DALLAS - The bottom line is, at least the Dallas Stars earned one point.
In a game that saw multiple momentum swings go towards each team, the final one went the other way.
After battling back to tie the game in the third period to send the contest to overtime, the Stars ended up surrendering a power play goal in OT to San Jose rookie Logan Couture, and succumbed 4-3 to the Sharks Thursday night at the American Airlines Center.
While San Jose got the two points for winning, Dallas still got one for reaching overtime and remain on top of the Pacific Division and even moved into second in the Western Conference standings with a 18-10-3 record.
Dallas has still not lost in regulation at home in their last 11 contests (9-0-2) and still sports a stellar 8-2-2 mark in their last 12 outings overall.
“You never like to give one away, but it definitely is a point that will help us,” said coach Marc Crawford, who coached the 1,100th game of his NHL career, which ranks him 11th all-time and third among active coaches. “You look around the league, it seems like the first thing we do is see what the other scores are. A lot of teams in our conference lost tonight, so we pick up a pretty important point on them, but on the other hand, there are improvements that we can make on our game tonight. As it goes, we’ll take the point and move forward.”
“I’m not going to say we’re happy with a point, but it’s better than nothing,” noted defenseman Stephane Robidas, who registered two assists on the evening. “Try to look at the positive there. Obviously, it’s a team in our division and we’d like to beat them in regulation, but it didn’t happen, so at least we got one.”
And after sitting out the previous four games with lower body tightness, Kari Lehtonen was back in goal and while he did have a little rust to shake off, was outstanding nonetheless, making 39 saves, including 17 in the third period alone to allow the Stars to reach overtime and gain that crucial point.
“I was excited and maybe the first two periods, I made some questionable reads,” said Lehtonen. “I made some mistakes that I wasn’t happy about and maybe a couple of goals there, but it was good to get a lot of shots. As things went on, I got more comfortable and the third period and overtime, it felt awesome. It was good to come back and get the one point.”
“He’s a great goalie, he played great, he gave us a chance to win,” Robidas added. “We didn’t help him that much tonight, he had to face a lot of shots. They had a couple of good chances, he made some big saves and kept us in the game and we were able to get a point.”
In the second leg of a home-and-home series between the division rivals that saw Dallas emerge from San Jose with a 3-2 shootout win Monday night, the Stars erased a 3-2 third period deficit on Wandell’s third goal of the season.
But a four-minute high-sticking penalty to Mike Ribeiro with 50 seconds left in regulation, which turned into a dangerous 4-on-3 advantage once they got to OT, was simply too much for the resilient Stars to overcome. After Couture beat Adam Burish on a face-off deep in the Dallas zone, he slid back to the point, received a pass from Dan Boyle, and unloaded a lethal wrist shot that beat a screened Lehtonen over the shoulder at 1:20.
“They got some good traffic there, and when I came to the locker room, I went to see the replay because I didn’t even know which side it went in,” said Lehtonen of the game-winner. “I just heard it go off the post.”
It was a weird statistical night for the Stars, who were severely outshot, but were outstanding on special teams, going 2-for-2 on the power play and excelling on the penalty kill. Even though the game-winner came on a San Jose power play, the Stars nullified the first six, including a lengthy 5-on-3 in the first period.
“I think our penalty killing did a good job, and when you look at the shot count, you could say it was good to get one point,” Lehtonen said. “But we were leading 2-1 in the second, we came back, we hit a post in the third when it was 3-3, so it could have gone the other way, too. We take this one and go to the next game.”
Trailing 3-2 entering the final period, the Stars were back on their heels a bit through the first half of the period, but Lehtonen came up with big saves on Ryane Clowe’s point-blank wrister at 4:24 and on Devin Setoguchi’s wrist shot off the rush at 5:29.
That allowed the Stars the chance to get the equalizer at 7:56, on Wandell’s third goal of the year. After Steve Ott won an offensive zone face-off, Wandell gained control of the puck behind the San Jose net, circled out high into the right circle and whipped a quick wrist shot through Ott’s screen in front and past Sharks netminder Antero Niittymaki.
Lehtonen came up with another strong save with 5:33 left in regulation, when he stopped Jamie McGinn’s wrist shot from the right circle. A mad scramble for the loose rebound ensued before Lehtonen smothered it.
Just over a minute later, Dallas had a golden opportunity to jump on top, coming oh-so-close. As the Stars headed into the San Jose zone on the rush, Eriksson made a pretty spin-o-rama move in the right face-off circle to whip a backhand pass across the top of the crease to the charging James Neal, who, faced with an open net, jammed it off the left post and back under Niittymaki.
Then the Stars faced the adversity of having to kill off a power play through the final 50 seconds of regulation. Just seconds after a seeming trip on Morrow went uncalled, Ribeiro was whistled for a high-sticking double-minor when he clipped Dany Heatley in the mouth.
It was a tense final minute of regulation, but Lehtonen came up with a big glove save on Patrick Marleau’s wrister from the left face-off circle, and the PK unit managed to clear the zone multiple times to earn the Stars a point in the standings.
“For Kari, for being his first outing after being out for a week, he played pretty well,” Crawford said. “He was real good in the third period, I thought.”
