The Dallas Stars held a 3-2 lead early in the third period after Mike Ribeiro scored his second goal of the contest, but goals by Corey Perry and Teemu Selanne led the Anaheim Ducks to a 4-3 victory over Dallas Saturday afternoon at the American Airlines Center.
It was a crushing loss for the Stars, who entered the day in a seventh-place tie with three other clubs, including Anaheim, in the Western Conference standings, and are now officially out of the top eight playoff squads after losing their season-high fourth straight contest.
The Stars, who had been 13-2-1 in their previous 16 games on home ice, have now dropped four in a row by a combined score of 11-5, and are 1-4-0 in their season-long six-game homestand with one more remaining.
In addition to two goals from Ribeiro, including one on the power play, Matt Niskanen also found the back of the net while Steve Ott recorded two assists for the injury-depleted Stars. Marty Turco made 14 saves in his club-record 31st consecutive start.
“We are in a hard battle for the playoffs and I don’t care who is playing, we have to get the job done,” Stars coach Dave Tippett said. “We are competing hard but we have some weak links right now. Marty didn’t have his best night and we are making mistakes that are costing us games.”
The Stars once again heavily outshot their opponent, 33-18, but for the third straight contest, watched a game slip away in the third period after coming in tied.
“We’ve been in this situation the last few games, tied going into the third and we got the lead,” Niskanen said. “And we were rolling pretty good, I thought, and then a couple of miscues. It’s just those one or two plays that are killing us right now and we got to eliminate those out of our game and try to find ways to win games, especially in the third. That one hurts. That would have been a good two points for us that we were set up perfect for, but things happen.”
“It’s more disappointment, it’s not even frustration now,” added Ribeiro, who also had an assist for his sixth three-point game of the season. “When you manage to come back, tie games, and lose games in the third period - the last few games, you work hard to get points, and cannot find ways to close it up and play better defensively. It’s mental mistakes at the wrong time and teams are scoring when you do those mistakes.”
Heading into the final period tied 2-2 but leading 17-11 in shots, the Stars surged ahead at 4:22 on Ribeiro’s second of the night and 15th of the season. Racing into the Anaheim zone on a 2-on-1 rush, Ribeiro slid a pretty pass over Ducks defenseman Scott Niedermayer’s stick to Ott, who passed back across the top of the crease to Ribeiro, who slammed it into the open net past Anaheim netminder Jean-Sebastien Giguere.
“Otter made a good play,” Ribeiro said. “I thought he was going to shoot, and once he received it, I knew it was coming back. A head’s up play by him.”
The Ducks evened it up again at 8:50 on a pretty individual effort from Perry, who dug the puck out of a group of players behind the Dallas net. Skating backwards with the puck on his backhand, Perry circled out into the crease and swept a backhander under Turco’s pad and in for his 22nd goal of the year.
Anaheim then struck again just 1:31 later to take the lead, capitalizing on a critical turnover by rookie James Neal in the Dallas zone that led to a 2-on-1 against. Selanne stripped Neal of the puck, handed it off to rookie Andrew Ebbett, who lifted a nice pass over Darryl Sydor’s outstretched stick to Selanne, who re-directed it from the lip of the crease off the bottom of Turco’s glove and in.
“It’s tough, but plays like the one I made, we can’t have those,” Neal said. “You make them and they end up in the back of your net.”
“It’s a learning process for us right now,” Tippett said. “It was a poor decision on Neal’s part, you can’t toe-drag five feet from the blue line. That’s a mistake by a young player.”
The Stars had a late power play opportunity after Drew Miller was sent off for holding with 5:22 remaining, but were unable to find the back of the net, as Giguere made a nice stop of Ribeiro’s long snap shot with 4:20 left.
Turco was pulled for an extra attacker with 1:02 left and the Stars applied considerable pressure, but could not crack Giguere. Their closest chance was Neal’s hard wrist shot from the left face-off circle with 10 seconds left, but Giguere denied him with a pad stop.
There was some rough stuff at the final buzzer, as Ott and Niedermayer exchanged cross-checks in front of the Anaheim net and Giguere then grabbed Ott’s head with his glove from behind. That prompted Ducks winger Travis Moen to jump in and starting punching away at Ott. Of course, Ott, who earlier this season broke his right hand, is still unable to fight, so the big tough Moen clearly won the fight against a guy who couldn’t hit back.
“It’s tough when you get jumped and you have a busted hand, but you’re trying to defend yourself,” said Ott, who was bleeding as he skated off the ice. “They’re a very rough team and we like to match it.”
Ott was levied five minutes for ‘fighting’ and a match penalty for his part in the melee, which usually means an ejection from the game. Of course, since the game was already over, the possibility of supplemental discipline looms, as Rule 21 states that “the player shall be automatically suspended from further competition until the Commissioner has ruled on the issue.”
Things did not get off to a good start for the Stars, as Anaheim took a 1-0 lead just 1:56 into the contest. On a 3-on-2 rush, Ebbett carried into the left face-off circle before dishing back to the charging Niedermayer in the high slot, and Niedermayer paused to let a screen develop in front of Turco before whipping a scorching wrist shot just inside the post past the blocker.
