The Dallas Stars have been up and down a bit lately and Thursday night in Detroit, they experienced the highs of success and the lows of defeat all in one game. Unfortunately, the positives came early and were overshadowed by the negative end result.
Led by Pavel Datsyuk’s two goals and an assist, the Red Wings capitalized on some Dallas mistakes to dig themselves out of a two-goal hole and beat the Stars 5-3 at the Joe Louis Arena.
It was the Stars’ fourth loss in their last five games and left them a point behind San Jose for the Pacific Division lead and 11 back of the NHL-leading Red Wings after inching to within three about two weeks ago. With the win, Detroit clinched the Central Division championship, their seventh straight division title, as well as their 17th consecutive playoff appearance, the longest active streak among the four major sports.
“Detroit is setting the bar in the West and we better raise our bar or we’re going to be in trouble,” Stars coach Dave Tippett cautioned. “This is another strong lesson for us about what it takes to be successful.”
Dallas finished the season series with a 1-3-0 mark against the Red Wings, while goaltender Marty Turco, who helped lead nearby University of Michigan to two NCAA national championships, remains winless in Detroit in 10 career starts, despite making 26 saves in a solid effort.
“We simply can’t give a team like that life and opportunities like we did,” Turco said. “The energy was there early on, but then our mentality wasn’t where it should’ve been. We need to allow less chances, I need to make more stops and we need to put the pedal down with leads. All of us need to step it up in all areas and show some more desperation.”
For the first 36 minutes, it seemed like just about everything was going the Stars’ way, as they built up a 3-1 lead in impressive fashion on goals by Trevor Daley, Jere Lehtinen and captain Brenden Morrow . But things began to unravel on the Stars after costly turnovers helped Detroit rally for three goals within less than five minutes to take over the lead early in the third.
“A two-goal lead just isn’t safe when you show hesitation in your game, and that hurt us tonight,” Morrow said. “They capitalize on every mistake and turnover you have and we made it tough on ourselves tonight. We didn’t finish what we started. We checked hard the first 40 minutes of the game, but then we sat back and that’s not a recipe for success. We should know that lesson by heart by now. We pride ourselves on defending well and continuing to lose leads in the third is frustrating.”
With winger Steve Ott suspended for three games, Joel Lundqvist stepped into a more substantial role on a line with Lehtinen and Loui Eriksson and contributed two assists in a spirited performance, but it was not enough to make a difference.
Entering the final period with a 3-2 lead, the Stars still appeared to be in control, but had surrendered it within the opening 1:01 of the third. First, just 36 seconds in, Datsyuk connected for his second goal of the game and 28th of the season as he stripped Lundqvist of the puck just inside the Dallas blue line, then bombed a slap shot from the top of the right face-off circle that wormed its way through Turco’s pads.
Then, just 25 seconds later, the Wings took the lead on Mikael Samuelsson’s 11th of the year. Samuelsson first fired a dangerous backhander from in front that Turco made a larcenous arm save on, but the rebound bounced back into the crease, where Samuelsson swatted it over a scrambling Turco and off the crossbar before it dropped in for the 4-3 Detroit lead.
The Red Wings almost went up by two with 11:19 remaining when Datsyuk, bidding for his first hat trick of the season, unleashed a fierce wrist shot from the right face-off circle, but Turco made the big stop.
The Stars dodged another bullet 16 seconds after that, as Detroit’s Tomas Kopecky ripped a slap shot from the high slot that pinged off the goalpost.
While the Stars were in the midst of killing off two third period power plays, their ability to mount a comeback was severely limited. Turco made a nice glove snag on Brian Rafalski’s slap shot during one of those Detroit power plays with 9:36 to go.
Dallas pulled Turco for an extra attacker with 1:15 left, and just 16 seconds later, the man who hopped over the boards for him, Niklas Hagman, very nearly tied it. After a nice soft pass from Eriksson just inside the Detroit zone, Hagman, in full stride, launched a nasty wrist shot from the left face-off circle, but Detroit goaltender Chris Osgood came up with the big glove save.
The Stars would not get another quality opportunity before Valtteri Filppula slid the puck into an empty net with 4.2 seconds on the clock to clinch it for the Red Wings.
“That was a flattering score for us, to be honest with you,” Tippett said. “We did some good things early, but we didn’t show the desire to win puck battles in the third. If you don’t win puck battles, you’re not going to win games, simple as that.”
Tied 1-1 going into the second, the Stars re-took the lead just 44 seconds into the period on Lehtinen’s 13th goal of the season. Lundqvist set this one up with an impressive effort, controlling the puck behind the Detroit net before working his way on the backhand into the lower left circle while fending off Red Wing veteran Chris Chelios. Lundqvist then spun back to his forehand and whipped the puck towards the top of the crease, where Lehtinen re-directed it past Osgood’s glove and in.
