DALLAS – With a chance to jump back into a postseason slot in the tightly bunched Western Conference, the Stars were dealt a crushing blow from a foe that’s broken Dallas’ back before.
Teemu Selanne tied the game with just seven seconds left in regulation, and Cam Fowler gave the Ducks the bonus point with a goal 1:42 into overtime in Anaheim’s dramatic 4-3 win over the Stars on Wednesday night at American Airlines Center.
Dallas remains in ninth place in the West with 86 points, just one point behind these same Ducks.
“This is the time of the year that we know how valuable the points are,” Jamie Langenbrunner said. “We had the opportunity to close it out, and we don’t. It hurts, but it’s also the time of the year where it can’t let it affect you for the next one.”
Though the Stars were able to earn a point, they had two in their back pocket before Selanne came by and snagged them away for the second time this month. The Finnish winger tied the last game played between the two clubs in early March with a goal with just over a minute to go in regulation, and he turned the trick again with just single digits left this time around.
With Ducks goalie Ray Emery on the bench for the extra attacker, there was a scramble in front of the Dallas net before the puck generously popped out to Selanne, who was standing near the bottom of the left circle. The 19-year veteran promptly deposited it in to make it 3-3.
Fowler then put things away when he converted Bobby Ryan’s feed off a 2-on-1 rush.
“It was a tough break on the way it bounced, but that’s hockey and we have to move on,” Langenbrunner said. “That’s a team that’s been playing well, but we were in control and had every opportunity to win the game.”
Kari Lehtonen finished with 22 saves in his 14th consecutive start.
Lubomir Visnovsky and Corey Perry also scored, and Emery made 23 saves for the surging Ducks, who’ve climbed back into the thick of the playoff race by winning nine of their last 11.
“It’s a tough one, but also just a horrendous break,” coach Marc Crawford said about the game-tying tally. “The puck comes around, it hits the referee, and comes right to their guy. So what can you do? You don’t plan for the referee to be in the way, and he doesn’t plan to be there. So we got a horrendous break with five seconds to go that had nothing to do with the play.”
Daley gave the Stars a 3-2 lead with 6:39 left in regulation with his career-high eighth of the season while the teams were playing with four skaters apiece. In the lower portion of the slot he was able to fight off Anaheim defenseman Luca Sbisa before swatting a loose puck past Emery.
The Stars made that goal stand up with some stingy defensive work until the ill-fated ricochet wound up on Selanne’s stick then the back of their net.
“It’s tough right now, but we’ve got nine games left and we’re not going anywhere,” Richards said. “We did a lot of good things, we just didn’t close out the game. It’s happened a bunch this year for some reason, but there’s nothing we can do but learn, go over it, and keep battling. We’re a resilient group.”
“As hard as it is, and as much as this (stinks), and believe me it does, you have to look at the positive side,” Crawford said. “We played a strong game, we battled, and by all rights we should have won the game. We got a point out of it. All is not lost.”
Eriksson, who returned after missing the past two games because of an upper-body injury, potted his 24th of the season 4:29 into the third to give the Stars their first lead of the game, 2-1. At the doorstep, the Swede was able to jam home Langenbrunner’s nifty pass from the right corner.
But the advantage was short-lived, as Perry delivered the equalizer a mere 11 seconds later to make it 2-2. After a Dallas turnover in the neutral zone, Ryan skated into the Stars zone before feeding a streaking Perry in the slot. Perry then brought the puck to his backhand before lifting it over Lehtonen for his 40th of the year.
After a scoreless first period, Stars killer Visnovsky gave the Ducks a 1-0 lead with a power-play goal 56 seconds into the second stanza. After accepting a pass from Ryan Getzlaf, the NHL’s top-scoring defenseman blasted a slap shot past Lehtonen from the left faceoff dot for his 15th goal of the season.
Visnovsky has 16 goals and 40 points in 50 career games against Dallas.
Goligoski knotted things up with a power-play goal of his own midway through the second period. From the right point he one-timed Ribeiro’s soft pass to net his 12th of the year, and second in the last two games.
“It’s a good test because we’ll be ready when we get in (the playoffs),” Richards said. “We’re playing these games now, and playing against teams that are in the same desperation mode. It’s been a good grind, and we’ll be better for it. As far as I know, we’re not eliminated tonight. We’ll stick together and keep going.”
The Stars will embark on a five-game road trip beginning in Nashville on Saturday night when they face the Predators (7 p.m., TXA-21). The Predators have won four straight, and entered Wednesday night in sixth place in the Western Conference with 88 points.
“We have to keep moving forward,” Langenbrunner said. “We got a big point tonight, and we have to keep on collecting points. The Nashville game is going to be huge”