Newark, NJ – The good news is, the Dallas Stars’ epic five-game road trip that spanned nine days, both coasts and 6,500 miles, is finally over.
The bad news is that what had been shaping up as a phenomenal trip ended on a sour note, as Zach Parise and the New Jersey Devils took advantage of a tired Stars team playing their third game in four nights with a 6-3 win Friday night at the Prudential Center.
For the sixth time this season, the Stars took the ice in the second of back-to-back games and lost, leaving them a dreadful 0-6-0, having been outscored 24-8, in those contests.
“We think that certainly tonight has some learning lessons in it,” noted coach Glen Gulutzan. “We’re going to play two-in-twos, we got a ton coming up in February, and our record is now 0-6, so we have to learn that even when you don’t have your legs or whatever, you have to play a certain way, so we’ll focus on tonight.”
So the Stars, whose three-game winning streak was snapped, finish their lengthy tour of North America with a still-very-solid 3-2-0 mark and fall to 18-12-1 on the season, which is still good for the Pacific Division lead, two points ahead of both San Jose, who has two games in hand, and Phoenix.
“We had an opportunity to make it a great trip, 3-2 doesn’t look that great,” said captain Brenden Morrow, whose goal early in the second put the Stars up 2-1 before everything unraveled. “We did have an opportunity to make it a great trip, going 4-1 coast to coast, California to New York. It would have been quite an accomplishment, so we’re a pretty disappointed bunch right now.”
A plethora of turnovers contributed to the Stars surrendering four unanswered goals starting in the second period, as New Jersey’s dynamic duo of Parise, with a goal and three assists, and Ilya Kovalchuk, with a goal and an assist, ravaged them. Patrik Elias also added a goal and an assist from the second line.
“We had some unforced errors ourselves, I think that’s what cost us,” Gulutzan said. “They put a lot of pucks to the net, got a couple that way, and we made some turnovers at the blue line and that cost us. The bluelines are huge in hockey, you just can’t turn pucks over there, especially with Kovalchuk’s line out there and the way they were playing.”
“It’s something we always talk about,” Morrow said of limiting turnovers. “We want to win the blue lines and, like a lot of teams, they’re good on the transition and if you give Parise, Kovalchuk, Elias - if you give these guys some time and space with those turnovers, they’re going to make you pay. We didn’t learn from our mistakes early and they just kept adding up and was too much to overcome.”
The stunning hot streak of rookie goaltender Richard Bachman, starting his fourth game in a row, came to an end as well, as the magic he displayed in his first three outings did not quite carry over. Bachman still actually delivered a solid performance, making 25 saves, as the Stars’ sometimes-sloppy play in front of him left him defenseless on more than a few occasions.
In addition to Morrow, Michael Ryder and Toby Petersen found the back of the net for the Stars in a game in which they actually outshot the Devils 36-31 but had some difficulty putting away their chances.
“I think we had a lot of opportunities,” said Morrow, who recorded five shots on goal but also ended up with a -3 plus/minus rating. “Maybe our execution wasn’t always there, maybe we didn’t bear down and get to the net to get the pucks in. I think our energy was pretty good, it was maybe just once we did give up those turnovers, our brain just shut down. I know I was guilty of plenty of it, it seemed like every bad thing I did out there ended up in my net. If you’re looking for positives, I think we did a good job offensively, we just didn’t help out Bachs too much in our own end.”
Tied 1-1 entering the second period despite getting outshot 11-5 in the first, the Stars surged ahead just 1:38 in as Morrow struck for his sixth goal of the year. Mike Ribeiro made the play by drawing three NJ defenders to him in the left face-off circle before feeding a seeing-eye pass across to a wide open Morrow just off the right post for an easy tap-in.
With the momentum on their side and on the power play, Dallas surrendered a short-handed goal that in retrospect was probably the turning point of the contest when Adam Henrique struck for his eighth of the season at 3:35. After Parise stripped Stephane Robidas of the puck at the Dallas blue line, he raced into the left circle before sliding a pass into the slot for the charging Henrique, who drilled a one-timer past Bachman.
“I wouldn’t call that a back-breaker, but it stings your power play and puts you on your heels,” Gulutzan said of the goal. “Whenever you give up a shortie, it gives the other team a lot of life. It was hard work on their part and a good play, but those things can get you.”
About a minute later on the same power play, the Stars came oh-so-close to jumping back on top after Devils netminder Johan Hedberg stopped Ryder’s wrist shot from the left circle and the rebound bounced out to Jamie Benn in the slot. Facing an open net, Benn fired a wrist shot that was blocked by Devils defenseman Bryce Salvador on his knees in the crease, and as the puck remained loose in the crease, Loui Eriksson swiped at it just as Salvador managed to knock the puck away with his hand.
A goal there would have swung the pendulum back towards the Stars and completely changed the complexion of the game.
Instead, the game remained tied and the Devils began to press more and more, eventually leading to Kovalchuk’s sixth goal in the last 10 games at 12:12. Following a Dallas neutral zone turnover, the Devils’ top line flowed into the Stars’ zone on a 3-on-2 rush, and Kovalchuk unleashed a scorching wrist shot from the left circle that glanced off Bachman’s shoulder before catching the upper right corner.
Another Dallas power play almost meant another short-handed goal against when Travis Zajac poked the puck past Ribeiro at the NJ blue line and took off on a partial breakaway, but Bachman came up with a nice save on Zajac’s wrist shot from the right circle at 14:35.
