A week ago, heading into New Year’s Eve, the Dallas Stars were riding an 8-1-0 hot streak and were on fire offensively, having stockpiled 17 goals in their previous three games. Now, after a disappointing 3-0 defeat to the Detroit Red Wings Saturday afternoon at the American Airlines Center, they have lost a season-high four straight in which they’ve managed just four goals.
It was the second game in four nights between the two teams, although the Stars also dropped a 6-3 decision in Minnesota Thursday since the Wings defeated Dallas 4-1 Wednesday in Detroit.
The loss leaves Dallas tied with San Jose with 50 points atop the Pacific Division, but the Sharks have three games in hand, one of which they’ll play later on Saturday night against Columbus.
Detroit, meanwhile, continued on its dominating stretch, winning their fifth straight road contest and going 16-2-1 in their last 19 overall. Dominik Hasek made 22 saves for his 78th career shutout and Daniel Cleary scored a goal and an assist to lead the Red Wings.
The Stars did receive a boost when defenseman Sergei Zubov returned to the lineup after missing two games with a hand injury, and coach Dave Tippett shuffled his lines in an attempt to jump-start his slumping club, but it wasn’t enough to help the Stars’ suddenly-anemic offense, which has been shut out twice in these last four games after being blanked just once in the previous 39. It was also the second straight whitewash at home suffered by the Stars, just the first time in almost nine years that has happened.
The Dallas power play was 0-for-2, leaving them 0-for-18 in their last five games and 2-for-31 in their last eight. They have scored with the man advantage in just one of those last eight, which goes a long way towards explaining their lack of offensive production.
“Our power play isn’t doing much lately and we’re not creating enough chances, which is frustrating,” said Mike Ribeiro, the Stars’ leading scorer with 21 goals and 44 points who was actually named the game’s third star. “If we even took advantage of one of those power play chances, it’s a different game. Detroit pressures the puck well and they force you to make decisions quicker than you’d like.”
Mike Smith got the start in goal, appearing for the second straight contest after relieving Marty Turco halfway through the first period Thursday night. Smith was outstanding, turning aside 20 Detroit shots.
“Losing is frustrating and that goes without saying,” Tippett said. “We’re in a tough spot right now and we need to keep pounding away and get out of this. You have to continue to work for your bounces and we’ll continue to do that starting tomorrow in Frisco at practice.”
Down 1-0 going into the third, the Stars had the first scoring chances in the period, controlling the puck in the Detroit zone early before Hasek made a nice glove save on captain Brenden Morrow’s wrist shot from the left circle about four minutes in.
Dallas had another opportunity eight and a half minutes into the third when Mike Modano fired a wrist shot from the top of the left face-off circle as Jeff Halpern crashed the net, forcing Hasek to make sprawling save.
As the Stars continued to press, the Red Wings counter-attacked and extended the lead to two at 10:08. Cleary, who also had the primary assist on Detroit’s first goal, fired a sharp-angle snap shot from the left sideboards that somehow squeezed through Smith and in for his 14th goal of the year and second in as many games against Dallas.
Dallas kept coming, though, and came close with 5:25 to go, as Loui Eriksson’s wrist shot from the right circle was stopped by Hasek, and with Ribeiro charging the net towards the rebound, Detroit’s Brian Rafalski managed to clear the bouncing puck away.
As time wound down, the Stars kept the pressure on and Hasek had to make another sparkling save to keep Dallas off the scoreboard with 1:54 remaining. Ribeiro, circling around the net out to the left point, spun and fired a wrist shot that was deflected by Morrow in the slot, but Hasek made a huge pad save.
The Stars pulled Smith for an extra attacker with 1:21 left, but despite more offensive pressure, weren’t able to capitalize and Johan Franzen ended up sliding the puck into an empty net with 20 seconds on the clock to ice the victory.
“Losing four in a row makes you feel not so good about yourselves,” admitted Morrow, who led the Stars with four shots on goal. “That was a good hockey team we played today, but we didn’t push it hard enough to beat them. We didn’t win the battles and get to the pucks in the crease. We wanted to get back to defending well and playing to our strengths, and I thought we did that early, but in the end we didn’t get to the scoring areas that we needed to.”
