After winning three of their previous four contests, it seemed like the Dallas Stars were on their way to a turn-around, and they may still be, but Wednesday night it was the Phoenix Coyotes who got two goals each from Martin Hanzal and Olli Jokinen to take a 5-3 victory out of the American Airlines Center.
The injury- and suspension-depleted Stars were 4-2-0 in their previous six following a difficult 1-4-2 stretch and were seconds from taking a one-goal lead into the third period, but instead, a couple of unfortunate bounces left them with a difficult one-goal defeat.
With the loss, the Stars (10-13-4) missed a chance to escape the Western Conference basement and move to within four points of the final playoff spot, but the frustrations continue.
“Bad things happen and breaks go against you, but you have to find ways to overcome,” Stars coach Dave Tippett said. “We had some unfortunate breaks, we were hanging around the game, but we are finding ways to beat ourselves.”
“We’re not consistent enough,” added defenseman Stephane Robidas, who earned an assist. “We gave up a lead, they came back, tied the game at the end of the second period, we couldn’t score on the 5-on-3. There’s a lot of stuff. It’s frustrating, it’s consistency, that’s what we need and that’s what we lack and that’s why we’re where we’re at in the standings.”
“(Toby) Petersen and Conner gave us some energy and there were some positives that we can take out of tonight,” Tippett said, “but we have to do all the little things that increase our chances of winning.”
“Anything from here on in is going to be a real tough loss,” said goaltender Marty Turco, who made 29 saves. “We continue to do things that we’ve been building on and working towards as a team and staying tight. Two bad bounces on goals three and four ended up costing us the game. You take those away and get a bounce the other way and you’re looking at something else. We’re going to look at things and learn from it.”
The Stars’ struggles on the penalty kill continues, as Phoenix scored two on the power play.
“It’s a big part of the game now and it’s something we have to bear down on and it’s why we’re losing hockey games,” Robidas said of the Stars’ PK unit that came into the night ranked 28th in the NHL.
Heading into the second period tied 2-2, Brunnstrom put Dallas ahead 3-2 at 8:35. Darryl Sydor’s shot from the left point pinballed off a few bodies in front and landed on Conner’s stick in the right circle. Conner then fed a pass in front to Brunnstrom, who jammed a backhander past scrambling Phoenix netminder Ilya Bryzgalov.
Phoenix almost tied it again with 1:23 left in the middle period when Daniel Carcillo stepped out of the penalty box and received a nice lead pass at the Dallas blue line and raced in on a breakaway. Carcillo ripped a wrist shot from the slot that Turco got just enough of it to have it slide just wide of the post.
Daley was whistled for slashing on the play and the Coyotes ended up capitalizing on it with a back-breaking tally just 3.2 seconds before the intermission. Seconds after a Stars’ clear around the boards took a crazy bounce off the glass and stayed in their zone, Peter Mueller fired a desperation wrist shot from along the right sideboards. It ricocheted off Robidas in front right to Olli Jokinen in the left face-off circle and Jokinen blasted a one-timer into the open side of the net.
“We’re chasing it trying to defend a penalty, a player hits a crack in the boards and it comes right back at them - unfortunate but you have you to find a way to overcome,” Tippett said.
“It’s very frustrating - to allow a goal with three seconds left in the second is frustrating,” Sydor said. “There are some positives but this was a huge two points that we left out there.”
With the clubs deadlocked 3-3 going into the final period, Phoenix seized the lead on a fluky Stars turnover at 5:21. Turco wandered into the left corner to clear a dump-in around the boards behind the net, but the puck ricocheted off Daley in the right corner and bounced right out in front, where Martin Hanzal popped it into the open net.
“I got pretty lucky,” Hanzal said of his eighth goal of the season. “(Daley) didn’t handle the puck and it hit his stick on the backhand. The puck came out to me.”
“I didn’t see what happened,” Turco said.
Turco made a huge save with 7:04 remaining to keep Dallas in the game, as he slid across the crease to deny Jokinen’s bid for a hat trick as he one-timed a rebound from the left circle.
Bryzgalov made saves on Conner with 3:50 left and on Daley with 2:03 on the clock to thwart the Stars’ best chances to get the equalizer in the final minutes.
They pulled Turco with 1:16 to go, but were unable to get another one past Bryzgalov.
Steve Reinprecht then chased down a loose puck in the Dallas zone and slid a backhander from the top of the right circle into the empty net with 23.7 seconds left to ice it.
Dallas got on the scoreboard first just 4:34 in on Daley’s third goal of the season. On what seemed like an innocent rush into the Phoenix zone, Daley carried into the right face-off circle before unleashing a scorching wrist shot that pinged off the far post and in behind Bryzgalov.
The Coyotes tied it up at 7:19 on Hanzal’s first of the night. Rookie Viktor Tikhonov, the grandson of the legendary Russian coach of the same name, fed a pass from behind the net to Hanzal just to the left of the crease, and Hanzal popped it in the short side before Turco could slide across.
Phoenix then jumped on top just 2:30 later on a power play. With Brad Richards banished to the penalty box for holding the stick, Ed Jovonovski fired a slap shot from the point that Jokinen, camped in front with his back to the net, nicely deflected between Turco’s pads and in for a 2-1 Coyotes lead.
The Stars answered with a power play goal of their own just over a minute after that as Neal scored his seventh of the season at 10:58 to even it up. Robidas controlled at the top of the left face-off circle and spotted Neal just to the right of the crease. Robidas’ pass hit Neal’s stick and sat in the crease for a moment before Neal managed to swat it into the open net on his backhand.
The Stars had a golden opportunity late in the period as they ended up with a 44-second 5-on-3 advantage, but were unable to get one past Bryzgalov.
Dallas got a bit of a scare just as the first period buzzer went off as a bouncing puck hit Robidas in the mouth. After leaving several spots of blood on the ice, Robidas was helped to the locker room, where he received several stitches on his lip before returning midway through the second period.
“It’s all right, I don’t feel much,” Robidas said.
The Stars continue a stretch of four out of five home games with a date Friday night against the hated Detroit Red Wings (7:30 pm, FSN) at the American Airlines Center. With the Red Wings firmly in second place in the Western Conference, it should be a major challenge for the Stars.
“Obviously, they’re a great team, we learned that from last year,” Petersen said of the Wings, “but there’s no better team that we can start a new streak against and or build some confidence against.”
- Daley’s goal was his first in 25 games. He scored one in each of the Stars’ first two games of the season and hadn’t tallied another until this game.
- Petersen’s assist on Daley’s first period goal extended scoring streak to a career-high five games (three goals, two assists).
- Conner’s two assists give him four assists in his last five games after going scoreless in his first four contests this year. It was his first career multi-point game in the NHL.
- The Stars’ power play was 1-for-7, leaving the PP unit just 3-for-44 over the last nine games.
- Center Tom Wandell made his NHL debut after his recall on Friday from Timra IK of the Swedish Elite League. In 5:59 of ice time, Wandell registered one shot on goal and went 1-5 on face-offs. “It was my first game and I feel like I can do a lot more, but not to expect too much first game,” he said, “so maybe in the next games I can create some more offense, but pretty good defense today.”
- In outscoring the Stars 2-0 in the third period, Phoenix has now outscored their opponents 8-0 in the final period over their last five games.
- Stars fans were treated to an impressive performance from the Allen High School band during the first intermission, with some 450 instruments, covering virtually the entire ice.