DALLAS - They just can’t put together a long streak.
In their fifth attempt this season to turn back-to-back triumphs into a modest three-game winning streak, the Dallas Stars fell short once again.
This time it was former coach Dave Tippett, in his first visit back to the American Airlines Center, and his youthful Phoenix Coyotes, on the strength of a goal and two assists by Shane Doan, defeating the Stars 4-2 Sunday night.
The loss was just the second in the Stars’ last 10 home games, as they remain in 10th place in the Western Conference standings, three points back of Calgary and Detroit for the eighth and final playoff spot.
The fourth-place Coyotes, meanwhile, led by Tippett, have now won four in a row and are 7-2-0 in their last nine contests. Tippett, who was given a nice ovation by the 16,498 in attendance midway through the first period when he was shown on the big video board over center ice, acknowledged it was a special night for him.
“A lot of great friends, a lot of friends that are actually players on that team, I had a great time here,” said Tippett, who ended his tenure in Dallas with 271 victories, six short of Ken Hitchcock for the all-time franchise lead. “Seven years is a long time to be in one place, great memories, but I think they’ve moved on and I’ve moved on. I’ve really enjoyed my days in Phoenix I thought our guys competed really well, I was really proud of them.”
The Stars surrendered a goal before the five-minute mark in each of the three periods, and had a difficult time climbing out of the hole they’d dug for themselves. They managed to pull to within 3-2 on Fabian Brunnstrom’s goal with 7:02 left in the third period, but a quick answer by Doan put the Coyotes back up by two. The Stars continued to press, outshooting Phoenix 23-9 in the final period, but Coyote goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov was brilliant over the last few minutes to keep the Stars at bay.
“We made some big mistakes tonight that ended up in our net,” Stars coach Marc Crawford said. “We didn’t make very many, probably the number of goals that we had against us tonight were just the big mistakes that we made. I thought we were the better team the last 40 minutes of the game. Our game was actually pretty solid tonight, both offensively and defensively. We did a lot of things that you need to do, we were great on the fore-check, we had great maintenance of the puck, but never could quite get it to a tie, we were always looking for a comeback goal and that’s a tough way to play.”
Steve Ott scored the other Dallas goal, while Alex Auld once again got the start in net, his sixth in the last eight games, and was solid, making 27 saves.
“It was a tough one to take,” center Brad Richards said of the loss. “We’ve been playing well at home, but we didn’t play a full 60 minutes tonight. It was a little too late to try to turn it on. Obviously, our goals against were pretty blatant mistakes by us. We’ve been better at that lately. Tonight, for some reason, they were pretty easy goals.”
Entering the final period trailing 2-1, the Stars went down by two just 4:37 into the third on Radim Vrbata’s 17th goal of the year. With Dallas pressing in the Coyotes’ zone, Keith Yandle sent a cross-ice pass out past the blueline, trapping Stars defender Karlis Skrastins and allowing Vrbata to take off on a breakaway. When he reached the right face-off circle, Vrbata launched an incisive wrist shot that beat Auld low to the stick side for a 3-1 Coyote lead.
The Stars pushed back in the next couple of minutes, but Bryzgalov made two sparkling saves in a row at 6:50 to keep it a two-goal game. First he stopped Jere Lehtinen’s fierce wrist shot from the left face-off circle, then seconds later, denied Toby Petersen’s point-blank chance in front.
Dallas ended up getting one back on Brunnstrom’s second goal of the year with 7:02 left in regulation. After receiving a pass from Petersen from behind the net, Brunnstrom’s first shot in front was stopped by Bryzgalov, but the puck remained loose and Brunnstrom had two more whacks at it, finally managing to slip it under Bryzgalov and in to make it 3-2.
Unfortunately for the Stars, the Coyotes answered just 11 seconds later. Following a Nicklas Grossman turnover at the Dallas blue line, Doan rifled a slap shot from the top of the right face-off circle that beat Auld inside the far post to restore the two-goal advantage.
“We gave away the pucks a little too easy a couple of times, and we turned it over in the neutral zone a couple of times,” Grossman said. “In tight games like these, especially this time of year, that will cost you.”
Dallas poured on the pressure after that, generating numerous scoring chances, but not beat Bryzgalov.
The Russian Olympic goalie made big saves on Jamie Benn’sone-timer from the high slot with 6:10 left, on Ott’s close-in rebound chance 45 seconds later, and on Mike Modano’s point-blank rebound with 4:55 to go.
