of the 14,756 fans in attendance at the American Airlines Center in their Halloween costumes. Special mention goes to the guy with the creative ‘puck-in-the-forehead’ look with the fake blood (well, it looked fake).
1 - 0 DAL
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 CHI
3 - 1 CHI
3 - 2 CHI
3 - 3 Tie
4 - 3 DAL
4 - 4 Tie
5 - 4 CHI
Interference on goalkeeper