DALLAS - This game was one of those situations that tests whether or not you’re an optimist or a pessimist.
The ‘glass-half-full’ optimist sees the fact that the Dallas Stars battled back from a 2-0 second period deficit to tie the game late and send it to a shootout, only to lose 3-2 to the Philadelphia Flyers Saturday night at the American Airlines Center, as one point gained in the standings.
The ‘glass-half-empty’ pessimist cannot get past the missed opportunity to pull two points out of a contest in which they had two third-period power plays, including one over the final 1:37 with the game tied, but were unable to capitalize, and thus see a point lost.
While the reality probably lies somewhere in the middle, the fact is, the point earned for going beyond regulation in the sixth installment of their epic seven-game homestand (in which they are currently 2-2-2), the Stars move to 85 points and sit in sixth place in the ultra-tight Western Conference standings.
The Stars are now 5-6 in shootouts and 7-2-3 in their last 12 games overall, but still hover just two points ahead of ninth place, while the Flyers, who rank first in the East, clinched a playoff spot with the triumph.
“Any time you get a point this time of the year, it’s positive,” said Stars coach Marc Crawford. “No doubt, it was an exciting point, being able to come back from a two-goal deficit. Our guys have shown tremendous character all year, having the ability to come back. It’s just a little unfortunate we couldn’t put it away. We had a number of opportunities, their goalie made a couple of saves, they got some breaks. Sometimes it just goes like that, but if we keep working with that kind of effort and that kind of intensity, then I think the breaks will end up going our way.”
“It’s tough right now,” added center Brad Richards, who is the only Star to have participated in all 11 of their shootouts this year, converting five. “It was a fun hockey game, both teams had good efforts tonight and we obviously would have liked to do a little more at the end, but that’s how it goes sometimes. It’s tough to look at this and say we’re happy with it, but we’ve shown that we’re never out of a game all year. It was the case again tonight. We had the game on our sticks at the end, and just didn’t execute.”
Coming off what may have been their most dominant performance of the season Thursday night when they defeated Chicago 5-0, the Stars overcame several hurdles just to reach overtime and the shootout.
They spent most of the night juggling just five defensemen, after Nicklas Grossman left the game in the first period with a lower body injury. Dallas got into even more trouble when Karlis Skrastins left after two periods with an undisclosed injury, leaving the Stars with just four blueliners for the final period and OT period.
It turned out to be a blueliner who ultimately got them the one point when Stephane Robidas scored the tying goal with 5:36 left in regulation.
“It’s old-time hockey for sure. You get an appreciation for how hockey was played for many years,” Crawford said of dealing with just four defensemen. “You really have to economize, you really can’t make crazy rushes because the defenseman’s job is to defend and consequently, you play a little more basic game. It’s funny, Robi didn’t get much of a chance, but the seas parted and he got a chance to unleash his shot and it’s a great shot.”
But in the end, Philly’s Ville Leino made a deke to his backhand and slipped around goaltender Kari Lehtonen’s diving pokecheck attempt in the sixth round to give the Flyers a 2-1 win in the shootout.
Mike Ribeiro scored the Stars’ only goal in the tie-breaker exhibition, keeping it going in the third round with a slick forehand-backhand-forehand deke after Claude Giroux’s tally in the second round.
In addition to Robidas, Alex Goligoski scored for Dallas during the game, while Lehtonen, making his 13th consecutive start and his 59th appearance of the season, put forth another strong effort in goal, making 28 saves and another four in the shootout.
“We hope to get two points at this time of year, but I guess we’ll take it, a point is better than none,” said Robidas, who logged 30:32 of ice time. “It’s a good team out there, a top team in the Eastern Conference, and we finished the game with four D. Overall, I think we played a good game and had lots of chances.”
Down 2-1 entering the final period, the Stars had several opportunities against Philadelphia, but almost went down by two at 11:06 when the Flyers raced into the Dallas zone on a 3-on-1 rush. Jeff Carter let a wrist shot go from the slot that Lehtonen stopped, but the rebound slid over to Giroux, whose backhander banked off the outside of the post.
The Stars kept pressing and had a prime chance when Toby Petersen received a pass from Richards and fired a wrist shot from low in the left face-off circle at 13:49, but Flyers’ netminder Sergei Bobrovsky made the stop.
It wasn’t long after that, though, that Dallas managed to get the equalizer, when Robidas notched his fifth of the season, on a solo rush up ice, wove his way through several defenders before ripping a slap shot from the high slot that beat Bobrovsky high over the blocker with 5:36 remaining in regulation.
