DALLAS - It had been nearly two months since the Dallas Stars lost at home in regulation time, and this one had all the earmarks of another dramatic comeback, but in the end, it was not meant to be.
Facing a stifling defensive Phoenix club, the Stars pelted Coyotes netminder Jason LaBarbera with 30 shots, but were unable to get any past him, falling 1-0 to former coach Dave Tippett’s squad Sunday night at the American Airlines Center.
It was just the third time this season, and first since Nov.6, a span of 23 games, that the Stars were shut out.
Dallas had gone 4-0-2 since last losing in regulation on Dec. 11, a 5-2 defeat to the Coyotes in Phoenix, and saw their 10-0-3 home streak snapped, which dated back 59 days to Oct. 28. Even so, the Stars are still 11-3-3 in their last 17 outings overall, and fell to 14-3-4 in one-goal games.
Dallas, now with a 21-11-4 record, still leads the Pacific Division and sits second in the Western Conference standings.
Four minutes before Kyle Turris scored the contest’s only goal, Loui Eriksson was awarded a penalty shot for Dallas, but was stymied by LaBarbera, who made several outstanding saves throughout the contest.
“We wanted to come out hard tonight and we didn’t really do that,” said defenseman Stephane Robidas. “We just got to try to bring more pucks to the net, get more traffic and just play more aggressively, get in on the forecheck and play tight defensively. When we play effectively, that’s what we do. At home, we want to impose the tempo, you want to dictate the game, you don’t just want to go with the flow and play how the other team plays. When we don’t do that, we sometimes get into trouble and that’s what happened tonight.”
For Dallas, Kari Lehtonen started in goal for the fifth time in the last six contests and sparkled as well, making 24 saves himself, despite being overshadowed by the guy at the other end.
“He played extremely well,” Lehtonen, who was named the game’s second star, said of LaBarbera, who was first. “I think the big key for him was he didn’t give up many rebounds. We tried to shoot and shoot and he didn’t give up any second chances.”
“I think if you look at the chances in the game, they were probably pretty even,” added Stars coach Marc Crawford. “If you look at the execution in the game, it was even. Their goalie was outstanding, our goalie was really good. They got the win because their goalie made a couple of unbelievable saves. We got the chances, but sometimes you get beat by a hot goaltender.”
Trailing 1-0 heading into the final period, the Stars went on an early power play with a chance to tie it, but were unable to solve LaBarbera.
Their best chance came about 40 seconds after the clubs returned to 5-on-5 play, when captain Brenden Morrow drilled an uncontested one-timer from the slot at 6:10, after a nifty cross-ice pass from Jamie Benn, but LaBarbera came up with a huge save.
They had another opportunity at 8:55, when Mike Ribeiro, on the rush, fired a wrist shot from the top of the right face-off circle, and once again, LaBarbera swallowed it up.
At the other end about 30 seconds later, with Benn covering for a defenseman, Ray Whitney walked around him and in on Lehtonen, who was forced to make a strong save on Whitney’s wrist shot from the slot to keep the Stars close.
On a power play just past the midway point of the period, Dallas peppered LaBarbera with shots and controlled the puck in the offensive zone almost the whole time, but again were unable to find the back of the net.
With the Stars pressing for the equalizer, they pulled Lehtonen for an extra attacker with 1:30 left in regulation. Their best chance came with 1:03 to go when Eriksson had the puck alone in front, but fired a wrist shot just over the net.
Dallas had another chance with 37 seconds left, when Robidas cranked a one-timer from the point, but LaBarbera again made the stop and the Stars didn’t threaten again before the final buzzer.
“You want to finish every chance you get, but I think it’s more about getting opportunities and making sure you get pucks to the net,” Crawford said. “I thought we had as many chances as we normally get in a game and we had some outstanding ones. The only difference was we didn’t score on any.”
Winger Krys Barch, skating in his fourth game since missing seven with a foot injury, squared off with Paul Bissonette of the Coyotes for a spirited fight at 7:28 of the opening period.
Lehtonen came up with a strong save on Scottie Upshall’s wrist shot off the rush from the top of the right face-off circle, getting just enough of it with his glove to deflect it over the net, with 8:35 left in the period.
Dallas was forced to kill off back-to-back Phoenix power plays late in the period, with Lehtonen helping to bar the door, most notably with his save on Whitney’s slap shot with 3:07 left. But the Coyotes’ best chance came with 3:44 to go in the first, when Whitney slid a nice cross-ice pass to Shane Doan, who drilled a one-timer off the post.
