DALLAS – As well as they played under difficult circumstances, and as much they deserved a better fate on this night, the Dallas Stars earned an important point in the standings but also lost one, and that stings.
Playing on back-to-back nights in different cities without their two of their four leading scorers, the Stars put forth a valiant and gritty effort, getting an outstanding performance from rookie goaltender Richard Bachman, but in the end, they fell 3-2 in a shootout to the rival Detroit Red Wings Tuesday night at the American Airlines Center.
After a hard-fought 1-0 defeat Monday in St. Louis, the much-needed point leaves the Stars winless in their last three games (0-2-1) and with a disappointing 1-3-1 record over the last five. Now with a 24-19-2 overall mark, Dallas edges into a ninth-place tie with Colorado, one point back of Minnesota for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
“These ones are always tough,” admitted captain Brenden Morrow, whose power play goal at 10:59 of the first period tied the game 1-1. “You’re looking for a result and we worked really hard both last night and tonight, this is probably our best back-to-back effort all year, and we were involved in the game, but one out of four isn’t going to get it done for us. We’re happy with our work, but we need to start getting some results.”
“You don’t want to give up points, especially in your own building,” noted Stars coach Glen Gulutzan. “But I have to judge everything by work ethic and these last two nights, we put in the work. Did we get the result? No, but did we put in the effort? Yes, both nights, and for that, that’s the positive for our group. The kick side is, when you put in that kind of effort, you need to get points. We got one tonight, but had we done that last night and got two out of these four points, we’d probably have been okay about that, so that’s why we wanted that second point.”
For Detroit, the win was their fourth in a row and vaulted them into the West.
The fact that both losses came against two of the NHL’s top four teams record-wise, while missing stars Jamie Benn and Mike Ribeiro due to injuries, can be somewhat comforting, but it’s also a little frustrating to not be rewarded with points from such solid performances.
“I think you got to stay with the process,” Morrow said. “If you start cheating and try to find an easy way, things go the other way in a hurry. I think if we just keep with it, keep doing the things we’re doing and build off the things that we’re doing positive, the breaks will come.”
It took a dazzling move by Detroit’s Jiri Hudler to beat Bachman for the only goal of the shootout, as the Russian center sped in, faked a shot, then perfectly executed the old ‘Peter Forsberg stamp’ deke, to slip the puck around Bachman’s skate and in.
“Shootouts are actually something I’ve been trying to work on here the last few weeks with (goaltending coach Mike) Valley,” said Bachman, whose season record dropped to 6-2-1 after his first NHL shootout. “And obviously, there’s still a little bit of work to do, but it was good to get a little bit of a taste of it. It was a good learning experience, you got some great shooters coming down with some great moves and you learn what you can from it. Obviously, you want to win those and give the team two points, but you got to take it for what it’s worth and keep moving forward.”
Making the defeat even tougher was that Loui Eriksson’s shootout attempt wound up deflected off the left goalpost after Red Wings goaltender Ty Conklin got a piece of it.
“It hit his pad and it went on the post a little bit there,” said Eriksson, who also scored late in the first period to give Dallas a 2-1 lead. “It’s too bad. It’s an important point, but I thought we played real well today.”
But the Stars would have never made it to the shootout had Bachman not been outstanding throughout the contest, making 30 saves overall, including 11 in the third period and four more in the five-minute overtime.
“I felt good out there,” said Bachman. “We knew it was going to be a tight third and I just wanted to do whatever I could to just give the team a chance to win. I felt good and I would have liked to see things go the other way, but the guys worked hard tonight.”
“He’s been doing a really good job for us every time he’s played for us, so it’s fun to see him out there to take that challenge and to play the way he’s been doing,” said Eriksson of Bachman. “He’s been really good for us.”
Tied 2-2 heading into the final period, the Stars had to fight off several Detroit flurries, both at 5-on-5 and encompassing two Red Wing power plays, but Bachman held them in there with several big saves.
First he made a sparkling skate save on Valtteri Filppula’s dangerous one-timer from the slot at 7:03, then came up with a nice pad stop on Filppula again at 8:49, denying his one-timer from the right circle while on a Detroit power play.
Bachman’s nice blocker save through a screen on Pavel Datsyuk’s backhander from the slot at 9:42 was a huge, as was his pad stop on the resulting rebound chance by Datsyuk seconds later.
The Stars had one of their few opportunities in the third period at 14:45 when Tom Wandell raced into the Detroit zone on the rush and fired a quick wrister from the slot that Conklin made a nice glove snag on.
Bachman continued his stellar play over the last several minutes, making big saves at 16:42 on Niklas Kronwall’s backhander in front and again on Henrik Zetterberg’s deflection of Kronwall’s slap shot with 1:28 remaining in regulation.
Dallas had a last-ditch rush up ice that resulted in Conklin making a big blocker stop on Adam Burish’s backhander from the left side of the crease with just two seconds on the clock.