Bryzgalov also denied captain Brenden Morrow’s deflection in front on a power play with 3:27 left and made two huge saves on Steve Ott with Auld on the bench for an extra attacker, denying Otter’s one-timer in front with 1:49 remaining and his stuff attempt at the left post with 58.6 seconds left.
“He was really good in the third, obviously,” Richards said of Bryzgalov. “With all of us banging the net, crashing the net, you’d think one of those would go in, but it didn’t.”
The Coyotes jumped on top just 4:41 into the contest on Yandle’s 10th goal of the year. Doan controlled the puck deep in the left face-off circle and then slid a perfect cross-ice pass to Yandle on the far side of the ice, and Yandle entombed a one-timer into the open net.
“When they have the puck down low and off the rush, you’ve always got to be aware of their back side,” Auld said. “You saw that on their first goal, Doan just waited and waited, and found the guy streaking down, backdoor. That’s a huge part of their game.”
Phoenix continued to press and Auld came up with a big save on Vrbata at 7:57 when he slid across the crease to deny the point-blank chance, and then denied Petr Prucha’s partial breakaway 25 seconds later.
Through the first nine minutes, the Coyotes held a 10-2 advantage in shots on goal, but the Stars settled things down and played better as the period wore on, ending the period down 15-5 in shots.
Behind 1-0 entering the second, the Stars’ deficit grew to two after a Stephane Robidas giveaway led to Peter Mueller’s fourth goal of the season at 2:26. Seconds after intercepting Robidas’ pass at the Dallas blue line, Mueller drilled a one-timer from the left side of the crease after receiving a cross-ice pass from Doan.
“I turned the puck over in the second and it ended up in the back of our net, a bad play by me and they got the 2-0 lead with that and give them momentum and you’re kind of chasing the game,” Robidas said.
The Stars began to push back after that, as Petersen had a good opportunity at the left post at 4:02, but Bryzgalov made the stop.
A minute and a half later, Bryzgalov came up with a big glove save on Benn’s wrist shot from the left circle.
Dallas finally broke through at 7:07 on Ott’s 11th of the year. After carrying the puck through the neutral zone, Ott stopped just inside the blue line and waited for Benn to set a screen in front before drilling a low slap shot that pinged off Phoenix defenseman Sami Lepisto’s skate and past Bryzgalov.
The Stars nearly tied it on a power play about four minutes later, when Richards’ wrist shot from the right point was deflected in front by Morrow, but Bryzgalov made a nifty arm save.
Dallas continued to push and almost evened it up with 4:46 left in the period, when Modano unleashed a quick wrist shot from the left circle that Bryzgalov stopped, but the puck trickled behind him in the crease. It might have crept over the goal line if Yandle hadn’t scooped it back into Bryzgalov.
Overall, the second period was much better than the first, as the Stars outshot Phoenix 12-7.
“I think we battled back well in the second and third and I think we were the better team out there, but there were some big mistakes that cost us goals in the back,” Grossman said. “They play well, so we’ve got to eliminate those mistakes and try to clean up a little bit.”
The Stars finish up their four-game homestand by facing the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday (7 pm start, VERSUS). The Wild started the day just one point behind the Stars in 11th, so this will be another crucial playoff-type match-up.
- Ott’s goal was his first in seven games, although he had collected four assists over that span.
- Brunnstrom’s goal was his first since Oct. 30, a span of 18 games played. He now has points in consecutive games (one goal, one assist) after recording just one assist in the previous 16 outings.
- Daley’s assist gives him three points (two goals, one assist) in the last six games after picking up just two (both assists) in the previous 10 contests.
- Auld, who is now 4-2-0 in his last six starts, earned his second assist in the last three games on Ott’s goal. Combined with Marty Turco’s three assists, the Stars’ total of five from their goaltenders leads the NHL.
- Benn was all over the ice in this contest, despite not reaching the scoresheet. He led all players with five shots on goal and also delivered a game-high six hits before picking up a 10-minute misconduct penalty in a scuffle with Lepisto with 59 seconds remaining in the game.
- Lehtinen returned to the lineup after sitting out the previous six contests with an upper body injury. He registered three shots on goal in 16:13 of ice time.
- Center Brian Sutherby left the contest early in the second period due to an upper body injury and did not return. He will be evaluated on Monday.
- The Stars have now lost all three meetings with the Coyotes this season (two in the desert) by a combined score of 12-6.
- The Dallas power play unit went 0-for-2, leaving them just 1-for-13 over their last four games.
1 - 0 PHX
2 - 0 PHX