The Dallas Stars dropped a 4-3 decision to Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center on Saturday afternoon in a game that Dallas found itself shorthanded and a little tired.
The Stars had their opportunities that could have resulted in five or six goals in regulation but instead Dallas had to settle for three, an overtime period and eventually the shootout. Los Angeles outscored the Stars, 2-1, in the shootout to get the extra goal and the win.
LA’s Anze Kopitar and Patrick O’Sullivan each scored in the shootout while only Antti Miettinen cashed in for the Stars, giving the Kings the victory and making Dallas settle for just one point.
The Stars had eight power plays, including three with a two-man-advantage, but they could not convert many of the golden opportunities that presented themselves with the extra man. Dallas’ power play did not look as smooth as it has in recent weeks, in part most likely due to the absence of All-Star defenseman Sergei Zubov, who missed the game due to a foot injury. That, and fatigue. Dallas played its fourth game in five and a half days.
“We were fighting a lot of elements with Zubie being a late scratch, but we hung around the game and got a point,” said Stars Head Coach Dave Tippett. “Two points would’ve been nice though. It was a tough week and we kind of expected a sloppy game. We always say to find ways to get points and we did that.”
It looked good early in the contest for the Stars but that fortune did not hold up. Dallas scored the first two goals of the game – just 16 seconds apart - and looked like they were going to take control of the game.
Jeff Halpern got the Stars on the board first with a power play goal, stuffing the puck past goalie Jason LaBarbera into an empty net after a nice cross-crease pass from Loui Eriksson in the waning seconds of a 5-on-3. Dallas received a full 2:00 two-man-advantage when Jeff Giuliano was called for hooking and during the delayed call, Jack Johnson was whistled for high-sticking.
Eriksson scored an even strength goal on the next shift, getting his own rebound and circling the net for a backhander and his fifth goal of the season. Dallas led, 2-0, just 3:36 into the game.
But the Kings stopped the bleeding fast and got back in the game with two goals of their own, just 67 seconds apart.
Alexander Frolov converted a two-on-one chance at the end of Dallas’ third power play to get the Kings on the scoreboard midway through the first. Frolov continued a hot streak of his own, scoring 5 goals and 11 points over his last six games. Then Derek Armstrong scored on a fat rebound to the right circle, pounding his fourth goal of the year over Marty Turco’s right shoulder for a 2-2 tie.
“On their tying goal (to make it 2-2), I just couldn’t squeeze (the initial shot that led to the reboud),” said Turco. “We had some mistakes in our game but there are no excuses. This is frustrating and we need to get our game together because we have some tough ones ahead of us.”
The Stars entered the game with a 12-3 scoring advantage in first periods vs. the Kings this season. They kept up their scoring end of the bargain but gave the Kings their share as well on Saturday.
“We got off to a good start today, one goal on one pass, but overall we need to be better,” said Eriksson. “We gave up too many odd-man rushes and we have to clean that up. We need to bring energy and create chances on each shift.”
Los Angeles took a 3-2 lead in the second period on a power play goal by Kopitar, his 18th of the season. Rob Blake shot the puck from the right point with Kopitar cutting in front of Turco to get the tip. Turco wanted an interference call on the play as Kopitar’s leg hit the goalie stick while striding by, but there would be no call from the referees. The Kings would carry the 3-2 lead into the third.
Dallas got two of its 5-on-3 advantages in the third period - one for 31 seconds and one for 47 seconds. The Stars were able to score on the second one on a funny bounce. Matt Niskanen’s re-dirction of a Mike Modano shot hit former Star Jaroslav Modry’s shin pad and bounced over the top of LaBarbera and the game was tied at 3-3 with 12:37 remaining.
The Stars finished 2-for-8 on the power play but it could have been much better, giving the Stars a probable victory in regulation. Dallas also had a few odd-man rushes that they could not cash in.
The missed opportunities turned out to be their undoing.
“It’s been a long week but it’s like that for everyone (in the league) but that’s the way it is, so there are no excuses,” said defenseman Stephane Robidas. “You can’t blame the loss on any one thing, we just have to better.”
The Stars hope a few days off from games will help do the trick. After playing three games in essentially three and a half days, Dallas gets the next two days off and will play at Anaheim on Tuesday night, followed by the road trip finale at San Jose on Thursday.
“We need a day off tomorrow to recharge our batteries and let Zubie heal,” said Tippett. “He went through warm-up today and I'll be surprised if he doesn’t play Tuesday. We have been a pretty good shootout team, it just didn’t go our way today.”
- Turco made a nice stop on a shorthanded breakaway by Dustin Brown in the third period.
- LaBarbera robbed Halpern with about eight minutes remaining with a nice diving glove save on a 2-on-1 rush with Steve Ott.
- The two team captains – Brenden Morrow and Blake – each wore a special jersey featuring a 10th anniversary Hockey Fights Cancer commemorative patch. Both players autographed their game-worn jerseys and will be available for bidding via an on-line auction through NHLPA.com and NHL.com beginning January 17 at 5:00 p.m. CT and ending January 31 at 8 p.m. CT, with proceeds benefiting Hockey Fights Cancer. Each autographed jersey comes with a Letter of Authenticity from the NHL and NHLPA. It also will be security-tagged, serial numbered and registered into the NHL-MeiGray Group Game-Worn Jersey Authentication Program.
“It’s a very worthy cause and it raises a lot of money and I’m proud to be a part of it,” said Morrow.
- Eriksson has started to spread his wings a little bit over the last few games, averaging over 15 minutes per contest over the last five. He has two goals and one assist over the last three games.
“Loui is starting to feel like a bona fide contributor in this league and he's been playing really well,” said Tippett. “He was up and down this season, but he’s on a steady climb and he is learning key lessons. He is evolving into a very good NHL player.”
The confidence is evident when watching Eriksson play over the last few games.
“A lot more chances seem to be coming and I am gaining confidence as I get more ice time,” he said.
- Defenseman Mark Fistric played in his sixth career NHL game in place of Zubov and had a big hit on Brown, leveling him in the third period in the defensive zone.
- Blake tied the LA franchise record for games by a defenseman with his 780th game as a King – pulling him even with Dallas’ Mattias Norstrom. Blake had originally owned the record in his first stint with the Kings before Norstrom broke it on Nov. 26, 2005.
- The Stars are just 3-for-39 on the power play over the last nine games, while their penalty kill has remained strong, giving up only three power play goals in their last 47 shorthanded situations.
- Labarbera improved his personal record vs. the Stars to 4-2.