DALLAS - It was a bittersweet way to close out a disappointing season.
In their final home game of 2008-09, the Dallas Stars received an overtime goal from Trevor Daley to gut out an impressive 5-4 overtime victory over the St. Louis Blues Saturday night at the American Airlines Center, but with the Blues also earning a point, Dallas was eliminated from playoff contention.
With three games left in the regular season, Dallas now has 80 points and sits 12th in the Western Conference standings, and even if they win all three, they are mathematically unable to surpass the Blues for eighth, who have 86 points but own potential tie-breakers.
“Obviously, we play all these games to play in the post-season and when you’re not given that opportunity, it’s disappointing,” Daley said. “At the end of the season, we’re going to look back and reflect on it, and we’re going to be upset about what happened. Right now, we’ll enjoy the win tonight and we got three games on the road to get some more wins.”
The injury-depleted squad won for just the sixth time in their last 22 games (6-13-3) and just the third time in their last 13 at home (3-9-1). It was their first win in four tries this season against the Blues, who were 6-1-0 in their previous seven outings and had outscored Dallas 14-4 in the three prior meetings.
“It’s been bittersweet for a while now,” Stars coach Dave Tippett said of the club missing the post-season for just the third time since moving to Dallas in 1993. “You focus on the last few weeks and you make the playoffs by playing well all year. We were too inconsistent over the course of the year to give ourselves a chance. We had too many struggles over the season that didn’t allow us to push through.”
As if the Stars’ injury situation wasn’t bad enough already, the infection has spread to iron man goaltender Marty Turco, who had started x of y games this season. Turco was forced to sit out this contest due to a lower body injury, and the Stars used the opportunity to start rookie Matt Climie, who was recalled Friday from Idaho of the ECHL under emergency conditions. Turco is currently listed as day-to-day.
The 26-year-old Climie, who signed with the organization as a free agent last summer, was solid, making 22 saves in his NHL debut.
“It was quite the experience,” said Climie, who became the fifth Dallas Star goaltender to post a triumph in his first NHL appearance. “It was definitely just surreal I guess. (Nervousness) wasn’t too bad until I started looking around and seeing how many fans and the big Jumbotron and everything, then the butterflies came.”
“Climie had some nervousness but he made some saves and some pucks found him,” Tippett said. “He got the win and that’s what he wanted.”
Daley, who returned to the lineup after missing four games with a lower body injury, registered the game-winner just 16 seconds into overtime for his seventh goal of the season. Cruising into the slot, he received a nice pass from Mike Modano out of the left corner before blasting a one-timer into the open side of the net.
“I found a hole and Mike, being the player he is, I think it just bounced off my stick and went in,” Daley said.
“I was finally able to come up the ice with some speed and possession,” Modano said. “Trevor made a good slash to the net, trying to open things up, and a little missed coverage and we were able to capitalize on it.”
With their playoff hopes hanging by a thread entering the game, it was another gutsy effort by a depleted squad, and although this time they managed to pull out the victory, it just wasn’t quite enough to save their season.
“It’s kind of the old double-edged sword,” Ott said of the win. “We knew we had a tough hoe to climb the last little while. It’s extremely disappointing, but we also want to go out very, very strong. Mr. Hicks treats us extremely well here, we’re spoiled to be Dallas Stars here, the fans are extremely loyal to us and we want to give them a show the rest of the way even though this year is not our year. Next year, look out, because we’re coming back bigger, stronger, healthier and ready to rock.”
Climie was forced to make his first NHL save just 27 seconds into the contest, and it was a good one as he denied Brad Boyes’ point-blank one-timer from in front. The sellout crowd of 18,532 gave him a nice ovation afer that.
“I got a few saves early on, got a feel for the puck and kind of calmed down from there,” Climie said.
His counterpart at the other end of the ice, Chris Mason, made a nice pad save of his own 3:30 into the first on James Neal’s wrist shot from the slot.
The Stars then jumped on top, taking a 1-0 lead for the eighth time in their last 10 games, as Eriksson connected for his first of the night at 10:57. Wandell stole a poor clearing attempt from Mason behind the net, and as Mason scrambled to get back into the crease, Wandell slid a pass out front, where Eriksson entombed it into the back of the empty net.
Leading 1-0 entering the second, Dallas watched St. Louis even the score just 2:15 into the period as Boyes scored the first of two on the evening. Mike Weaver fired a high wrist shot from the right point and Boyes, standing in front, made a nifty deflection out of mid-air to re-direct the puck up and over Climie’s shoulder, pinging off the goalpost and in.
The Stars regained the lead just 2:39 later on Ribeiro’s 22nd of the season. Matt Niskanen set up the play, carrying the puck into the Blues’ zone, making a couple of slick moves and feeding a cross-ice pass to Ribeiro in the right face-off circle. Ribeiro then unleashed a scorching wrist shot into the open side of the net past a diving Mason to make it 2-1.