Each team had opportunities in the five-minute overtime period, before a defensive zone turnover by Alex Goligoski led to a Stephane Robidas tripping penalty with just 17.3 seconds remaining.
A defensive-zone face-off win by Steve Ott killed about 12 of those seconds and the Red Wings never got a shot off before the final buzzer, setting the stage for the shootout.
The Wings got on the board first when Tomas Holmstrom notched his eighth goal of the year at 6:41 of the opening period. Coming seconds after Conklin made a nice save on Sheldon Souray’s high wrist shot at the other end, rookie Jan Mursak dug the puck away from Bachman behind the net following a Detroit dump-in. As Bachman scrambled back into his crease, Mursak managed to outbattle Robidas and pass it out front, where a wide open Holmstrom wound up and blasted a one-timer past Bachman’s glove.
“The first one, he can’t play it until it gets to the trapezoid, so he kind of gets stuck there, the puck just doesn’t want to get over the line, so he’s kind of in no-man’s land,” Gulutzan said of Bachman’s attempt to play the puck behind the net.
The Stars appeared to draw some energy from the setback and generated a few flurries of activity in the Red Wings’ zone over the next several minutes, eventually drawing an Ian White interference penalty at 10:30.
It took Dallas just 29 seconds to capitalize on the power play, as Morrow recorded his eighth goal of the season. After Eriksson stripped Dan Cleary of the puck in the left corner, Morrow camped out in front, screening Conklin, while Goligoski drilled a slap shot from the point that nicked off him and trickled through Conklin and over the line.
The goal was a big one for the Dallas power play unit, which had been 1-for-22 over the previous seven games.
The Stars jumped ahead at 16:28 on a similar-style goal, thanks to Eriksson’s 17th of the year. This time, it was the ‘Hammer,’ Sheldon Souray launching a rocket from the left point that Conklin got a piece of, but with Eriksson stationed in front, the loose rebound was there for him to tap just over the line.
“We just got traffic in front and Souray shot it to the net and I was able to find the rebound there and it was nice to see it go in,” said Eriksson. “That’s the type of goals we need to score. We had two of those tonight and we need to keep getting those kinds of goals.”
Overall, it was a wildly successful first period for the Stars, outshooting the Wings 11-5 and taking a 2-1 lead into the second.
Unfortunately for Dallas, after expertly killing off the rest of a Detroit power play, the Wings cashed in on a fluky bounce to tie it again at 2-2 just 1:43 into the second. On the rush into the Stars’ zone, Hudler attempted a cross-ice pass from the right face-off circle to Zetterberg, but instead it ricocheted off the back of Goligoski’s skate in front and sailed past Bachman’s blocker.
“Yeah, it’s a little deflating, but it was early on and it just tied the game, so you just kind of have to take it for what it is and keep going forward,” said Bachman. “It’s just an unfortunate bounce, it happens sometimes, and you wish you could do something different, but it happened. It was over and after that, I felt like I was able to get into a little bit of a rhythm, so that was good.”
The Stars continued to put the pressure on, though, nearly going back ahead just 1:05 later when Michael Ryder’s wrist shot from the slot found its way through several legs in front to pinball off Jake Dowell’s skate and ping off the right post.
“We did get a point. It’s better than nothing, but our last three games, I’d like to say that we’ve worked real hard and we’ve gotten one point out of a possible six,” Morrow said. “And that’s not going to get us playing hockey in April and May and that’s what the ultimate goal is. We just got to keep sticking with it and with the depleted lineup, with our two big centerman out, this is the way we’re going to have to play. We’re going to have to scratch and claw for 60 minutes and hope for breaks. We didn’t get them tonight, we didn’t get them last night, but if we keep doing the things we’re doing, they’ll eventually come.”
The Stars’ next chance to move up in the standings comes after two days to re-group, on Friday night at home against the Tampa Bay Lightning (7:30 pm start, FSSW), a team that has been free-falling in the standings and currently sits tied for last in the Eastern Conference.
- With his third goal in the last four games, Eriksson tied Ryder for the club lead with 17 goals. The goal also extended Eriksson’s scoring streak against the Red Wings to nine games, a span in which he’s totaled 13 points (seven goals, six assists).
- Morrow’s goal was his first since Dec. 19, a span of 12 goalless games, in which he’d earned five assists.
- Goligoski’s assist gives him four points (two goals, two assists) in his last five contests. He also led the squad in ice time, logging 23:03.
- Wandell, who led the Stars with five shots on goal, now has fired 18 shots in the last five outings.
- Dallas outhit Detroit by a 29-9 margin, led by defenseman Mark Fistric’s 10, including seven in the first period alone.
- The Stars also overwhelmed the Red Wings in blocked shots by a 22-10 margin, with Radek Dvorak registering a game-high five.
- While the are still missing Ribeiro and Benn, the Stars did get one injured body back, as rookie Tomas Vincour returned to the lineup after sitting out 14 games with a lower body injury.