DALLAS - The Dallas Stars took several steps forward with an outstanding effort, but missing their captain, they came up just short. Again.
In their first game since learning Brenden Morrow would miss the next six months with a knee injury, the Stars put forth a solid defensive effort but still wound up falling 2-1 in a shootout to the Anaheim Ducks Saturday night at the American Airlines Center.
In the midst of a frustrating start to the season that has left them in the basement of the Pacific Division, not to mention the entire Western Conference, the Stars (6-9-4) pulled together without their sparkplug and delivered an impressive performance.
Loui Eriksson scored his team-leading ninth goal of the season for the Stars’ only offense, while goaltender Marty Turco made 23 saves.
Unfortunately, after outshooting the Ducks 32-24, including a 6-2 edge in overtime, Dallas fell to 0-2 in shootouts this season when Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf beat Turco with a scorching wrist shot off the right post on the final shot.
But Dallas still earned a point on the night and put forth a much more consistent effort than they did in losing 6-3 to Chicago Thursday night. The one goal allowed was their stingiest effort in eight home games so far this year, and just the third time they surrendered less than four.
“We got an extra point, we had a lot of heart and compete in us and it’s going to have to stay that way for us to win hockey games,” Stars coach Dave Tippett said. “But we’re going to take a lot from this game and how we can be better, and how we did things good and build off it.”
“It’s always been the team identity, defense, and tonight was a much better effort defensively,” said defenseman Stephane Robidas. “I think overall it was a much better effort, that's what we have to remember from tonight's game.”
But even though they felt better about how they played, the Stars still lamented the lost opportunity to gain two much-needed points.
“We did a lot of good things, but we’ve got to find ways to win and concentrate on doing all the little things necessary that it takes to win hockey games,” Turco said. “We’ve got to do it without even thinking, like breathing. We had it in our grasp to win and that’s why it’s disappointing.”
With Morrow likely out for the season, the team was happy about how they banded together without their leader and are trying to look at the silver lining of the opportunity it presents for other guys to step forward.
“Everybody’s going to have to take a step forward,” said defenseman Trevor Daley, who had a solid game with an assist and was named the game’s third star. “When you lose the heart and soul of your team and Brenden is our heart and soul, I think I was almost in tears last night when I found out, but it could be something we can take out of it - everybody steps up and we could get some wins out of it. It sucks but Brenden’s not around any more, so we’re going to have to deal with it.”
“We need everybody to step up their game,” added Robidas, whose contributions increased last season when he received more responsibility with Sergei Zubov injured. “Some guys are going to have more ice time, with Brenden down, they got to embrace it and enjoy it. When guys go down, it’s other guys have to step up. And it’s not just one guy that has to step up, it’s the whole team.”
Entering the third period tied 1-1 and on a power play, the Stars were afforded a golden opportunity to take the lead 38 seconds in when another Anaheim penalty gave them a 5-on-3 advantage for a full 1:22.
Unfortunately, Anaheim backup netminder Jonas Hiller made a nice glove save on Brad Richards’ booming slap shot from 50 feet out 40 seconds later, and the Stars were unable to muster another shot the rest of the power play.
The Stars continued to buzz around, but Hiller made big stops on Fabian Brunnstrom’s one-timer attempt from the slot 5:25 in and on Landon Wilson’s point-blank attempt three minutes later.
Dallas came out strong in the overtime period, firing three shots in the opening 1:05, two by Ribeiro, but Hiller made the saves.
The Stars carried the play and ended up outshooting the Ducks 6-2 in the OT, but couldn’t get one past Hiller. Turco made saves on Corey Perry and Teemu Selanne, preserving the tie and sending the contest into a shootout.
“We didn’t take advantage of our opportunities,” Tippett said. “We played hard and had a lot of guys play well. Loui was good, he is a guy that is in his element and he’s been playing really well lately. Trevor has taken some steps, he plays all situations and we rely on him. He wants to be a good player and he has all the tools.”
Anaheim got on the board first, as Perry scored on a power play at 5:37 of the opening period, on the Ducks’ first shot of the contest. Prior to that, Dallas was enjoying a power play when Sean Avery got involved in a shoving match with Anaheim defenseman Steve Montador, and while both got roughing penalties, Avery was assessed an extra two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct. So 47 seconds after the Ducks’ power play began, Selanne controlled the puck along the left sideboards before feeding Perry circling the Dallas net into the low left corner. Perry then turned towards the net and fired a laser beam of a seeing-eye wrist shot over Turco’s shoulder and in for the 1-0 lead.
