DALLAS - It took one defensive breakdown and then a questionable call by the officials to spoil what had been one of the Dallas Stars’ best all-around efforts of the season.
After allowing the tying goal with just 49 seconds left in regulation, the Stars surrendered a power play goal in overtime, and the Calgary Flames escaped with a 3-2 victory Wednesday night at the American Airlines Center.
Despite the heart-breaking defeat, the Stars still gain a point in the standings, but now own a troubling 1-6 record in games that have extended beyond regulation.
Dallas is now 6-3-6 on the season and still hold a 3-1-3 mark in their last seven contests.
As for the delay of game penalty on Nicklas Grossman 1:09 into OT, which led to Jarome Iginla’s game-winner 16 seconds later, the Stars were pretty clear how they felt about it. After watching replays that showed Grossman a good foot and a half outside the blue line before he flipped the puck out of play, it’s hard to argue with them.
“He threw the puck out, but he was well above the blue line, so it shouldn’t have been a call,” Stars coach Marc Crawford said.
“It was a bad one,” added Stars center Mike Modano, who returned to the lineup after missing the 13 games with a rib injury. “It’s unfortunate it’s not reviewable or someone (in the replay booth) can call down and explain to the refs that they made a mistake. That’s a tough call to make at that point if you’re not 100 percent sure. It’s too bad.”
James Neal and Loui Eriksson scored goals 4:03 apart early in the third period to turn a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 lead, but the Stars allowed Calgary’s Daymond Langkow to tie it with 49 seconds left in regulation. Given that, many players had a hard time accepting that they let this one slip away.
“We dominated the game, we were ahead in the game and we’re sitting here like this,” said center Brad Richards, who earned an assist and was named the game’s third star. “That can’t happen. We were winning the game on home ice. We didn’t get it done.”
“When it’s 2-1 with one minute left, we should close the game and win,” added center Mike Ribeiro. “We want those points. But we cannot look back now, we can only look forward and focus for the next game.”
The Stars did control the tempo most of the night, outshooting Calgary 40-23, but Flames netminder Curtis McElhinney, their backup making just his second appearance of the season, was outstanding.
“I think the goalie played well,” Ribeiro said. “There were a lot of chances we couldn’t bury. We cycled the puck most of the game, we took shots on net.”
“We’re disappointed with the loss, but there are a lot of things to be positive about,” Crawford said. “I thought this was one of our best home outings for sure. We did what we wanted to against Calgary. We really exposed their defense. I thought they were on their heels the better part of the night. I thought we were the better club in terms of chances generated, by a long shot.
“We scored a couple of big goals in the third period. I think we’ve got to build on the positives of the game, and the positives were many. This was a great performance by our team, it wasn’t just a good performance, it was a great performance. If we put that performance in most games in the National Hockey League, we’re going to win and we’re going to win handily. It took an outstanding goaltending performance from the other side to keep it close, and a lot more positives come out of this than the negative.”
In addition to Modano, goaltender Marty Turco, who missed the last two games with ‘flu-like symptoms,’ also returned the lineup and was solid, making 20 saves in defeat.
Trailing 1-0 entering the final period despite holding a 30-17 edge in shots on goal, the Stars stepped up their offensive pressure early in the third, taking the first seven shots of the period.
Tom Wandell made a sparkling move 3:27 in as he carried the puck down the left sideboards before cutting all the way across the top of the crease before attempting a point-blank backhander, but McElhinney made the pad save.
Dallas got the equalizer at 4:49 as Neal netted his team-leading ninth goal of the year. After collecting a quick pass from Trevor Daley at the point, Neal, stationed deep in the right face-off circle, launched a laser beam of a wrist shot that beat McElhinney over the shoulder and just under the crossbar.
The Stars then jumped ahead 2-1 on Eriksson’s sixth of the season at 8:52. Richards set up the play with a nifty pass fake shot/pass from the right circle to Eriksson for the re-direct behind McElhinney at the top of the crease.
“Loui goes to the net strong and a couple of times earlier in the game, he drew a couple of penalties and almost scored, so it was good for him to get rewarded,” Richards said of the play. “He spends a lot of time in that area and it was a big goal.”
Turco made a couple of big stops late in the period to preserve the lead, turning aside Langkow’s point-blank re-direct in front off a pass out of the right corner from Rene Bourque with 3:35 to go.
But Calgary would tied it up late, on Langkow’s fourth of the season, with just 49 seconds left in regulation. After a big battle for the puck behind the Stars net, Iginla emerged with it and slid a pass out front to Langkow, whose off-speed one-timer rolled past Turco, banked off the far goalpost and in.