Trailing 1-0 after one, the Stars failed to capitalize on two power plays in the first half of the second, although they finally established a presence in the offensive zone, holding a 6-1 edge in shots over the first half of the period.
Just before the midway point, Jiri Hudler received a long pass from Henrik Zetterberg and broke into the Dallas zone on a partial breakaway, but Smith made a nice stop on his slap shot from the left circle.
Smith then made a nice blocker save on Zetterberg’s one-timer from the left circle, after the Red Wings’ leading scorer received a nice pass from Valtteri Filppula out of the right corner on a delayed penalty.
On the ensuing power play, the Stars had a golden opportunity for a short-handed goal as Modano and Morrow raced into the Detroit zone on a 2-on-1 rush. Modano slid a nice cross-ice pass to Morrow in the left circle, but Hasek made the big stop.
“I saw the puck well,” Hasek said of the play. “The defenseman did a good job of making (Modano) pass the puck. I was going with the pass and got into a good square position. He put right into my body.”
Seconds later, though, the Stars would go down two men, as Smith inadvertently shot the puck into the crowd from his own zone, giving the Red Wings a 5-on-3 advantage for 52 seconds.
Smith then made several big stops to make up for his mistake, stopping Nicklas Lidstrom’s bomb of a slap shot from the top of the circles less than 10 seconds into the two-man power play. And after the first penalty expired, Smith made a beautiful sliding pad save on Zetterberg’s wrist shot from in front after receiving a deft cross-ice pass from Lidstrom.
Dallas came close with about two minutes remaining in the period, as Stephane Robidas carried into the Detroit zone, curling to the right sideboards before firing a pass towards the net with Morrow and Eriksson both crashing the net. Hasek flashed out his stick to poke the puck away, but it ricocheted off the charging Morrow and back into Hasek.
The Red Wings got the upper hand early as Rafalski scored his seventh goal of the season on Detroit’s first shot on goal at 3:44 of the first period. After winning a battle for the puck behind the net, Cleary skated to the right of the goal and fed a quick pass out front to a charging Rafalski, whose one-timer beat Smith between the pads for a 1-0 lead.
While the Stars tightened up and played well defensively, only allowing six shots on goal the rest of the first period, Dallas wasn’t able to generate much in the way of their own offense, managing just two shots themselves.
Smith did make a big save on one of the Red Wings’ other shots in the second, denying Tomas Kopecky’s one-timer from the left circle with 2:30 remaining.
“We didn’t have a lot of time with the puck, not a lot of possession,” noted Modano, who has one point in the last four games. “They back-check well and pressure the puck well. We need depth and contributions from more people. We can’t rely on our power play or one line to carry us. They force you down low and took away our entry into the zone, so we need to make some adjustments. We have to stop the bleeding.”
The Stars complete their mini-homestand Monday with the Minnesota Wild arriving in town again (7:30 pm, FSN). It will be the third contest in two weeks - over seven games - against the Wild, with each team having come up with big victories in the first two.
“Monday will be a huge game for us because we need to get out of this and we’re going up against a team that embarrassed us just a few days ago,” Morrow said.
- Forward Stu Barnes, skating in his 1,100th career game, was a stellar 8-3 in the face-off circle and logged 16:17 of ice time.
- Winger Antti Miettinen played his 200th NHL contest, skating 14:39 and managing one shot on goal.
- After missing two games, Zubov returned to the lineup and resumed his heavy ice time load, logging a game-high 26:48 and blocking a team-high three shots in the defensive zone.
- The Dallas penalty killing unit killed off both Detroit power plays and has now nullified 30 of the past 31 man-advantage situations against them over the last nine games.
- The Stars have not beaten the Red Wings at home in regulation since Jan. 16, 2002. “We’ve had tough opponents lately and Detroit has given us problems since 2000,” Modano said.
- Dallas was last shut out in consecutive home games in March, 1998 - tying Pittsburgh 0-0 and losing to Toronto 1-0.
Wrist shot -