DALLAS - Just when it looked like the Dallas Stars were about to establish some consistency and put together a winning streak, things slipped away from them.
After building a 2-0 lead, the Stars watched it disintegrate late in the third period and then continued to struggle in the shootout, dropping a tough 3-2 contest to the Edmonton Oilers Saturday afternoon at the American Airlines Center.
After captain Brenden Morrow clanked a shot off the goalpost, Edmonton’s Shawn Horcoff beat goaltender Marty Turco between the pads with a quick wrist shot to clinch the shootout for the Oilers.
The loss drops the Stars to 1-6 in shootouts this season, two of those coming against Edmonton, who improved to 5-2 in the post-overtime competition.
“The shootout foiled us again tonight,” Stars coach Marc Crawford said. “We got in a position to get a win and Brenden’s shot was a good one, hit the post. And they found a way to squeeze it through Marty, Horcoff. We hope (shootouts) will turn into the right thing. This was a game that probably falls more in the category of we shouldn’t have ever let it get to a shootout.”
“Maybe it’s in our head a little bit, but we got to bear down in the shootout,” said winger James Neal, who scored a goal in the game but shot wide on his shootout attempt. “We put emphasis on it in practice, too. It’s tough, so many points are lost, especially with the amount of shootouts we’ve been in. We don’t want to let those one points slip away from you. Guys got to be confident, you’ve got to go in knowing you’re going to score.”
Facing the Western Conference’s second-worst club, and one tied for the worst road record in the Conference (3-8-2 entering the day), the Stars, who have been stellar on home ice lately, seemed poised for a victory.
When goals by Neal and rookie Jamie Benn provided them with a 2-0 first period lead, it seemed that they would keep the trend going, but in the end, Dallas allowed the equalizer to Ladislav Smid with just 3:07 remaining to send the game into extra time, where the Stars are now a combined 3-8 this year.
Dallas still earns a point in the standings and is now 4-0-2 in their last six games in the friendly confines of the American Airlines Center, and 6-1-4 in their last 11.
“It was 2-0 and then 2-1 with three minutes left,” noted center Mike Ribeiro, who earned an assist but also was thwarted on his shootout chance. “I think we should have been able to close it out. When you don’t have the lead, and you come back and tie the game lose in the shootout, you’re like, ‘Okay, we got the point.’ But when you have the lead and then lose in the shootout, it’s a little bit harder.”
“There have been some missed opportunities,” acknowledged center Mike Modano. “Then again, there’s some games that we don’t even belong in that we sneak out some points. It all over the course of a year evens itself out. You look back at what you could have got, but then you have to look back at what you had no business getting them out of anyway. But these shootouts have been a little snag in our game the last couple years.”
Entering the final period with a 2-1 lead, the Stars nearly made it a two-goal lead just 1:47 in when Neal raced in on a partial breakaway, but Oilers’ goaltender Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers made a pad save on his backhander.
Dallas then had to kill off one of the strangest penalties of the season, when Stephane Robidas was called for ‘interference’ for sliding Turco’s goalie stick towards him from the left corner while the Oilers were entering the zone on a rush.
“I don’t know, he said I can’t throw the stick,” Robidas said of the referee. “But that’s the thing, I didn’t throw the stick, I just brought it to Marty, but he said no. I couldn’t really argue with him, he’s got the final call.”
Dallas did kill it off, but Edmonton had the momentum and peppered Turco with shots. He made a nice stop on Steve Staios’ shot from the top of the right face-off circle eight minutes into the third, then an even better save on Ethan Moreau’s subsequent rebound attempt.
Turco had a solid night in goal, making 33 saves on the night.
Dallas pushed back with a strong shift from the Benn-Ribeiro-Morrow line, but the Oilers ended up tying it with just 3:07 remaining in regulation. Ladislav Smid’s wrist shot from the top of the right circle deflected off Tom Wandell’s skate just enough to change direction and beat Turco between the pads.
Edmonton almost jumped ahead just 13 seconds later, but Turco made a huge save on Gilbert Brule’s point-blank one-timer in front to send the game into overtime.
Each team had their chances in OT, but the goalies were equal to the task. Turco made nice stops on Dustin Penner and Sheldon Souray, while Drouin-Deslauriers denied Morrow and Loui Eriksson shanked his one-timer attempt with an open net staring at him, setting the stage for the shoot out.
“At the end, we made a mistake on the play,” Crawford said of the tying goal. “You make mistakes in the game. If your goalie makes the save, you don’t talk about them. A goalie bails you out a lot, and I thought Marty did a terrific job. I thought he did a great job (in the first), I thought he did a great job when it was 2-2. We made some mistakes and gave up some pretty quality scoring chances.”