The Stars had another golden opportunity 5:10 into the middle period when Mike Ribeiro carried into the Detroit zone, juked his way around Rafalski and, from the left circle, fed a nice cross-ice pass to Antti Miettinen in the right circle. Miettinen’s subsequent one-timer towards an open net was deflected just wide by the back-checking Jiri Hudler.
Less than three minutes later, Ribeiro received a pass from Eriksson in the high slot and ripped a wicked wrist shot that clanked high off the goalpost.
Dallas did go up by two at the 13:42 mark while on a power play, as Morrow connected for his 27th goal of the season and first in seven games. Stephane Robidas collected a loose puck along the left sideboards and shoveled a wrist shot from a sharp angle that hit the side of the net. Morrow, stationed off the left post, retrieved the rebound and popped it over Osgood’s outstretched pad to make it 3-1.
The Stars let the Red Wings climb back to within one, though, on a mostly self-inflicted wound just 2:35 later, as Datsyuk scored his first of the night. After Hagman and rookie defenseman Mark Fistric turned the puck over along the right sideboards, Datsyuk collected it and unleashed a quick wrist shot from the right circle that Turco made a fantastic sprawling save on. But Datsyuk managed to gather the rebound and slide it between Turco’s skate and the post to extend his point streak to eight games.
Less than 30 seconds later, another giveaway, this one by rookie defender Nicklas Grossman in his own zone, led to a scoring chance by Kirk Maltby, who blasted an uncontested slap shot from the right circle, but Turco flashed out the pad to kick it away.
Dallas jumped out of the gate quickly, as Daley struck for his fourth goal of the season just 1:08 into the contest, firing a quick snap shot from just inside the blue line that sailed through a maze of bodies (and may have nicked one of them) on its way past Osgood just inside the far post.
The Wings evened it up at 7:46 just six seconds after Miettinen was whistled for slashing. After Datsyuk beat Stu Barnes on the ensuing face-off in the Stars’ zone, he fed it back to Nicklas Lidstrom at the blue line. Lidstrom backed along the blue line into the middle before drilling a slap shot that was heading wide until deftly deflected about knee-high out of the air by Johan Franzen in front. It was Franzen’s 18th goal of the season - and sixth in the last five games, which includes three game-winners.
Dallas nearly restored their lead about 1:15 later as Miettinen fed a nice pass from the top of the right face-off circle to Hagman down low, and Hagman re-directed it behind Osgood, but it slid through the crease and out the other side.
About 20 seconds later, Detroit counter-attacked down the other end, as recently-acquired defenseman Brad Stuart carried deep down the left side of the net, circled around behind and curled out into the right circle before firing a wrist shot that Turco turned aside.
The Stars return home for a three-game homestand which begins Saturday night against Vancouver (with the unusual 6 pm start time, on my27). Facing yet another team on the playoff bubble - the Canucks currently sit eighth in the West, just two points ahead of Nashville in ninth - will be another challenge for the Stars.
- Ott was suspended by the NHL Wednesday for three games after his hit to the head of Colorado’s Jordan Leopold in Sunday’s 3-0 victory. Brad Winchester, who was a healthy scratch Sunday, took his spot in the lineup, collecting a shot on goal and delivering a body check in just six shifts, 5:12 of ice time.
- Lundqvist’s two assists were his first points since Jan. 20, a span of 11 games and 11 healthy scratches.
- Daley’s goal gives him seven points (two goals, five assists) in his last nine games. He led the Stars in ice time with 23:01.
- Defenseman Mattias Norstrom’s assist on Daley’s goal was his second in consecutive games and his ninth of the season. Eight of those have come in the past 23 games, in addition to his only goal of the year as well.
- Lehtinen’s goal snapped a four-game scoreless streak but was still his fifth in the last nine contests.
- Ribeiro’s assist snapped a three-game pointless drought, although he still has nine points (three goals, six assists) over his last eight outings.
- Eriksson’s assist also snapped a three-game pointless stretch, although that followed a five-game stretch in which he amassed six goals and seven points.
- Robidas’ assist gives him a three-game point streak (one goal, two assists), which followed six games without one.
- Defenseman Matt Niskanen returned to the lineup after sitting out Sunday’s matchup with Colorado due to foot soreness. He logged 20:40 of ice time.
- The Stars have now been outscored by a ghastly 12-3 margin over their last six third periods, although three of those goals against were empty-netters.
- The NHL’s top two teams in terms of goal differential were matched up, with the Red Wings leading with a + 67 (225 for, 158 against) and Dallas second with a + 34 (215 for, 181 against).
- The Stars were 1-for-2 on the power play, after they struggled in going 1-for-18 over the previous four games with the man-advantage.
- The Dallas penalty killing unit, ranked first overall in the NHL, nullified 5-of-6 power plays by the Red Wings’ third-ranked power play, and are now 21-for-23 on the PK over their last five outings.
- The Stars have a 4-11-1 mark versus Detroit over the last four seasons, including 1-3-0 this year while being outscored 12-5. Turco is 2-10-5 in his career against the Red Wings.
- Despite the loss, the Stars are still an impressive 8-3-0 in their last 11 road outings.