VANCOUVER, B.C. - On a night when they appeared primed for a triumph, the Dallas Stars were betrayed by their special teams.
The Stars failed to capitalize on three third period power plays and surrendered goals on both opposition man-advantage opportunities as they were defeated 4-2 by the Vancouver Canucks at GM Place Tuesday night.
The loss leaves the Stars stuck at 74 points in the Western Conference standings, and following Edmonton’s victory over St. Louis, the Stars find themselves on the outside looking in. The Stars are now tied with Minnesota in ninth, one point back of the Oilers and Nashville occupying the seventh and eighth slots. Dallas was trying to build on the momentum of having won two straight after a disappointing 2-7-1 stretch, but again must scramble to make up lost ground again.
The Canucks, meanwhile, won their franchise-record 10th straight at home and are 15-3-1 in their last 19 overall, having vaulted from 11th place back in January into a tie with Chicago for fourth in the West with 83 points.
Despite squandering multiple third period power plays, including a 46-second 5-on-3 advantage, the Stars still managed to narrow a two-goal deficit to 3-2 midway through the period, but could follow up with the equalizer.
“Our power play on the road this year has cost us a lot of points all year,” center Mike Modano said. “It’s tough to come back two goals down against these guys in this building. We are very similar to them in a lot of ways, it’s a mirror image almost. We are coming down the home stretch and all these games and points are so valuable.”
On a night in which they Stars got one of their legion of injured players back (Jere Lehtinen), Steve Ott and Stephane Robidas scored the Stars’ goals, while Marty Turco made 21 saves in the crease.
“It’s tough, we can’t afford to come out empty-handed,” Ott said. “We played a solid team tonight, but we had a lot of mental breakdowns which are uncharacteristic. We have to be ready every night.”
Overall, the Stars went 1-for-7 on the power play, while Vancouver converted both of their PP chances, needing a total of just 1:09 of power play time to cash in twice.
“Our execution isn’t what it needs to be on the power play,” Stars coach Dave Tippett said. “We are trying to be too cute at times and we have to create momentum with our power play, not killing it.”
Tied 1-1 heading into the second period, the Stars fell behind again at 6:55 thanks to a fabulous individual effort from Ryan Kesler. After receiving a slick drop pass from Pavol Demitra just over the blue line, Kesler split the Stars defense of Robidas and Trevor Daley and as he was knocked down, lifted a backhander over Turco’s glove for his 21st goal of the season.
Then, just 21 seconds after Chris Conner entered the penalty box for interference, the Canucks made it 3-1 on Mats Sundin’s ninth of the year. Standing unguarded at the lip of the crease, Sundin rammed home a pretty cross-ice pass from Kyle Wellwood out of the right corner at 10:21.
Just over a minute later, former Canuck Brendan Morrison had a golden opportunity, but his wrist shot from low in the left face-off circle was denied by Vancouver uber-netminder Roberto Luongo’s blocker.
Down by two entering the final period, the Stars put the pressure on early and Mike Modano forced Luongo to make a nice save on his scorching wrist shot from the left circle just over a minute in.
Dallas had a prime chance to get back in the game when Demitra and Kevin Bieksa took back-to-back, overlapping penalties, giving the Stars a 5-on-3 power play for 46 seconds. Unfortunately, the Stars managed just one shot on goal during that stretch and never came close to perforating Luongo.
“We had a chance to get back in it with the 5-on-3 and we didn’t do it,” Morrison said. “We have to capitalize when we get chances like that.”
While one might figure the Canucks would gain the momentum from the big penalty kill, the Stars ended up pulling to within one shortly afterwards on Ott’s 16th goal of the season at 8:12. The Stars broke into the Vancouver zone on a 2-on-1, with Conner carrying into the right circle before slipping a pass across to the charging Ott, who re-directed it through Luongo’s pads to make it 3-2.
Luongo made a nice pad save with 7:20 remaining on rookie James Neal’s deceptive backhander from the right circle to keep the Canucks ahead.
Vancouver then took advantage of a fluke mistake to restore their two-goal lead with 4:55 left in regulation. After Nicklas Grossman broke his stick on a slap shot attempt inside the Canucks blue line, Vancouver retrieved the puck and counter-attacked with a 4-on-2 rush the other way, which was really a bigger advantage since Grossman, without a stick, was one of the two back. A pretty tic-tac-toe passing play was capped off by Steve Bernier re-directing Mason Raymond’s feed into an empty net.
The Stars did get one more power play and pulled Turco for an extra attacker to give them a 6-on-4 advantage, but were unable to cash in. Their best chance came with 3:03 to go when Luongo saved Robidas’ slap shot from the top of the right circle, and then made a sparkling skate stop on Ott’s subsequent point-blank rebound.