“In the neutral zone, I was just coming up with speed and Otter gave me a good pass,” Robidas said. “I just found my way through and their D were pretty backed up and I just took a shot and it went in.”
With a late power play opportunity to clinch the triumph in regulation when Kimmo Timonen shot the puck out of play from the Philly zone with just 1:37 to go, the Stars were unable to capitalize before the buzzer that sent the game into overtime.
The PP expired, and the five-minute OT period was thoroughly entertaining, full of end-to-end action, with big saves at both ends. The best was by Bobrovsky 53 seconds in, when he turned aside Robidas’ blistering one-timer from the high slot.
“I think we battled hard, we got a point, but we gave them a 2-0 lead and special teams could have made a difference again for us,” said captain Brenden Morrow. “We had a 4-on-3 late and we had two or three power plays where we could have got some momentum, but we didn’t get it in the net and that could have been a difference tonight.”
The Stars had the game’s first great scoring chance at 10:43 of the opening period when Richards and Steve Ott sped into the Flyers’ zone on a 2-on-1 rush. After Richards fed Ott a cross-ice pass, Ott came in on Bobrovsky alone, but his shot slid just wide of the post.
It was the Flyers who grabbed the 1-0 lead, though, when Carter struck for his 33rd goal of the season with just 1:21 left in the first. While dueling with Trevor Daley in front of the net, Carter managed to get a piece of Andrej Meszaros’ one-timer from the right point, deflecting it past Lehtonen.
Trailing 1-0 heading into the second after getting outshot 9-4 in the first, the Stars fell behind by two just 1:17 in off a fluky bounce. After Mike Richards beat Ribeiro on a face-off in the Dallas zone, Meszaros unleashed a slap shot from the point that zoomed wide but took a crazy bounce off the end boards right to a wide open Richards on the left side of the crease, and the Philly captain stuffed a quick backhander past Lehtonen before he could react.
The Stars began to push back after that, earning a power play and buzzing in the Flyers’ zone just about the entire two minutes. Their best chance came at 3:25 when Ribeiro re-directed Jamie Benn’s pass from the top of the right face-off circle, but Bobrovsky made a sparkling glove save.
On another power play three minutes later, the Stars almost broke through again, but another big save by Bobrovsky, this time managing to smother Ribeiro’s deflection of Morrow’s wrist shot.
Lehtonen kept the Stars within striking distance with a big save, through a screen, on Matt Carle’s shot from the point at 11:58, and loomed even larger just 46 seconds later, when Dallas pulled to within 2-1. Goligoski drilled a slap shot from the point that sailed past Ribeiro’s screen in front for his second goal as a Star and 11th of the year.
“For whatever reason, this year we’ve done a lot of comebacks and we just embrace that challenge,” Robidas said. “We’d like to get a better start or an early lead in games and keep that lead throughout the game, but when we get down, we just find a way to come back.”
The Stars get a three-day break before their big homestand concludes Wednesday night against Anaheim (7:30 pm, FSSW). Before facing off against Los Angeles Saturday night, the Ducks had 81 points and sat 10th in the West, three points back of eighth-place Nashville.
“We have a nice day off tomorrow,” Crawford said, “and right now, I think the important thing for us is to recoup our energies, get our wounded people some treatment a couple of days in a row and get ready to come back here and play on Wednesday.”
- Goligoski’s goal, which was originally announced as Ribeiro’s, gives him nine points (two goals, seven assists) in his last 12 games. He also logged a game-high 31:20 of ice time.
- Robidas’ goal snapped a six-game pointless streak and was his first goal in 16 games, dating back to Feb. 11, a span in which he’d recorded two assists. He also fired five shots on goal, second only to Richards’ six.
- Morrow now has three points (one goal, two assists) in the last two contests after snapping a four-game point drought.
- With the second assist on Goligoski’s goal, Benn extended his career-high scoring streak to 10 games, during which he’s totaled 14 points (eight goals, six assists) for the longest active streak in NHL.
- Ribeiro’s shootout goal, yet another to add to his long list of beauties, leaves him a stellar 6-for-9 this season.
- Ott’s assist gives him points in three straight games (one goal, two assists). He also topped all skaters by delivering eight hits.
- Grossman, who was playing just his fifth game since missing 11 with a hip ailment, left after recording two hits on just two shifts and 1:16 of ice time. There were no details on how long he - or Skrastins - might be out.