The struggling Dallas Stars hoped to build on an impressive come-from-behind victory Wednesday night in Minnesota, but after Dan Boyle scored two goals and Joe Pavelski added a goal and an assist, the San Jose Sharks took down the Stars 6-2 Friday night at the American Airlines Center.
The Stars thought maybe they’d turned the corner with their 4-3 win Wednesday, but with the NHL’s best team coming to town, things didn’t go quite the way the club would have liked, as they surrendered two power play goals and now sit in last place overall in the league with a 7-11-4 record.
The Sharks, now 19-3-1 on the year, won their sixth in a row and are 13-1-1 in their last 15 outings, while Dallas still has not won two games in a row since last February.
The Stars surrendered four goals or more for the sixth time in nine home games and gave up five goals or more for the ninth time overall this season.
Loui Eriksson and James Neal scored for Dallas, while netminder Marty Turco gave up five goals on 19 shots and was pulled after the second period.
“We got a lot of parts of our game that have to be better,” Stars coach Dave Tippett said. “Our power play wasn’t very good, we can’t keep a puck out on PK, our goaltending has to be better and we have to find a way to stay with the game. Simple as that.”
“It’s pretty well-documented about our consecutive non-streak of wins, that’s very disappointing,” Turco said. “But the disappointment goes deeper than that, the way we’re playing, the chances we’re giving up and especially the goals I’m letting in. It’s disheartening. I wanted to be able to do so much more and be the guy who turns it around. We’ve all got to do this together, we realize that, but we’re just not and that’s included in the disappointment. We thought it could have been a big night for us, a big spark for us, but in fact, it was the total opposite.”
Eriksson and Neal have now notched five of the team’s last six goals over the last two games.
“I am feeling pretty good out there and the puck seems to be going in,” said Eriksson, who has five goals in his last six games. “I want this team to have more success. That is so much more important than individual success. We had a good win against Minnesota and we wanted to build our confidence, but tonight obviously didn’t go our way.”
As for the special teams, the power play unit hasn’t scored in four games, a span of 21 man-advantage opportunities while the penalty killing unit, which ranked second in the league last year, has allowed six goals on 18 chances over the last five contests.
“Everybody has to do their part,” Tippett said. “There are certain players that we expect more from and it starts in goal with Marty. Right now, with our lineup we have, we just have to have good goaltending to give ourselves a chance. We’ve got people that we’re relying on on special teams to get the job done and it’s not getting done. We’ve got a lot of issues that have to be better if we’re going to win.”
“It’s really tough right now,” said defenseman Darryl Sydor. “We got a win the other night and we just fell apart tonight. The hole is getting deeper if we don’t turn this around. We can do it but it starts with work ethic. When things don’t go your way, you have to mentally battle through and stay positive. Until we have some success the way the coaches want us to play, we won’t have the confidence we need. We just faded tonight.”
The Stars had the game’s first good scoring chance seven minutes in, as a pretty tic-tac-toe passing play ended with Mark Parrish feeding a cross-ice pass from the left face-off circle to Mike Modano breaking towards the right post, but Modano was slightly in too deep and his one-timer pinged off the outside of the net, about an inch wide of the post.
San Jose got on the scoreboard first at 11:45 of the first period, as they capitalized on a defensive zone turnover by defenseman Matt Niskanen. Ryane Clowe intercepted Niskanen’s clearing attempt just inside the Stars’ blue line, took about three strides into the zone and fired a wrist shot that Pavelski deflected from in front past Turco.
Dallas responded just 1:31 later, however, as Eriksson notched his team-leading 11th goal of the season. Brad Richards slid a nice backhand pass from behind the net as he absorbed a hit, to Eriksson off to the left of the crease. Eriksson’s shot then took a fluky bounce off defenseman Rob Blake’s stick and hopped past Sharks netminder Evgeni Nabokov to tie it.
“I was trying to pass the puck across and I just got a good bounce,” Eriksson said.
The Sharks got that back rather quickly, however. Just 10 seconds after Landon Wilson entered the penalty box for high-sticking, Boyle received a cross-ice pass from Patrick Marleau and fired a slap shot from the right point that knuckle-balled past a screened Turco with 5:22 remaining in the opening period.
San Jose then pushed the lead to two with 1:15 left when Joe Thornton fed a pass out from behind the net to Boyle charging down the middle, and Boyle’s scorching wrist shot from the high slot beat Turco past the blocker.
So for the second consecutive game, Dallas trailed 3-1 in the second period, but this time, there would be no heroic comeback.
“The first period I thought we were good, I don’t think the score indicated where we were,” Tippett said, “but we were down 3-1 and you’re chasing the game right from there. That’s happened to us a lot of times.”
On another power play, San Jose made it 4-1 at 3:15 of the second, as Milan Michalek, stationed at the right corner of the crease, finished off a pretty passing play by slamming home Clowe’s feed from the slot into an open net with Turco down.
The Sharks tacked on another one with 3:01 to go in the second, as Blake’s slap shot from the right point beat Turco just inside the far post, as Clowe camped out in front providing a screen.
Dallas exited the ice at the end of the second period to some boos after being outshot 12-4 for the period. Backup Tobias Stephan replaced Turco to start the third and looked good early, making two impressive saves on Tomas Plihal about three minutes in.
Plihal finally solved Stephan when he scored his third of the year at 9:44 of the third to make it 6-1. As the Sharks sped into the Dallas zone on a 3-on-2 rush, Clowe fed a nice cross-ice pass to Plihal in the left circle, and his scorching wrist shot pinged off the near-side post and behind Stephan.
Dallas got one back with 3:33 remaining on Neal’s third goal in two games and sixth of the season on a spectacular play. After receiving a pass from Parrish behind the net, Neal was all alone at the left corner of the crease, and as Nabokov missed on a pokecheck and fell as Neal did a slick toe drag and pulled the puck around the goalie and fired just inside the right post.
“Parrish had it for a second there, took some time, a little pass right to me in the low crease there,” Neal said. “Just a little patience there, Nabokov went down and I just managed to get it by him.”
The Stars are back on the ice Sunday for a rare 5 pm start (FSN), facing off against the Edmonton Oilers, looking to rebound once again with a solid, consistent performance.
“We are in a tough spot right now so we just have to keep battling through,” Eriksson said. “We have talked about playing harder and more together and it’s been frustrating.”
- With his first period goal, Eriksson now has eight points (five goals, three assists) in his last five games.
- Neal’s goal was his fourth in five games since his recall from AHL Manitoba on Nov. 18. He fired four shots on goal, tying Sean Avery for the club lead in that department, and logged 20:46 of ice time, third on the team behind Stephane Robidas’ 23:00 and Mike Ribeiro’s 21:09.
- Richards’ assist gives him a six points (one goal, five assists) in the last five games and a three-game point streak.
- Stephan made 10 saves on 11 shots in 20 minutes of action. Tippett indicated there was a chance he might start Sunday against the Oilers. “Everything is wide open for discussion,” he said.
- After going 0-for-5, the power play is 0-for-21 over the last four games.
- The Stars are now 2-5-2 on home ice this season and have surrendered a total of 39 goals in those games.