Just 54 seconds into the second period, the Stars had a golden opportunity to snap the scoreless tie. Ribeiro dipsy-doodled through multiple Coyotes before slipping a pretty cross-ice pass to a wide open Jamie Benn off to the right of the crease. Benn drilled a one-timer into a seemingly open net, but somehow LaBarbera managed to get his left pad across to make the save on the goal line. The play was briefly reviewed later, but it correctly remained no goal.
“The chance that we had where Ribeiro picked between everybody and they reviewed - if that goes in, we’re all talking about what a great goal that was,” Crawford said.
Dallas had another major chance to get on the board at 6:48, after Robidas blocked Upshall’s shot. The puck ricocheted out into the neutral zone, where Eriksson raced after it and ended up cruising in on a breakaway. On the way, he was hooked from behind by Ed Jovonovski, who was skating in his 1,000th NHL contest, and Eriksson was awarded a penalty shot. On his second penalty shot of the season, Eriksson skated into the slot and fired a wrist shot from the slot, but LaBarbera made the save.
The Coyotes scored on the counter-attack at 10:46, racing back the other way after Eriksson shot wide, eventually resulting in Kyle Turris’ fifth goal of the season. As Phoenix raced into the Dallas zone, Lehtonen stopped Doan’s wrist shot from the slot, but Turris got to the rebound and managed to slip it around the sprawling Lehtonen and in.
“I think I was out challenging a little too much,” Lehtonen said of the play. “I saw that Doan didn’t have a chance to pass, so I kind of stepped out, and then I gave the rebound, and it’s hard to recover when you’re that much out of the net. It’s one of those bounces and that was enough tonight.”
Dallas found themselves facing a difficult scenario later in the period, after Brian Sutherby was whistled for a four-minute high-sticking penalty with 5:17 left. It appeared to take just 28 seconds for the Coyotes to strike, after Doan whipped a high wrist shot from the right point that Martin Hanzal deflected with his stick at shoulder height, re-directing the puck down and in off the left post, on a play that was initially deemed a goal by the officials on the ice. A video review then determined that Hanzal’s stick was above the crossbar and it was correctly overturned to no goal.
The Stars head out on the road for a quick jaunt over the Nashville to face the Predators on Tuesday night (7:00 pm start, FSSW+) before returning home the next night to take on the hated Red Wings Wednesday.
“We had some great opportunities to score, point-blank shots that could have went,” said winger James Neal, who has just one assist in the last seven games. “It happens, but you got to let it go and focus on Nashville. It is frustrating, especially when it’s Phoenix. We remember when we played at their place and they kind of swamped us, so we were looking for some revenge and it didn’t happen.”
- Lehtonen has allowed two-or-fewer goals in each of his last four starts, posting a 1.48 goals-against average and a .951 save percentage over that span.
-Eriksson’s penalty shot in the second period was his second of the season and his career - he scored on his prior attempt Nov. 3 against Pittsburgh’s Brent Johnson. It was also the third penalty shot of the season for Dallas, with Benn failing to find the back of the net on Nov. 12 against Anaheim’s Jonas Hiller.
-Morrow led the Stars with seven shots on goal, matching his season-high.
- Robidas topped the squad in ice time, with 25:42, while also leading all Stars with seven blocked shots and matching fellow defenseman Mark Fistric for the lead in hits, with five.
- Eriksson and center Brad Richards each had five-game point streaks snapped, while the Stars’ streak of scoring a power play goal in seven straight contests also ended. Dallas was 0-for-2 with the man-advantage, and are still a stellar 7-for-28 (25 percent) over their last eight games.
- The Stars also killed off all four Phoenix power plays, leaving them an outstanding 52-for-58 (90 percent) over their last 17 outings.
- In the 2011 World Junior Championships being played in Buffalo, NY, Stars goalie prospect Jack Campbell (Dallas’ first-round pick, 11th overall, in 2010) stopped 32-of-34 shots to lead the defending gold medalists, Team USA, to a 3-2 OT win over Finland.
Also, Sweden defeated Norway, 7-1, on Sunday. John Klingberg (Dallas’ fifth round pick in 2010) had a goal and an assist and was a +2. Patrik Nemeth (Dallas’ second round pick in 2010) was a +3 for the game.
Wrist shot -
1 - 0 PHX
Hi stick - double minor