VANCOUVER - The sliding Dallas Stars were in desperate need of a slump-buster. The NHL's best team wouldn't oblige.
Playing once again without five regulars, the snake-bit and injury-riddled Stars fell 5-2 to the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena on Saturday night. The loss was Dallas' seventh straight on the road, and dropped the reeling Stars to a 2-9-1 mark over a demoralizing stretch that has sent them from the top perch of the Pacific Division to fighting for their playoff lives in the middle of the Western Conference pack.
Dallas remained in sixth place in the conference with 68 points, the same number as Anaheim and Los Angeles.
The Stars put forth a scrappy effort early on, but eventually were worn down by a Canucks team that won all four meetings between the clubs this season. It was the first season-series sweep for Vancouver over the Stars since the Canucks entered the league in 1970.
Raycroft, making his first start in over three weeks, dropped his fifth straight game. The Stars, meanwhile, haven't won in regulation since a 3-1 win over Edmonton on January 26, a span of nine games.
"It seems like every mistake we make, it goes in," said Mike Ribeiro, who picked up an assist on Morrow's goal. "We know we can get out of it, and the key is believing that we'll get out of it. Other teams go through it. Some in the beginning of the year, and some in the middle of the year. Right now we have to stick with it. We know we'll get our key guys back, and we can't get frustrated."
The Stars were able to match the Canucks stride for stride for the first half of the game, but Vancouver began to take control in the second part of a second period in which it outshot Dallas by a 13-5 margin.
After Daniel Sedin scored his second of the game to make it 3-1 in the third, Morrow gave Dallas life with his team-leading 25th of the season with 6:27 to go in regulation to cut the deficit to 3-2.
But Henrik Sedin finished-off a slick tic-tac-toe passing play with his brother Daniel and Alex Burrows on a 3-on-1 break to restore Vancouver's two-goal cushion 2:20 later, and the Stars' roof officially caved in when Raffi Torres scored his second of the game with 3:34 left to make it 5-2.
"There's five minutes left and it's 3-2 against the best team in the league. It's kind of the way it's gone for us," Raycroft said. "But we can't hang our heads. We have to keep grinding and keep pushing."
Over the final 40 minutes, the Canucks held a 24-13 shot advantage.
Henrik Sedin added a pair of assists, Daniel Sedin added a helper of his own, and Luongo finished with 22 saves for Vancouver, which has alternated wins and losses over the last six games following a six-game winning streak.
"We just have to be better," coach Marc Crawford said. "We have to re-group the Cavalry and try and get ourselves back into some good playing habits, and it comes from hard work. Right now, our habits aren't great. We've got to find a way to persevere. We're working hard, but we're doing it in spurts. We have to do it consistently in the 60 minutes."
With the score knotted at 1-1 after the first period, the Canucks took a 2-1 edge on Torres' first of the game 6:29 into the middle frame. After collecting a pass off the boards just outside the Dallas blue line, he skated to the top of the right circle before unloading a slap shot.
Daniel Sedin opened the scoring just 2:46 in with his 31st of the season. Off the faceoff in the left corner, Sedin was tied up by Stephane Robidas but was still able to get off a quick shot from a sharp angle that snuck past Raycroft.
Neal tied it at 1-1 with his 21st of the year just under two minutes later. From about 10-feet inside the blue line, he snapped a shot off that eluded Luongo on the short side. The shot was Dallas' first of the game.
The Stars return to Dallas to take on the Eastern Conference New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night at American Airlines Center (7:30 p.m., Versus). The Devils improved to an impressive 15-1-2 mark over their last 18 games with a 4-1 win at Carolina on Saturday.