Dallas dodged a bullet at the 5:50 mark of the opening period when Miller’s wraparound attempt pinballed off Dallas defender Nicklas Grossman’s skate in the crease and right to the goal line before Turco’s skate kicked it out. At the next whistle, there was an official video review of the play, which showed the puck partially crossing the line but not going completely over.
The game took on a bit of a physical nature with 8:58 left in the period when Anaheim’s Sheldon Brookbank leveled Loui Eriksson with a clean hit along the boards and defenseman Trevor Daley stepped in and challenged Brookbank, leading to a pretty good fight.
Unfortunately for the Stars, Daley was assessed an instigator penalty and a 10-minute misconduct in addition to his five for fighting, leaving the Stars shorthanded and down a defenseman for the rest of the period.
The Ducks cashed in on the subsequent power play, when Chris Pronger’s booming slap shot appeared to deflect off Niskanen’s leg and redirect past Turco, giving Anaheim a 2-0 lead at 12:11.
Trailing by two entering the second period, Dallas got one back on a power play at 1:23 on Ribeiro’s first goal of the night. After Giguere stopped Sydor’s slap shot from the left point, the rebound bounced right out to Ribeiro to the right side of the crease, where Ribs’ one-timer squeezed between Giguere’s skate and the post.
Rookie Bobby Ryan nearly restored Anaheim’s two-goal lead five minutes later, executing a couple of nifty moves to zip around Grossman and speed in on a breakaway. Ryan tried to slip the puck between Turco’s pads, but Turco made the key stop to keep the Stars in the game.
Dallas then tied it shortly afterwards when Niskanen connected for his fifth of the year at 8:09. Ribeiro fed a pretty cross-ice to Niskanen in the left face-off circle, and the 22-year-old defenseman boomed a wicked one-timer that beat Giguere sliding across the crease.
“I was on the weak side and just slipped in a little bit,” Niskanen explained, “and Ribeiro made a very nice cross-ice pass and I got good wood on it and found the five-hole.”
The Stars almost took the lead with 5:37 left, but Ribeiro’s wrist shot from the left circle clanked off the left goalpost.
“It’s a tough one,” Daley said of the defeat. “It’s definitely not from a lack of effort. Everyone’s trying out there, we just can’t find a way to win. We’re doing all the right things, we just can’t find ways to win.”
The Stars complete their season-long six-game homestand with another matinee battle Sunday afternoon (2 pm start, FSN) against NHL scoring leader Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Penguins are yet another club desperately seeking to making the post-season, as the Penguins, who were Stanley Cup Finalists last spring, are currently in 10th in the Eastern Conference standings, just a couple back of the eighth spot.
“You cannot change what just happened the last few games, but you can control what’s happening tomorrow and how you show up,” Ribeiro said. “We need everyone, we need guys to step it up and everyone as a group to shut down the game. There are a lot of games left and we’re right in the battle.”
- Ribeiro now has seven points (two goals, five assists) in the last six games after going scoreless in four straight. He also had a game-high seven shots on goal.
- Niskanen hadn’t scored a goal in 18 games and was pointless in his previous six before tying his career high with his 26th point of the year. The second-year defender’s four shots on goal ranked tied for second on the club.
- With his two assists, Ott now has five points (one goal, four assists) in his last five outings.
- Defenseman Stephane Robidas, who had registered one assist in his previous eight games, earned his 20th assist of the season on Niskanen’s goal. He also led all skaters with a whopping 30:05 of ice time
- Sydor’s assist snapped a nine-game point drought and was the 399th of his career.
- The contest marked the Dallas debut of new center Steve Begin, who was acquired from Montreal on Thursday, and the gritty newcomer fit in well on the fourth line with Brian Sutherby and Krys Barch. Wearing jersey number 44, Begin fired three shots on goal and delivered two hits in 8:21 of ice time.
- Daley spent quite a bit of time in the penalty box, collecting 21 penalty minutes on the day, which represented the Stars’ entire total for the game until Ott’s ‘fight’ at the final buzzer. Daley had 44 on the season entering the contest.
- Winger Joel Lundqvist was back in the lineup after sitting out as a healthy scratch last game. In 9:27 of ice time, he dished out four hits, second on the team to Mark Fistric’s six.
- To make room for Begin and Lundqvist, young forwards Chris Conner and Ray Sawada were each healthy scratches.
- The Dallas power play went 1-for-4 on the afternoon, following a 1-for-23 stretch over the previous six outings.
- The Stars are now 2-1-1 against the Ducks this season and are 10-3-3 in their last 16 games, outscoring their Pacific Division rivals 46-31 in the process, including 7-2-1 at the American Airlines Center.
1 - 0 ANA
2 - 0 ANA
2 - 1 ANA
2 - 2 Tie
3 - 2 DAL
3 - 3 Tie
4 - 3 ANA