The Dallas Stars jumped out to a 2-0 first period lead but ended up losing 4-2 to the New Jersey Devils in a fast-paced contest Wednesday night at the brand new Prudential Center in downtown Newark.
The defeat snapped the Stars’ six-game winning streak and eight-game stretch of gaining at least a point (6-0-2), but Dallas still remains in first place in the Pacific Division and in second in the Western Conference.
The Stars ran up against a hot New Jersey team, which won its fifth consecutive game, and one of the NHL’s best goaltenders, Martin Brodeur, who recently became just the second goalie ever to reach 500 victories. After a somewhat shaky beginning, Brodeur came back to have an excellent outing, making 19 saves.
Stu Barnes and Jussi Jokinen were the only Stars able to solve Brodeur, both in the first period to give Dallas an early 2-0 lead.
Marty Turco started his second consecutive game in goal for Dallas and made 22 saves in a solid effort.
The Stars’ potent power play unit, which entered the contest ranked second overall in the NHL, failed to convert on a lengthy 5-on-3 advantage in the second period while leading 2-1, and the Devils evened the score shortly afterwards. The PP unit went 0-for-3 overall, the second straight game the Stars didn’t put home a goal with the man-advantage.
“They’re playing good right now, they’re on their own streak here, but we led 2-0 and I think the 5-on-3, that’s the difference in the game,” said center Mike Ribeiro, who had two shots on goal in 21:15 of ice time. “I think if we could have had a goal, it’s a different game. I think we played better as the game was going, but (Brodeur) kind of shut the door after that. I think he played pretty good after those two goals, but there’s no excuses. We could have closed the game early, but we didn’t.”
“I think Brodeur made some good saves,” Barnes said. “I mean, 500 wins is a lot of wins, he gets those wins because he’s a great goalie and he showed that in the 5-on-3, he made some great saves - and down the stretch as well.”
Tied 2-2 going into the third, Dallas surrendered the first two scoring chances of the final period, but were able to survive them. First, outstanding back-checking by Steve Ott nullified a 2-on-1 break by intercepting a pass as Brian Gionta carried into the Dallas zone and tried to feed Zach Parise in the slot.
Then, about four minutes into the period, Turco made a nice save on former Star Jamie Langenbrunner’s backhander from the hash marks.
Dallas had their last opportunity on the power play after Devils rookie David Clarkson was penalized for high-sticking at 4:14. Immediately after the advantage began, however, New Jersey’s Jay Pandolfo raced into the Stars’ zone on a partial breakaway and unleashed a wrist shot from the left face-off circle that beat Turco, but rang off the far post and out. Pandolfo then lost his balance and slid into the boards in the corner and barely made it off the ice with an apparent injury. He did not return.
Just 20 seconds later, the Devils had another short-handed chance as they broke into the Dallas zone on another 2-on-1, but this time, Turco made the save on John Madden’s wrist shot from the right circle.
With the Stars still on the power play, Niklas Hagman boomed a slap shot form the top of the left circle , but Brodeur snagged it in his glove. Then, 20 seconds later, Hagman received a nifty feed from Jokinen at the Devils’ blue line and cut into the slot on a partial breakaway, but Brodeur flashed out a timely poke-check to knock the puck away.
“We’re right in on him alone, and you look at it, that’s the way it goes,” Stars coach Dave Tippett said of Hagman’s chance. “On good nights, those go in, on not-so-good nights, they don’t. They didn’t go in tonight.”
With the Stars again pressing for the go-ahead goal five minutes later, Dallas allowed their third 2-on-1 of the period, leading to Dainius Zubrus’ fifth goal of the season at 10:57. With only Trevor Daley defending, Langenbrunner carried into the Dallas zone, then slid a quick pass over to Zubrus, who spanked it into the open side of the net for a 3-2 New Jersey lead.
“Obviously, a real nice pass when you can one-time it on your off-wing like that,” Turco said of Zubrus. “Those were both two good plays, but 2-on-1s that late in the game, we should try to avoid those.”
“You’re 2-2 in the third period, you got a chance to get points and we made some key mistakes at the wrong time, it cost us,” Tippett said. “It cost us an out-numbered chance and a goal. This is a game that’s a tight game, you can’t force things - we were trying to force things and when you force some things, you’re going to give away some on the other side, and we gave away too much on the other side, didn’t stay with it hard enough.”
Turco kept the deficit at one when he used his face-mask to save Gionta’s blast from the high slot.
Brodeur made another brilliant stop when he got his glove on Philippe Boucher’s bomb of a slap shot from the blue line with 2:50 left in regulation.
New Jersey just kept coming, though, and Turco again made big saves on Langenbrunner’s shot from the right circle with 1:30 to go and then on Parise’s rebound in front.
Tippett pulled Turco for an extra attacker with 1:12 remaining, but Parise ended up firing the puck from center ice into the empty net with 16.7 seconds left to seal the game.
Leading 2-0 entering the second, Dallas killed off the remaining 55 seconds of a New Jersey power play, but not before Turco made nice stops on Gionta’s point-blank backhander and on Mike Mottau’s blast from the blue line.
Loui Eriksson then had his first of two scoring opportunities of the period as he ripped a wrist shot from the left circle with the Stars on a 3-on-2 rush into the New Jersey zone, but Brodeur made the stop.
Turco then made another big save about five minutes into the period when he denied Gionta in front.
Just 40 seconds later, Eriksson received a slick pass in the slot from Ribeiro behind the net, but his wrist shot was thwarted by Brodeur.
Brodeur made another tough save two minutes later when Ott’s wrist shot from the slot changed directions after deflecting off New Jersey defender Colin White and on goal.
