DENVER – Trying to outwork an opponent is a big part of the recipe for success, but sooner or later you have to score if you want to win. The Stars right now are having plenty of problems with the latter.
Hours after Tom Gaglardi became the new owner of the Stars after closing on the deal to purchase the team Friday afternoon, Dallas was blanked for the second straight game, this time by Jean-Sebastien Giguere and the Colorado Avalanche, 3-0, on Friday night at Pepsi Center.
Three days after a 6-0 shellacking at the hands of the Florida Panthers at home, the Stars hit the road in search of their lost scoring touch. Unfortunately it wasn’t in the Rocky Mountains, as Giguere recorded his 35th career shutout by making 24 saves to send Dallas to its fourth straight loss.
“To me, the discouraging part is we’re just not winning any of our individual battles,” coach Glen Gulutzan said. “If you’re not going to win your own 1-on-1 battles, then there’s really nothing we can do. It seems like if we get a chipped puck into our end, they get on the forecheck and keep it in there for 30 seconds. We chip one in their end, we get on it, we’re in there for five. You can’t have it going that way all the time. Each guy’s battle-level has to come up.”
The Stars haven’t scored since Brenden Morrow’s goal in the second period of last Saturday’s 5-2 loss at the Detroit Red Wings, a stretch that has now grown to albatross-like 147:49 in length.
“We didn’t throw a lot of pucks to their net, and the shots showed that,” Morrow said. “They doubled up on us, and this has happened pretty frequently.”
Against the Avalanche, the Stars started slow and fell behind early, but then gained some territorial edge and momentum during the last half of the second period. But the spark didn’t produce enough electricity to light the red bulb behind Giguere.
“We probably had a lot of the play in the second period, we just didn’t get the bounce we needed,” Morrow said. “We were generating opportunities and getting good cycles, but probably didn’t get the puck to the net as much. We controlled it, we just couldn’t put it in areas where we could score.”
Colorado, coming off a 1-0 shutout loss Thursday at Minnesota, jumped out of the gate with a burst of energy that stunned the Stars. After the first 20 minutes Dallas found itself down by a goal and on the short end of a 16-4 shot disadvantage.
But once again the saving grace was goalie Kari Lehtonen, who was marvelous and certainly deserved a better fate. Lehtonen made 42 stops -- the 45 shots allowed were a season-high by the Stars -- with plenty of the spectacular variety, but dropped to 11-4-0 on the year.
“We need to learn to put more pucks to the net,” Lehtonen said. “It’s not like you’re going to score on every shot, but that’s the way you’re going to get more scoring, especially now where we haven’t scored in a couple of games. The Florida game was just terrible all the way around, but I think we were better today. Just need to keep working.”
Chuck Kobasew, Paul Stastny, and Matt Duchene scored for Colorado, which snapped a three-game losing streak to win for only the third time in the last 12 games (3-8-1).
“You want a low-scoring game, but obviously you want to be on the top-part of that game,” center Mike Ribeiro said. “We didn’t score last game and this game again. We need to keep working hard and find a way to win. It doesn’t matter if you score six or two, it matters if you win those games.”
Stastny pushed Colorado’s lead to 2-0 with just 10 seconds to go on a Colorado power play with 5:26 left in regulation. After Lehtonen stopped Gabriel Landeskog’s wrist shot from the left faceoff dot, Stastny dove to poke the loose puck in while it was in the crease to give the Avalanche a 2-0 lead.
“That was really more my mistake,” Lehtonen said. “I thought I had the puck stuck in my arm, and I didn’t see it there laying.”
Duchene then iced it with an empty-net power-play goal with five ticks remaining.
Down by a goal heading into the third, the Stars kept shooting themselves in the foot by taking unnecessary penalties. They were guilty of four minors in the final frame alone, compared to Colorado’s one infraction the entire game.
“They must have been moving their feet a lot more because they were getting the benefit of a lot more calls,” Morrow said about the penalty discrepancy.
The Avalanche grabbed a 1-0 lead on Kobasew’s third of the season 6:09 into the game. Planted in front of Lehtonen, he deflected in Ryan Wilson’s wrist shot from the left point.
“Kari by far was our best player…again,” Gulutzan said. “We need guys to step up their games, and we’re just not getting it.”
The Stars were bolstered by the return of gritty forward Steve Ott, who had missed six games because of a lower-body injury. But with Ott returning, Dallas played its first game without Adam Burish, who is out for at least a month because of a broken hand sustained in Tuesday’s loss to Florida.
The Stars return to Dallas to begin a four-game homestand on Saturday against the San Jose Sharks (8 p.m., TXA-21). It will be the first meeting this season between the two teams.
“We need some dirty goals and some luck to go our way,” Morrow said. “We’re gaining on it, but tonight just wasn’t our game. We have to keep the motor running.”