The Stars had the game’s first scoring chance 4:31 into the opening period, but Morrow’s one-timer from the left face-off circle was denied by Niittymaki’s pad save.
Dallas managed to dodge a major bullet a couple of minutes later, after Toby Petersen was wrongly whistled for a delay of game penalty at 6:24 while the Stars were already shorthanded. Replays on the overhead video board clearly showed Petersen’s clearing attempt from his own zone deflecting off the helmet of San Jose’s Benn Ferriero before going over the glass and into the crowd.
That gave the Sharks a 5-on-3 power play for a full 1:39, but some outstanding penalty killing, a great glove save by Lehtonen on Boyle’s slap shot from the point through a screen and several key blocked shots by Karlis Skrastins and Robidas helped Dallas kill it off.
The Stars even had a big opportunity of their own, just as the first penalty expired. Jeff Woywitka stepped out of the penalty box just as a Dallas clear slid past him. Woywitka caught up to it and sped in on a breakaway, but Niittymaki stopped his point-blank backhand attempt.
Despite gaining considerable momentum from nullifying the 5-on-3, the Stars ended up surrendering the game’s first goal when Setoguchi connected for his third goal of the season at 10:05. Lehtonen stopped Justin Braun’s routine wrist shot from the top of the right circle, but left a juicy rebound that Joe Pavelski got to first at the right side of the net. Pavelski slid the puck back out into the slot, where a charging Setoguchi drilled it into the open side of the net.
“Talking with (Lehtonen), I know he’d to have one of them back,” Crawford said. “He didn’t like the rebound he gave out on that first goal, but we also made a mistake on that. We had a poor gap, and our backchecking forward went to the wrong guy. It’s so simple to eliminate those mistakes. I think there’s plenty to build on.”
Dallas managed to even it up with just 50.2 seconds left in the period on Morrow’s 10th goal of the season. After Eriksson dug the puck out of a scrum along the right sideboards, he curled with it into the high slot before feeding a deceptive pass over to a wide open Morrow in the right circle, and Morrow’s quick wrist shot beat Niittymaki just inside the far post.
So despite getting outshot 16-6 through the first period, the Stars headed into the second tied 1-1.
The Stars had the first opportunity of the second when Neal got to a loose puck in the right corner at 4:14 and found Brad Richards alone in front for a quick wrist shot that Niittymaki somehow managed to get just enough of with the knob of his stick to send the puck just wide of the left goalpost.
Dallas struck on the power play to take a 2-1 lead at 9:26 on Eriksson’s 13th goal of the season. Richards controlled the puck at the right point, skated into the circle and fired the puck in front, where it bounced off Boyle and right to Eriksson at the right edge of the crease. Eriksson promptly popped it up and over the prone Niittymaki.
The lead was very short-lived, however, as San Jose answered on the next shift. Just 37 seconds later, on the rush into the Dallas zone, Torrey Mitchell unleashed a scorching wrist shot from between the tops of the circles, using Nicklas Grossman as a screen, which sailed over his shoulder and in.
“The one that’s really disappointing is the one they scored right after our power play,” Crawford said. “We made a couple of mistakes, our defense backed off big time, we usually have a much better gap than that, and our forward chased to a position he shouldn’t have.”
Having once again wrested the momentum away from the Stars, San Jose kept it going and connected again just 1:46 later on a similar play. On the rush into the Dallas zone, Pavelski left a drop pass from Setoguchi, who ripped a wrister from the top of the right circle past into the upper corner.
Setoguchi is turning into a modern-day Star-killer, as he has now scored nine goals in 20 career contests against Dallas.
The Stars don’t get much of a chance to enjoy the Metroplex, as they head back out on the road again, visiting Columbus on Saturday (6 pm start, TXA-21) to face the Blue Jackets, who lost in Edmonton Thursday night. Dallas dropped a 3-2 decision in a shootout in Ohio back on Dec. 6.
“We have to focus on that game,” Robidas said. “It’ll be a big game, they beat us last time, it won’t be an easy game and we have to be ready for them. They play real well as a team. Besides Rick Nash, they don’t really have a superstar, but they have strong goaltending, they play well as a team, they play tight defensively and they have a couple of guys who can put the puck in the net.”
- The Stars are now 3-1 in games decided in the five-minute overtime period and 7-3 overall in games that go beyond regulation.
- Morrow, wearing a full face shield to protect the broken nose he suffered Monday night in San Jose, had gone 10 games without a goal and had recorded just one assist in his previous six games before finding the back of the net late in the first period. Morrow also recorded a game-high 11 hits.
- Wandell hadn’t scored a goal since Oct. 21, a span of 23 games for him, during which he recorded just one assist. He was the only Star to register a positive plus/minus rating with a +1.
- Robidas’ two assists gives him three assists in the last two contests, after collecting just two points (one goal, one assist) in the previous 11 games. As usual, he led all Stars in ice time with 25:03.
- In addition to Lehtonen, fourth-line forward Toby Petersen also returned to the lineup after missing the previous six games with a hand injury.
- Defenseman Matt Niskanen sat out as a healthy scratch for the second straight game