“Marty allowed a bad goal early, he played better later,” Tippett said. “He had a lot of flurries around him. I think our team did a better job of eliminating opportunities around him.”
Just two seconds after the subsequent face-off at center ice, the first fight of the night ensued, as Anaheim enforcer George Parros squared off with Krys Barch.
The Stars held a 13-7 advantage in shots on goal after the period, which featured two more fights, Anaheim’s Chris Kunitz against Avery and Montador battling Steve Ott, but Dallas still trailed 1-0.
The Stars had a golden opportunity to tie it early in the second, gaining a 35-second 5-on-3 power play when Anaheim’s Brett Festerling was whistled for hooking 46 seconds in, but the advantage didn’t even last that long as Eriksson ended up in the box 29 seconds after that.
Then, 2:09 into the second, Mike Ribeiro picked up a loose puck at center ice and sped in on Hiller. As he reached the slot area, Ribeiro tried to shoot for the five-hole, but Hiller closed the pads in time and made the save.
Dallas continued to press throughout the second period and Eriksson got the equalizer at 10:09. Trevor Daley lugged the puck out of the Dallas zone and down the left side of the ice. Deep in the Anaheim zone, Daley fed a centering pass to Eriksson charging into the slot, and Eriksson’s deft backhand re-direct slipped between Hiller’s pads and in.
“I’m feeling good out there, I’m trying to play simple, like I always try to do,” said Eriksson, who now has three goals in the last three games and four in the last six. “It was good to get one today
again. Dales made a great pass to me there, so I just put it in there, so it was good.”
The Stars dodged a bullet with 4:59 remaining in the second when the Ducks appeared to score the go-ahead goal but it was waved off. Just four seconds after Avery entered the penalty box for roughing, Scott Niedermayer collected the puck behind the Dallas net and fed Perry in front, but as Turco slid across the crease, he knocked the net off its moorings, about a second before Perry’s quick shot crossed the goal line. Following a several-minute long video review the goal was disallowed.
“I’m sliding over there to make a save, desperation-style, and I knocked the net off,” Turco admitted. “I think that rule should be (at the referee’s) discretion, in my mind, but we’ve been on the wrong side of a lot of technicalities, so screw it when it comes to what I think.”
“I don’t know about (Turco) moving the net,” Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said, upset about the call. “It’s kind of weird, the goaltender can move the post with his foot and wind up wiping out our goal.”
Dallas next travels east to face the Philadelphia Flyers Monday night (6 pm start, FSN) and hope to carry over the positives they took out of this contest.
“I think we played really good defensively and we have to build on this game,” Eriksson said. “We only get one point but we have to go in like that against Philadelphia on Monday, so we have to get some rest and be ready for the next game.”
- Daley’s assist snapped a five-game scoreless drought. He also tied for the club lead (with Mike Modano) with four shots on goal while also topping all skaters with three blocked shots.
- Second-year defenseman Matt Niskanen was a healthy scratch for the first time this season. Inserted into the lineup in his place was defender Doug Janik, making just his third appearance of the season. In 7:57 of ice time, Janik delivered one hit.
- Right winger Landon Wilson, who was recalled from AHL Grand Rapids on Friday, skated in his 339th career NHL game and first since the 2003-04 season after spending the last four seasons playing in Europe. He had a great scoring chance midway through the third period, but Hiller denied him. Overall for the contest, he registered two shots on goal and delivered two bodycheck in 5:49 of ice time
- Part of the Stars’ troubles this season can be traced to the fact that they’ve been outscored 21-11 in third periods so far, and they’ve now lost all four games that have gone beyond regulation.
- Despite the loss, the Stars still hold a 9-2-3 record in their last 14 meetings with Anaheim, outscoring the Ducks by a 39-24 margin. Overall, since the lockout ended, Dallas has gone 16-6-4 against Anaheim, including 9-3-1 at the American Airlines Center.
- Turco entered the night with a career mark of 18-8-6 against the Ducks, with three shutouts and a 2.12 goals-against average in 34 games.
- With his assist on Perry’s first-period goal, Selanne earned his 616th career assist, moving him past former New York Ranger winger Rod Gilbert into sole possession of 68th place on the NHL’s all-time assist list.
Wrist shot -