“The last goal that they scored while they were pressing, we made a mistake,” Crawford said. “You wish we didn’t make mistakes. We got a little over-anxious, too many people on the puck-carrier and when you over-pursue, it was one of the few times we left the front of the net unguarded. That was disappointing.”
In overtime, just 16 seconds after Grossman entered the penalty box, Iginla’s booming slap shot from the top of the left face-off circle grazed the bottom of Turco’s glove before hitting the back of the net and just like that, it was over.
“I don’t want to make too much of it, not publicly,” Crawford said of the club’s struggles beyond regulation. “I think internally, within the team, we’re challenging them all the time to rise above and capture some of these points. We’ve let six slip away and I think that if we play with the type of intensity that we’re capable of, then we’ll start to turn that tide. We’ve taken some lumps in overtime this year, this is another unfortunate break for us, with the non-power play in overtime, so you just deal with it.”
Modano had the contest’s first good scoring chance, 6:05 in as he charged the net and received a fabulous backhand pass from rookie Jamie Benn out of the right corner, but McElhinney made a nice pad save on Mo’s tap-in attempt.
Dallas had a golden opportunity to snap the scoreless tie when they had a 5-on-3 power play for 52 seconds late in the first, but were unable to capitalize. McElhinney made two nice saves on Richards, while also denying a Eriksson point-blank attempt.
The Stars ended up with a 14-6 edge in shots after the first, and it took a nice sliding save from Turco on Jokinen’s point-blank rebound shot 37 seconds into the second, on a Calgary power play, to keep it scoreless.
Turco made another big save 7:08 into the second after Bourque blocked Matt Niskanen’s slap shot at the Flame blue line and sped in on a breakaway. Bourque fired a wrist shot from the slot, but Turco knocked it aside with a stick save.
Lehtinen had a prime opportunity with just past the midway point of the period when he charged down the middle and received a perfect saucer pass from Mike Ribeiro over the outstretched leg of Flame defender Robyn Regehr. Despite getting tripped by Calgary’s Cory Sarich, Lehtinen still managed to re-direct a backhander on net, but McElhinney made the save.
On the ensuing power play, Richards flipped a wrist shot from a sharp angle past McElhinney but high off the near-side goalpost.
Shortly afterwards, while still on the man-advantage, captain Brenden Morrow received a nice long pass from Stephane Robidas and sped in on a breakaway, but was tripped from behind by Calgary’s Mark Giordano, resulting in a penalty shot with 7:34 left in the second. Taking his second career penalty shot, Morrow skated in and fired a wrist shot from the slot, but McElhinney made a nice blocker save to keep the game scoreless.
About 45 seconds after that, just after Sarich’s penalty expired, Neal ripped a high wrister from the slot, but again McElhinney knocked it aside with his blocker.
Calgary jumped on top 1-0 with 4:07 remaining in the period on Iginla’s first goal of the night. Iginla grabbed a loose puck in the Calgary zone and sped away on a 2-on-1 break with Fredrik Sjostrom acting as the decoy on the far side. With just Daley back on D, Iginla carried into the right face-off circle before unleashing a scorching wrist shot just inside the near-side post, past Turco’s glove.
The Stars wrap up a mini-homestand with a date against the Vancouver Canucks Friday night (7:30 pm start, FSSW) before they head out on a four-game road trip that begins the next night in Minnesota. The Canucks entered play today with a 9-7-0 mark.
“That will be another tough matchup,” Robidas predicted of Friday night’s game. “It will be another chippy game. They’ll come strong. They’ve got a good forecheck, they’ve got some good skills and some big, strong defensemen. I expect a similar kind of game that we had tonight.”
- Defenseman Karlis Skrastins, who had one assist in the previous seven games, picked up two in this outing.
- Neal’s goal extends his career-high scoring streak to seven games, during which he’s piled up 10 points (six goals, four assists).
- Richards also extended his point streak to six games, having picked up nine points (two goals, seven assists) over that span.
- Morrow had one other penalty shot in his career, scoring against Vancouver and goaltender Dan Cloutier (who were coached at the time by Crawford, interestingly enough) back on Nov. 6, 2002. Morrow led the club with six shots on goal.
- Robidas topped the squad in ice time, logging 24:32, while also registering five hits, tying Steve Ott for the team lead, and a club-leading five blocked shots.
- The Stars went 0-for-5 on the power play, marking the first time in five games that they failed to score with the man-advantage.
- Dallas falls to 4-1-5 this season in games in which they’ve registered 30+ shots on goal.
- McElhinney has now played just two games in the Flames’ net all season (usual starter Miikka Kiprusoff has manned the Calgary crease every other game), and both have come against the Stars.
- Despite the loss, the Stars have now collected points in 20 of their last 26 meetings with the Flames, sporting a 14-6-6 mark and outscoring Calgary 65-50 in those contests.