DALLAS - The injury-depleted Dallas Stars deserved a better fate.
Missing several key contributors, the Stars rallied together and put forth a solid effort against the league’s best team, but San Jose Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov was outstanding in making 29 saves to beat the Stars 1-0 Monday night at the American Airlines Center.
Dallas, which has stumbled a little bit lately, is now 3-4-0 in their last seven outings after a scorching 7-1-0 stretch, but played much better on this night. They knew the best way to tackle the Sharks was to grind out a low-scoring, defensive effort, and they played a more consistent game than they have recently, but didn’t get the results to show for it.
In the third installment of a season-long six-game stretch at the American Airlines Center, where they have been 13-4-1 in their last 18, the Stars outshot the NHL’s overall leader 29-24, but could not beat Nabokov.
“The effort was what we need every night, a complete effort from everyone,” Stars coach Dave Tippett said. “We did some real good things, but we didn’t execute well enough. We didn’t score a goal and you can’t win without goals. We didn’t get some breaks, Nabokov was good.”
A third period goal by Devin Setoguchi was the only shot to find its way past Stars goaltender Marty Turco, who was excellent in his own right, stopping 23 shots.
With Brad Richards already out for 6-8 weeks due to a broken right wrist, Dallas also missed center Mike Modano due to the flu and then had Toby Petersen leave the game early in the second period with a lower body injury.
“Any time you lose, it’s extremely disheartening, but we had some really great signs tonight and that’s something we haven’t seen in 6-7 games,” winger Steve Ott said. “It just sucks when you see as many guys injured or sick as we have right now. It was definitely a lot of hard work by the 19 guys out there after we lost Toby and we just came up on the short end. Now we’ve got to find a way to put it all together, score some goals along with that hard work and if we bring that work ethic, we’re going to get points in the long run.”
With so many key guys out of the lineup, it was an opportunity for other players to step up and Brian Sutherby was one that did a very good job in an elevated role.
“Obviously, we’ve battled some injuries of late and throughout the whole year,” said Sutherby, who led the club with six shots on goal and was named the game’s second star. “It’s a time where we got to stand up and not make excuses on how we play and tonight, we did that. We went out and worked hard and gave a 60-minute effort and it’s unfortunate we came up short.
“We did some very good things and some things that we’ve been talking about and I think we played maybe a better game than some of the games that we’ve won. We got to build on that and move forward.”
The Stars remain in seventh place in the Western Conference standings, one point back of Columbus in sixth and just two up on Anaheim in 10th.
Still scoreless heading into the final period, Turco made a huge save to keep it that way 4:05 in, denying Ryane Clowe’s one-timer from in front.
It was Nabokov’s turn just 13 seconds later when Sutherby found himself alone with the puck near the left goalpost, but Nabokov made the pad stop.
San Jose finally snapped the scoreless tie at 7:55 of the third when Setoguchi notched his 25th goal of the season. Picking up the puck at center ice, Setoguchi worked his way around defender Darryl Sydor at the Dallas blue line, sped into the right face-off circle and unleashed a fierce wrist shot that beat Turco just inside the far post.
Turco was not happy about giving up that one and wished he could have it back.
“Any time you get a shot from outside the dots, around there, it doesn’t matter if it’s a good shot or not, you always know you could have had it,” said Turco, making his franchise-record 30th consecutive start. “It’s one inch you’d like to have back, just to be in the right position to take away that spot there.”
The Stars nearly tied it just 35 seconds later while on a power play, but Stephane Robidas’ booming slap shot from the left point clanked off the far goalpost.
Rookie Fabian Brunnstrom had his third prime scoring chance of the night with 6:55 remaining when he found a loose puck in front and fired a quick snap shot through a screen that Nabokov made a sparkling pad save on.
At the other end, Turco then came up big 50 seconds later, making an impressive glove snag on Dan Boyle’s uncontested one-timer from the slot.
Turco was pulled for an extra attacker with 1:06 left in regulation, but the Stars were unable to mount any sustained pressure in the Sharks zone before the final buzzer.
“I’m proud of the guys the way we played, after four or five games of not playing like that,” Turco said. “It looks like tonight, we realized that we're going to have to play like that just to give ourselves a chance to get into the playoffs and to maintain where we are in the dogfight. We could take a lot out of it, we’re going to have to, just to understand what the coaches have been preaching about our game plan and our work ethic all over the ice for 60 minutes.”
Turco made the game’s first big save during a San Jose power play with 11:42 remaining in the opening period when Rob Blake fired a wrist shot from the right point that Turco managed to smother through Clowe’s screen.
Dallas had a prime opportunity six minutes later when Loui Eriksson received a cross-ice pass from Sutherby in front and lifted a backhander that Nabokov made a big blocker save on. The rebound wound up loose in the crease and Brunnstrom charged in and jammed at it, but the puck bounced over the net.
Even though the clubs headed into period two scoreless, Dallas had a solid first period, outshooting San Jose 11-5.
Less than two minutes into the second, the Stars had another close scoring chance while on a power play, when James Neal fed a nice cross-ice pass to a wide open Brunnstrom in the right face-off circle. Brunnstrom launched a sharp wrist shot that Nabokov barely got a piece of as he slid across the crease with the pads stacked, sending the puck just over the net.
The Stars continue the homestand Thursday with a date against the St. Louis Blues (7:30 pm, FSN), a club hovering on the outskirts of the West logjam battle for the post-season, in 14th but just six points back of Minnesota in eighth. So another important game against another opponent desperate for points.
“We have to move forward and get ready for a big one Thursday with St. Louis,” said Robidas, who led the Stars in ice time with 26:12. “We have to learn from our mistakes and keep building. If we play like this, more often than not, we are going to win games.”
- The 1-0 defeat was the third Stars loss this year by that score, the first time in club history they have dropped more than two 1-0 contests. Dallas has also been shut out five times this season.
- Winger Jere Lehtinen, skating in his 800th career regular season contest, had three shots on goal.
- Defenseman Trevor Daley saw his career-high four-game assist and point streak end.
- Modano sat out the contest with a case of the flu, bringing to an end his career-high consecutive games streak at 172, the longest such stretch of his 19-year career.
- Taking Modano’s spot in the lineup was winger Mark Parrish, who was a healthy scratch for the previous two contests and 11 of the previous 13. In 10:29 of ice time, he had two shots on goal and blocked one shot.
- The Stars went 0-for-4 on the power play, leaving them 1-for-17 over the last five games.
- The public address announcer gave a brief tribute to linesman Brad Lazarowich midway through the first period, who was working his 1,500th career game.
- Dallas has lost all four meetings with the Sharks so far this season, getting outscored 12-4 in the process, after ousting them in the Western Conference Semifinals last spring. They face each other two more times.