St. Louis tied it up again at the 6:39 mark on Boyes’ second of the night. Taking a behind-the-back backhand pass from Barret Jackman, Boyes fired a slap shot from the top of the right face-off circle that beat Climie just inside the post.
The Blues then jumped on top for the first time in the contest on a goal by David Backes, who netted his fifth in the last two games following his four-goal game against Detroit Thursday night. After Andy McDonald fed a crisp, cross-ice pass, Backes rifled a quick wrist shot from the left face-off circle over Climie’s glove with 2:50 remaining in the second.
Down 3-2 entering the final period, the Stars knotted the score once again just 35 seconds into the third on Eriksson’s second of the night and 36th of the season. After Mason stopped Neal’s wrist shot from the top of the left circle, the rebound spit out front, where a charging Eriksson fired it past Mason’s glove.
The Stars then gave the Blues several third period power plays, and St. Louis capitalized to go up 4-3. With Modano in the penalty box four minutes for high-sticking, rookie T.J. Oshie, in the slot, deftly deflected Boyes’ wrist shot from the top of the left circle, squeezing it between Climie’s skate and the left post at 6:44 of the third.
About a minute and a half later, with St. Louis on another power play, the Stars dodged a bullet when Boyes clanked a wrist shot from the slot off the post.
The Stars then evened it up again at 4-4 on Ott’s 17th of the season with 6:13 to go in regulation. After Keith Tkachuk lost the puck deep in the Dallas zone, the puck slid out to center ice, where Otter collected it and raced into the Blues’ zone, into the left circle. Ott then cut into the slot, eluding Blues defender Roman Polak, made a move to his backhand and slid it past Mason and inside the left post.
“I just ended up beating the guy, I think the D-man must have made a bad mistake because it found a way in the back of the net,” Ott laughed. “I haven’t beat a defenseman in 10 years, something must have happened, he must have tripped or hit some ice, it snuck in there.”
Climie then made a big save on Dan Hinote’s point-blank shot with 2:40 remaining to send the game into overtime, which ended quickly.
The Stars will close out the season with three road contests, starting with a date in Minnesota on Monday (7 pm, VERSUS) against the Wild. The Wild are still alive in the West playoff picture, but currently rank 10th, three points back of St. Louis in the eighth slot.
As for Dallas, they will continue to battle hard and play out the schedule.
“It’s tough,” Modano said of not qualifying for the playoffs. “The odds were against us and we knew it was going to be miracle-type things in order to get in and a lot of good things had to go our way. We knew it was going to be tough to accomplish that. There’s a lot of work to do, got a lot of time to do it this summer to correct things.”
- In a classy move, the Stars players saluted the fans after the game, then spent several minutes tossing pucks and t-shirts into the crowd. Then each player pulled their jerseys off their backs and gave them to lucky fans.
“Tonight was for the fans, it was Fan Appreciation Night,” Ott said. “We appreciate the Dallas fans, they’ve rocked no matter where we are in the standings, first place or fighting in the bottom. We just wanted to go out there and give them a good show and show them that we’re very thankful for all they do for us.”
- With his 35th and 36th goals of the season, Eriksson has now scored more goals than any Star since current co-GM Brett Hull notched 39 in 2000-01. Eriksson now has 17 points (eight goals, nine assists) in his last 18 games.
- Daley had gone seven games without a point before netting the game-winner in OT. In his return to the lineup after missing four games, he led the club in ice time, logging 21:34.
- Ott now has 14 points (five goals, nine assists) in his last 16 contests. He also led the squad with four shots on goal and tied for the lead with five hits.
- Wandell earned his first two career NHL assists, in his 11th game.
- With his goal, Ribeiro now has 19 points (seven goals, 12 assists) in the last 17 games, including seven (three goals, four assists) in the last five.
- Defenseman Darryl Sydor’s assist on Ribeiro’s goal was the 499th point of his NHL career. He also registered an impressive +4 plus/minus rating for the night.
- Niskanen, after assisting on Ribeiro’s goal, now has six points (one goal, five assists) in his last seven outings.
- Defenseman Mark Fistric also returned to the lineup after missing three contests with an upper body injury. He led the team with five blocked shots.
- Against the Blues’ 5th-ranked penalty killing unit, the Stars power play was 0-for-2. They had gone 3-for-11 in their previous three contests after suffering through a 1-for-32 stretch that covered eight games.
- The other four Stars netminders to win their NHL debuts were Mike Torchia, Roman Turek, Dan Ellis and Mike Smith.
1 - 0 DAL
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 DAL
2 - 2 Tie
3 - 2 STL
3 - 3 Tie
4 - 3 STL
4 - 4 Tie