“Our power play has definitely struggled but we have to find a way to get things clicking,” Ott said. “We are drawing power plays but we better do something with it. We have to start capitalizing when we have opportunities.”
The Stars had the contest’s first scoring chance just 20 seconds in, when Mike Ribeiro retrieved the ricochet of Ott’s wide wrist shot off the end boards and chipped an in-close backhander off the near-side goalpost.
About two minutes later, with Dallas on a power play, Luongo made a nice pad save on Morrison’s nifty deflection in front of Robidas’ slap shot from the top of the right face-off circle.
Vancouver thought they’d notched the game’s opening goal 3:44 into the first period. Shane O’Brien fired a wrist shot on the rush from the left face-off circle that Turco saved, but the rebound spit out into the crease, where the charging Demitra swept it back under Turco. Because most of Turco’s body was inside the net, the Canucks believed they had scored, but after a video review, it was inconclusive whether the puck crossed the goal line.
The Canucks did go up 1-0, though, less than three minutes later while on a power play of their own. With Dallas shorthanded following a Turco tripping call, Daniel Sedin collected the puck off to the right of the crease, spun and slid a no-look backhand pass out front that pinballed off Robidas’ leg and trickled through Turco and just over the line at 6:33.
“We had some bad breaks, a bounce on their first goal and a (defenseman) breaking his stick on their last goal,” Tippett said.
Turco made a huge save on O’Brien’s uncontested wrist shot from the left face-off circle with 5:08 left in the period, to keep the Stars in the game.
Dallas tied it up while on their third power play of the night, earned after Darcy Hordichuk leveled recently-acquired center Steve Begin 36 seconds earlier. With 3:12 left in the period, Robidas launched a bomb of a slap shot from the left point that, with Neal cruising in front of Luongo, pinged off the far post and in for his third goal of the season.
Dallas continues its three-game western road trip by facing off against the Northwest Division-leading Calgary Flames Wednesday night (8 pm start, FSN). With the Canucks edging up to within three points of the Flames and the third seed, Calgary should be plenty motivated to come out fired up and the Stars, who have struggled at times this year in the second half of back-to-backs, need to match their intensity.
“We have such a small margin for error,” Tippett said. “We have to be ready tomorrow in Calgary after going empty handed on points tonight.”
- The goal by Robidas, who entered the day with just one assist in his last eight outings, was his first since Jan. 12 against Detroit, a span of 28 games. As usual, Robidas led the Stars in ice time with 27:35 and tied for the team lead with four shots on goal.
- With his assist on Robidas’ goal, Modano now has seven points (one goal, six assists) in his last nine game.
- After his two-point night, Ott now has eight points (four goals, four assists) in his last seven contests. Otter also led the squad with five hits.
- Ribeiro’s assist on Ott’s goal extended his point streak to a career-high eight games, a span in which he’s collected 11 points (four goals, seven assists). Ribeiro, who had twice previously achieved a seven-game streak, also has 15 points (six goals, nine assists) in his last 11 contests. Ribeiro finished second on the club with 27:19 of ice time, pushing the Stars’ record to an odd 0-7-0 when he logs more than 22 minutes.
- Conner now has two assists in the last three games after going five outings without a point.
- Winger Jere Lehtinen returned to the ice after missing the last six with an upper body injury. In 19:23 of ice time, he registered one shot on goal.
- With Lehtinen back in the lineup, Joel Lundqvist sat as a healthy scratch after skating in the two previous contests.
- With his second period goal for the Canucks, Sundin tied former Star Joe Nieuwendyk for 20th on the NHL’s all-time goal scorers list with 564 career tallies. While Nieuwendyk, who retired from the Florida Panthers in Dec. 2006, reached his total in 1,257 games, Sundin accomplished the task in his 1,333rd career contest.
- The power play is now 1-for-13 over the last three games, while the PK unit has nullified just 9-of-15 opposition power plays over the last four outings.
- Dallas was dominated on face-offs by the Canucks, winning just 15 of 46 total draws for a ghastly 33 percent efficiency. Vancouver center Ryan Johnson was 11-3 in the face-off circle while Sundin won six of seven draws.
- After victories in both prior meetings with Vancouver this season, Dallas is now 16-6-2 against the Canucks over their past 24 regular season contests with them.
- Coming into the day, Turco had posted a 17-4-1 mark in 23 regular season appearances against Vancouver, with two shutouts and a 1.72 goals-against-average, his best GAA against any NHL opponent he’s faced at least 20 times.
1 - 0 VAN
1 - 1 Tie