DALLAS - It’s safe to say that Ilja Bryzgalov has the Dallas Stars’ number.
After scoring 14 goals in their last two games, the Stars were stifled by 33 saves from the Phoenix Coyotes’ goaltender and dropped a tight 1-0 contest Wednesday night at the American Airlines Center.
It was a disappointing ending for the Stars, who came into the day on a roll with a 7-1-0 record in their previous eight games. It was just the fourth time they’ve been shut out this season, with the last two coming at the hands of Bryzgalov; Dallas lost a 1-0 shootout to Phoenix on Jan. 10 when the 6-foot-3, 208-pound Russian netminder stopped 38 saves.
“He’s a big goalie, takes a lot of space, he’s really effective in his lateral movement and everything,” said Stars defenseman Stephane Robidas. “When you don’t score, sometimes you start squeezing the stick and that’s the last thing you want to do. When you start squeezing, you start missing those shots and you miss the net. You just got to keep going at it, keep putting traffic, keep putting pucks at the net.”
The Stars are now 11-2-1 in their last 14 on home ice, outscoring the opposition 51-31 in those games, but allowed the struggling Coyotes, who came into the day having lost six in a row by a combined score of 25-10, to regain ground in the very crowded Western Conference playoff race.
Dallas missed a chance to move ahead of Anaheim into sole possession of fifth, while the Coyotes moved up from 13th to a tie for 11th.
“That’s a team you want to beat, a team that’s behind you in the standings chasing you,” noted center Brad Richards, who led the club with a season-high eight shots on goal. “We could have had sole possession, maybe tonight, of fifth, but we’ll get back at it.”
“You recognize how desperate they were going to be and we generated some shots but couldn’t capitalize,” Stars coach Dave Tippett said. “They blocked a lot of shots, showing their desperation. Through that second period, we had ample chances to score and we just couldn’t break through. This is a good dose of reality for us, after a couple games where a lot went our way.”
While the Stars were unable to solve Bryzgalov, goaltender Marty Turco was very good himself, making 28 saves as he set a franchise record by starting his 24th consecutive game.
“It’s disappointing, we’re not in the business of looking good with no results, said Turco, who broke the previous mark set by the maskless former Minnesota North Star, Cesare Maniago, back in 1968-69. “We did have some chances and did some things that we needed to win, but those are two different things. I think a better start may have been a catalyst. I think we need to come out more consistently at the start.”
“Both teams were playing well, both goaltenders were exceptional,” said Phoenix captain Shane Doan. “Bryzie was unbelievable, he won the game by himself.”
The Stars had the contest’s first prime scoring chance just 2:18 into the opening period as rookie James Neal unleashed a scorching wrist shot from the top of the left face-off circle that beat Bryzgalov over the glove, but clanked high off the far goalpost by the crossbar. The red light signifying a goal briefly came on and at the next stoppage, over four minutes later, the play was reviewed and the officials confirmed that the puck never crossed the goal line.
“I didn’t really know (if it was in) - the way it came out, it looked like maybe it hit the back bar,” Neal said. “It went on with like seven minutes without a whistle - I even had another shift, so I didn’t really know what happened. I was hoping it went in, but it was kind of the way it went tonight.”
Turco came up with a series of sparkling saves just past the period’s midway point, denying Steven Reinprecht twice on point-blank opportunities within several seconds of each other.
Fans of fighting, which seemed to be all of the 16,440 in attendance, were treated to one of the best bouts in quite awhile when Krys Barch squared off with Coyote Daniel Carcillo with 3:20 left in the first. In a lengthy dust-up that featured numerous punches landed by both participants, Barch definitely had the edge.
The Coyotes then broke the scoreless tie at 2:19 of the second on Enver Lisin’s ninth goal of the season. After sneaking past Darryl Sydor at the Dallas blue line, Lisin sped in on a breakaway and after a couple of slick fakes, fired a quick wrist shot off the far goalpost and in.
Dallas picked up the pace after falling behind, but Bryzgalov was outstanding throughout the period. First, he made a nice pad save on Matt Niskanen’s one-timer from the slot after Mike Ribeiro fed him on a 3-on-1 rush at 4:50.
Then Bryzgalov made a big glove save on Mike Modano’s wrist shot from the slot after going in on a breakaway with 10:45 to go, and then 1:15 later, completely robbed Joel Lundqvist’s one-timer from the lip of the crease.
Turco made an important save with the teams skating four aside when he swallowed up Doan’s skillful re-direct of Keith Yandle’s pass with 3:45 remaining.
Overall for the second, the Stars outshot the Coyotes 17-8, but Phoenix came away with the only goal.
“I think the second period, we probably missed an opportunity to make it 1-1 there or even get the lead, put a lot of energy into that period, but couldn’t beat him,” Richards said of Bryzgalov. “He made a lot of good saves. We did a lot of good things, but not enough to win.”
The excellent goaltending continued at both ends in the final period, as Turco thwarted Lisin’s wrist shot from the left face-off circle 4:50 in and then Bryzgalov denied Jere Lehtinen’s one-timer from the right circle less than a minute later.
Bryzgalov then made a nice glove snag on Steve Ott’s sharp wrist shot from the high slot while on a power play with 10:10 remaining in regulation.
Turco preserved the one-goal deficit with a nice blocker save with 3:22 left on Doan’s backhander from the high slot before he was pulled for an extra attacker with 58 seconds to go.
Dallas had one more prime opportunity, with 26 seconds left, when Loui Eriksson deflected Richards’ slap shot from the left point, but Bryzgalov made the stop. The rebound came out to Modano in front, but Bryzgalov managed to smother it.
“It was frustrating,” Neal said. “We knew we’d be dealing with a desperate team, they hadn’t won in six, so we knew what we had to do. The bounces were there, a couple of opportunities we should have buried and we didn’t.”
In the midst of 10 games at home among their 13 February contests, the Stars are back at the American Airlines Center Friday night against Vancouver (7:30 pm, FSN), in another battle against a West foe in the flock of clubs fighting for the last few playoff spots.
“You got to learn from your mistakes,” Robidas said. “But I think tomorrow, we go back to practice and you got to forget about this one. You got to learn from it but you got to forget about this one and look at the next game. Next game, we play Vancouver at home, they’re another desperate team. It’s not going to be easy.”
- Despite the loss, Turco has gone 8-3-0 over his last 11 games, with a 1.73 goals-against average (19 GA, 660 min.) and a .931 save percentage (260-of-279). In his last six home contests, he is 5-1-0 with a 1.15 GAA (7 GA, 364 min.) and a .953 save percentage (142-of-149).
- The Coyotes blocked 24 shots while Dallas blocked just five.
- With the loss, Dallas is now 2-2-1 against the Coyotes this season with one more meeting between the Pacific Division rivals left.
- Ott and Lehtinen each had their career-high eight-game scoring streaks come to an end. Lehtinen fired four shots on goal and Ott had two.
- Additionally, Niskanen’s career-high five-game assist and point streak was also snapped.
- The Stars’ power play unit went 0-for-2. After struggling on the man-advantage earlier in the season and ranking as low as 27th in the NHL back in December, Dallas shot back up to 19th now, after going 7-for-21 in their previous four February games and 10-for-29 in their six prior outings.
- The last time the Stars were blanked by a team other than Phoenix was Dec. 13 when Dan Ellis and Nashville whitewashed them 3-0.
Wrist shot -
1 - 0 PHX