New Jersey then got back in the game when Clarkson scored his third goal of the season at 8:52. Clarkson won a lengthy battle for the puck behind the Stars’ net and then swept out front on a forehand wrap-around that slid under Turco’s stick and pinballed off the inside of his skate before slipping under him and in.
“I felt like I was there and it went under my heel,” Turco said. “I was just trying to outreach him, but it forced my leg to kick up because I was reaching so far. That proved to be a costly one.”
Clarkson had another prime chance just over three minutes later when he intercepted Sergei Zubov’s clearing attempt just inside the Dallas blue line, muscled into the right circle, and flipped a high wrist shot that Turco knocked away with the glove.
Dallas then had their golden opportunity to give themselves some breathing room when White cleared the puck out of play from his own zone and was whistled for a delay of game penalty at 15:24. That gave the Stars a 5-on-3 power play for 1:37, and despite several prime scoring chances and at least five shots on goal, they were unable to capitalize.
Brodeur made the best save of the night just 12 seconds after the advantage began, as Mike Modano blasted a slap shot from the high slot that was ticketed for the upper portion of the net, but Brodeur managed to get just enough of his glove on it to deflect the puck over the net. Modano had two more slap shots in the next minute and a half that Brodeur also turned aside.
Boucher drilled another slapper off a one-timer from the top of the left circle just as White returned to the ice, but Brodeur made a sliding pad-stacked save to keep it a 2-1 game.
“We had some great attempts too, and just couldn’t find a way to get it by him,” Tippett said. “That does become a critical time, because if you get another one to push the game along... You’re getting good looks at it, you’re getting good shots, but a couple hit guys in front or the bounces not going your way.”
New Jersey, infused with the momentum of the big kill, then counter-attacked and Gionta struck for the equalizer with just 1:12 remaining in the period. Patrik Elias slid a nice cross-ice pass from the left circle into the slot, where a charging Gionta one-timed the puck under a sliding Turco.
“I think that’s the difference in the game right there,” Ribeiro said of the swing at the end of the second period. “If we score (on the two-man advantage), it’s a different game, probably have more chance to close the game. We didn’t score on the 5-on-3, and they came back and score, they took momentum out of us, and I think that’s the game.”
Dallas had the game’s first prime scoring chance five and a half minutes in, when Ribeiro, stationed to the left of the New Jersey net, retrieved a rebound of Daley’s slap shot off the backboards and quickly shuffled a shot towards a partially empty net, but it clanged off the side of the net just outside the post.
The Devils countered three minutes later when Elias ripped a wrist shot from the right circle that Turco made the save on, and then Turco stopped Parise’s point-blank rebound attempt.
After that, the Stars’ penalty killing unit took over the first period, killing off all three Devils’ power plays as well as contributing the first Dallas goal. With Jeff Halpern in the penalty box, Boucher cleared the Stars’ zone and Barnes raced up ice, picked up the loose puck inside the New Jersey blue line, and fired a precise wrist shot from a sharp angle low in the right circle that beat Brodeur through the pads for a 1-0 lead.
The goal was Barnes’ first of the season and the 250th of his career.
“Obviously, I hadn’t scored to that point, so it was nice to get the first one, but obviously it would be more important to get the win,” Barnes said. “You go out and do what you’re asked, you do it every night. I think the last few nights, things have started to come around a little bit, playing better and getting some good opportunities.”
Later on the same power play, Turco made a nice stop on Travis Zajac’s in-close wrist shot to keep the lead at one.
Jokinen then doubled the lead with his ninth goal of the year at 13:40 after stripping White of the puck just inside the New Jersey blue line. Jokinen carried into the left circle and slid a soft wrister just inside the far post, under Brodeur’s glove on a shot that the NHL’s reigning Vezina Trophy winner undoubtedly would love to have back.
The Stars move on from the New York metropolitan area and continue their season-long six-game road trip, which includes contests against every Atlantic Division club, with a matchup Friday, facing Sidney Crosby and the Penguins (6:30 pm, FSN).
“It was almost a win, almost points, but it wasn’t quite enough,” Barnes said. “We’ve had a good stretch and now it’s time now, a day tomorrow to regroup and get prepared because we got a tough weekend ahead still, too.”
- Barnes last scored a short-handed tally Nov. 5, 2005, a 9-1 victory over Chicago in which he had a hat trick. His last goal of any kind came in Game 3 of the Stars’ first-round playoff series against Vancouver last spring, a span of 28 games. After an assist Monday against the Islanders, Barnes now has points in consecutive games after going scoreless in the previous eight.
- Barnes’ goal was the Stars’ fifth short-handed marker of the season after going all of last year with just three.
- Jokinen’s goal gives him points in three straight games (two goals, one assist).
- Boucher’s assist on Barnes’ goal was his first point in 13 games.
- Adding to the somber mood following the end of the winning streak was another nugget of bad news, when it was learned that winger Jere Lehtinen would miss 8-to-10 weeks with a sports hernia. Lehtinen, who sat out his fourth straight game after what the club initially thought was just an abdominal strain, will undergo surgery.
- Dallas missed a chance to tie the franchise record with a seven-game winning streak. On three previous occasions, the Stars won seven in a row: Nov. 22 - Dec. 5, 1997, Mar. 16 - Apr. 2, 1997 and Mar. 16 - 28, 1980 when the club was still in Minnesota.
- After a scorching streak in which the Stars’ power play went 10-for-21 over seven games, the PP unit is now 0-for-8 over the last two.
- Brodeur was honored before the game for becoming just the second NHL goaltender to record 500 wins last week.
1 - 0 DAL
2 - 0 DAL
2 - 1 DAL
2 - 2 Tie
3 - 2 NJD