In the shootout, Patrick O’Sullivan scored on Edmonton’s first shot, and Loui Eriksson scored for Dallas on their last attempt to keep the Stars alive. Then Ribeiro and Penner each missed on their chances before Morrow’s try hit the post.
Turco was sharp early, making a big save just 1:10 into the contest when he denied a wide open Penner wrist shot in front. He also made a sparkling pad stop on Andrew Cogliano during a 2-on-1 rush 4:42 into the first.
Dallas began peppering Drouin-Deslauriers with shots later in the period, with their best chance coming on Steve Ott’s wrist shot from in front with 6:50 left.
The Oilers sped into the Dallas zone on another 2-on-1 with 4:44 remaining and this time, O’Sullivan slid a nice cross-ice pass over to J.F. Jacques, who blasted a one-timer that forced Turco to make a dazzling sliding stop.
The Stars broke through for the first goal of the day at 15:51 as Benn notched his fifth goal of the season. Ribeiro made the play, controlling the puck behind the Edmonton net before curling along the right sideboards all the way out to the blue line, before cutting back into the slot and drilling a slap shot. Drouin-Deslauriers made the initial save but left a juicy rebound, which Benn popped behind him for a 1-0 lead.
Dallas had to kill off a late power play, and it led directly to Neal’s team-leading 13th goal of the season. Soon after Fabian Brunnstrom’s penalty for high-sticking expired, Turco made a nice save on Horcoff’s shot from the right circle. Brad Richards picked up the puck in his own zone and raced back the other way, carrying all the way into the Edmonton zone. As he began to go behind the Oilers’ net, he slipped a pass out front that seemed to go between a few skates before Neal collected it. Skating backwards across the top of the crease, Neal kicked the puck up to his stick and lifted it over Drouin-Deslauriers’ glove and in.
“It was a good play by Richie,” said Neal, who has now scored in two straight games. “He took it wide, dragged a couple of D-men to him and then dished it to me. The puck stayed with me there, I just stayed with it and put it upstairs.”
Leading 2-0 entering the second period, after outshooting Edmonton 18-10 in the first, the Stars surrendered one just 2:15 in, as longtime Dallas nemesis Lubomir Visnovsky scored his seventh goal of the season. Visnovsky, who routinely torched the Stars back in his days with Los Angeles, unleashed a slap shot from the right point that seemed to slip through a screen in front and beat Turco between the pads.
Dallas responded well and generated a couple of chances of their own after that, the best coming from Modano, whose in-close one-timer was thwarted by Drouin-Deslauriers at 4:13.
Turco then came up big during an Edmonton power play, including a sparkling skate save on Sheldon Souray’s bomb from the top of the right face-off circle 5:45 into the second.
Turco bailed the Stars out again with 1:20 left in the second, when Modano lost the puck at the Oiler blue line during a line change and Penner ended up with a breakaway. As Penner approached the high slot, Turco dove out and poke-checked the puck off his stick to preserve the Dallas 2-1 lead.
“I did like the way we played, I thought our forwards did a great job tonight,” Crawford said. “I did think we didn’t exit our zone cleanly a lot, so that caused more of a problem. They recognized that the more pressure they got on, the harder it was going to be for us to exit our zone. I think once we got the puck in the offensive zone, we were a very good club. We were a very good club for most of the night.”
The Stars will embark on a five-game road trip now, beginning with a date on Tuesday in Anaheim (9 pm start, FSSW). After Dallas beat the Ducks 3-1 here Thursday, Anaheim currently sits last in the Western Conference standings with a 10-13-5 record.
“We need to focus a game at a time,” Ribeiro said. “We’re going on the road, we usually play well in San Jose and Anaheim. It’s important to be focused on that trip and get the points that we need.”
- Neal has scored goals in consecutive games now after going five contests without a point. He fired a game-high seven shots on goal and was named the game’s first star. “He played very well tonight,” Crawford said of Neal. “He was a force in the offensive zone, had a nice goal, a couple of great chances, too. It was good to see.”
- Benn had gone five games without a goal, although he’d earned two assists over the span.
- Morrow’s career-high goal-scoring streak ended at five, but with his assist on Benn’s goal, he extended his point streak to seven (five goals, two assists).
- Nicklas Grossman’s assist on Neal’s goal was his first point since an assist on Oct. 19, a span of 18 games.
- The Stars went 0-for-2 on the power play, leaving them 0-for-9 over their last three games, following a stretch in which they’d converted on 9-of-28 over the previous five contests.
- After killing off all three Edmonton power plays, Dallas is now a stellar 18-for-20 over their last seven games on the PK.
- Defenseman Karlis Skrastins missed his first game of the season with a lacerated finger suffered Thursday night. He is day-to-day.
- Despite the loss, the Stars are still 24-4-3 against the Oilers at home in regular season games since relocating here in 1993, including a 21-3-2 mark in the last 26 of those meetings, outscoring them 121-68 over that span.