Hedberg, a former Star, then made several sparkling saves to keep the Stars’ deficit at one, first denying Eriksson’s point-blank rebound chance at 16:48 and then seconds later, thwarting Ryder’s re-direct of Benn’s shot in front with a pad stop.
New Jersey increased the lead to 4-2 with 1:27 left in the period on Petr Sykora’s seventh of the year. After Bachman stopped Ryan Carter’s wrist shot from the left side of the crease, the loose rebound was poked out front and during a scramble, Sykora managed to swat it home.
Early in the final period, the Stars made a push and generated several good scoring chances, but Hedberg made several nice saves in a row about four minutes in, particularly on Robidas’ blazing slap shot from the point.
Ribeiro found himself alone in the slot with the puck at 8:48 thanks to a crazy bounce off the glass, but his uncontested snap shot was knocked aside by Hedberg.
The Devils then upped the advantage to 5-2 when Parise notched his 11th at 9:19, executing a nifty re-direct in the slot of Adam Larsson’s wrister from the top of the right circle.
Less than a minute later, the Stars had another huge chance when Vernon Fiddler cut in behind the New Jersey defense and swept in alone, but his deke to the backhand was nullified by Hedberg’s diving pokecheck.
Dallas finally got another one when Petersen collected his second goal of the season. Parked in front of Hedberg, Petersen managed to get his stick on Sheldon Souray’s snap shot from the left point, deflecting it out of mid-air at 14:10
That goal could have sparked the Stars to a potential comeback push, but the Devils poured some more salt in their wounds by restoring their three-goal lead just 20 seconds later on a somewhat fluky play. On the rush into the zone, Elias controlled the puck in the right circle and attempted a cross-ice pass that pinballed off Trevor Daley in front and past Bachman.
Almost immediately after the ensuing face-off, the Stars had another golden opportunity when Eriksson and Ryder found themselves in the New Jersey zone on a 2-on-1, but Ryder’s one-timer attempt from the slot fluttered wide of the right post.
“That’s the type of team that’s pretty tight defensively, they cause teams to make mistakes and when you do that, they capitalize on it,” said Ryder of the Devils. “Tonight we made a couple of mistakes at our blue line and they came down and put it in the back of our net. We have to learn from what they did tonight and move forward.”
The Devils had the contest’s first good scoring chance 4:03 into the opening period, when Mattias Tedenby slid a quick pass from behind the net out front to David Clarkson for a point-blank one-timer, but Bachman made the save.
With New Jersey holding a 5-1 edge in shots on goal, a nice play by the top line put them ahead 1-0 on the scoreboard at 8:40. First, Hedberg made a fabulous diving save on Eriksson’s point-blank wrist shot, but the rebound ricocheted out into the slot, where Ryder spun and fired it into the open net for his 10th goal of the season.
Bachman made back-to-back outstanding saves during a New Jersey power play, first on a pad stop on Henrique’s one-timer from the right face-off circle at 14:53 and then seconds later, snagging Kovalchuk’s booming slap shot from the top of the left circle with his glove.
Then, 21 seconds after the Stars’ penalty for too many men expired, an innocent-looking play turned into the tying goal when Clarkson grabbed a loose puck and quickly fired a deceptive wrist shot from deep in the left circle that seemed to catch Bachman by surprise, finding its way through his pads and in.
The Stars finally get a couple of days to return home and re-charge the batteries before their next contest, Monday night at the American Airlines Center against Anaheim (7 pm start, VERSUS). It will be the Stars’ first time facing the Ducks this season and the first time since Randy Carlyle was fired and former Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau took over behind the bench.
“I think we had a pretty good road trip, but tonight was a little disappointing,” Ryder said. “It happens, but we got to learn from it and move on and get ready for our next game.”
- Ryder snapped a six-game goalless streak, but now has three points (one goal, two assists) in the last four contests.
- Morrow’s goal gives him five points (three goals, two assists) in the five games since he returned from a six-game absence due to injury. That comes after he managed just three points (one goal, two assists) in the 10 contests prior to the injury. His five shots on goal tied Souray for the club lead.
- Petersen returned to the lineup after sitting out the previous four as a healthy scratch, and he now has three points (one goal, two assists) in his last three games played. He finished with four shots on goal and a +1, despite just 6:29 of ice time.
- Souray’s assist on Petersen’s goal snapped a 16-game point drought. He also topped all Stars by logging 25:27 of ice time.
- Eriksson’s assist gives him three points (one goal, two assists) in the last two outings after enduring a five-game point drought.
- Benn also earned an assist on Ryder’s goal and leaves him with four points (two goals, two assists) in the last four contests after going five games without a point.
- Rookie defenseman Philip Larsen left the game late in the first period with a lower body injury and did not return, forcing Dallas to play two-plus periods with just five blueliners. Larsen wound up taking just three shifts, totaling 2:09 of ice time. “He has a charley-horse, so I would say (he’ll be out) a few days,” Gulutzan revealed.
- To keep Larsen in the lineup, defenseman Mark Fistric sat out his second straight game as a healthy scratch after serving a three-game suspension.
- Winger Tomas Vincour missed the game with a knee injury sustained the previous night on Long Island and is listed as day-to-day, opening up a lineup spot for Petersen.
- The game was pushed back from what was originally listed as a 6 pm Central time start by an hour to 7 pm due to a lengthy pre-game ceremony retiring the number 27 of former New Jersey defenseman Scott Niedermayer, who won three Stanley Cups with the Devils.