WINNIPEG – Well, it was bound to end at some point.
After reeling off a stunning 10-0-1 hot streak that propelled them from the fringes of the playoff chase to the Pacific Division lead, the Dallas Stars saw the incredible run end in somewhat ignominious fashion Wednesday night as they were handily defeated 5-2 by the new Winnipeg Jets at the MTS Centre.
It was the dreaded second installment of a back-to-back set for the Stars, who fell to 1-10-2 in those situations on the season, one night after a big 1-0 shutout win in Minnesota.
Dallas, which also saw a season-high six-game winning streak snapped, remain atop the Pacific Division and in the Western Conference’s third seed with 83 points, just two ahead of Phoenix, who sit seventh with 81 points after beating Vancouver Wednesday.
In their first visit to Winnipeg since April 1996, after which the previous incarnation of the Jets moved to Phoenix and became the Coyotes, the Stars also saw their six-game road winning streak ended as well. These Jets, the former Atlanta Thrashers, moved to within four points of the eighth and final playoff spot in the East, improving to 6-1-2 in their last eight home contests.
“Usually these things come down with a thud, usually it’s not down to a shootout or a last-minute loss or 2-1, they usually come down pretty hard, take the wind out of you a little bit and maybe wake you up,” said Dallas coach Glen Gulutzan. “I’d be lying to you if I said we didn’t talk about this as a coaching group here, with the experience of Willie Desjardins and Paul Jerrard, that these things usually end with a thud and it did tonight.”
“We beat ourselves, we didn’t play well, we turned pucks over way too easy,” added Stars defenseman Stephane Robidas. “We didn’t play a simple game like we’ve been doing in the past 11, 12 games. We just got to go back to basics, we tried to do a little too much, tried to do pretty plays that weren’t there.”
After emerging from the first period trailing 1-0, the Stars surrendered four second period goals to fall behind 5-0 before Loui Eriksson scored twice, once late in the second and once in the third period, to make the score look a little more respectable.
“I thought our effort wasn’t up to par to what it needed to be,” Gulutzan said. “We knew they were going to come out hard and after coming out of that first period down 1-0, I thought we were fine, but we just didn’t have a lot of resolve in the second and they got some goals there, and we couldn’t stop the flood.”
Despite the fact that number one netminder Kari Lehtonen has recorded two consecutive shutouts, rookie backup Richard Bachman got the start in net to give Lehtonen a night off and did not fare quite as well as he would have liked, surrendering five goals on 28 shots, including two off his mask that turned into goals against.
“It wasn’t our best game tonight,” Eriksson said. “We know what we did wrong, we turned the puck over too many times, we didn’t play that game we’ve been playing lately, so I think we needed to step up and play a better game today in front of Bachman, it was not easy for him to stop all those great chances they had today. I’d rather take the win than the two goals.”
The Stars also lost rookie defenseman Philip Larsen to a lower body injury midway through the first period, following a collision with Winnipeg’s Blake Wheeler and the boards behind the Dallas net. Larsen returned for one 46-second shift in the second period, but did not come back out for the third and the Stars had to spend most of the night rotating five blueliners.
“Larsen I don’t think will be too bad,” Gulutzan said. “He’ll be a day-to-day.”
Trailing 1-0 entering the second period, the Stars fell behind by two just 1:19 in, when Evander Kane notched his 28th goal of the season. Alexander Burmistrov fired a wrist shot from the right sideboards that plonked off Bachman’s mask, and the rebound spit out front where Kane evaded Trevor Daley and one-timed it just inside the left post into a half-empty net.
A Winnipeg power play provided the Stars with their first good scoring chance of the period, when Eriksson and Steve Ott sped into the Jets’ zone on a shorthanded 2-on-1 rush. Using Ott as a decoy, Eriksson fired a high wrist shot from the right face-off circle past the glove of goaltender Ondrej Pavelec, but it clanked off the right post at 6:09.
The Jets then seized total control of the game with two goals within a 47-second span. First, Eric Fehr blocked Adam Pardy’s shot at the Winnipeg blue line and took off on a breakaway, booming a slap shot from the top of the right face-off circle just inside the right post, past Bachman’s glove at 8:28.
Then Winnipeg made it an overwhelming 4-0 deficit for Dallas when Andrew Ladd collected his first of the night at 9:15. Bachman made a fabulous sliding pad save on Ladd’s initial one-timer from the right side of the crease, but the rebound spit out front and ended up rolling back over to Ladd, who whipped a quick wrist shot over Bachman, who was just starting to get up after the first save.
Dallas came oh-so-close to getting one back at 11:21 of the second when Michael Ryder received a pass from Daley out of the left corner and unleashed a wrist shot from in front that nicked off Pavelec’s glove, ricocheted off the underside of the crossbar and then down in the crease, before rolling just wide of the right post.
The Jets went ahead by five on Ladd’s power play goal at 16:12, just 13 seconds after Robidas entered the penalty box for delay of game when he shot the puck out of play from his own zone. Dustin Byfuglien’s snap shot from the left point was deflected in the high slot by Ladd and it then hit Bachman in the mask, bounced straight down, rolled between the netminder’s pads and over the goal line.
The goal was the first one the Stars’ penalty killing unit allowed in nine games, after they’d killed off 25 straight opponent power plays.
Dallas responded just 17 seconds later, though, as Eriksson connected for his first of the night at 16:29. After Mike Ribeiro weaved his way around three different Winnipeg defenders, taking him from just inside the blue line all the way into the slot, he slid the puck over to a wide open Eriksson off to the left of the crease, for a quick backhander that just made it over the goal line past the diving Pavelec.
The Stars had two more prime chances to cut further into the deficit before the end of the period, but Adam Burish’s breakaway deke to his backhand was thwarted by Pavelec’s nice blocker save with 1:28 left and then Ryder’s wrister from the high slot was snagged by Pavelec’s nifty glove save with 28 seconds to go.
Down 5-1 heading into the final period, the Stars got another one with 3:44 remaining in regulation on Eriksson’s second of the night and 25th of the season. Ryder reached out with his glove to catch a cross-ice airborne pass from Alex Goligoski and set it down in the right circle before bouncing a pass in front to Eriksson, who swatted it out of the air past Pavelec.
Seconds after captain Brenden Morrow was leveled by Mark Stuart with a check from behind in front of the Winnipeg net and staggered off the ice just three games after returning from an upper body injury, a melee involving just about every player on the ice erupted with 2:47 to go. Included in the activity was Burish tossing a Winnipeg player’s glove into the crowd, which induced an attack from Jets’ forward Tanner Glass.
Burish wound up with a game misconduct and Vernon Fiddler with a 10-minute misconduct for arguing the calls, and Winnipeg ended up with a power play but never came close to scoring.
The Jets jumped on top quickly, as Nik Antropov put Dallas down 1-0 just 2:21 into the opening period. After former Star Antti Miettinen won a battle in the left corner, he fed a short pass into the left face-off circle, where Antropov launched a laser beam of a wrist shot high over Bachman’s shoulder on the short side.
Winnipeg controlled much of the first half of the period, but the Stars began to push back over the second half of it, generating multiple chances, including their first legitimate opportunity at 11:01 when Jamie Benn rifled a quick wrist shot off the rush from the right face-off circle that forced Pavelec to make a strong pad save.
Robidas then drilled a bomb of a slap shot from the right point that appeared ticketed for the upper left corner, but Pavelec managed to get his blocker up to deflect it out of play at 14:02.
Pavelec made another big stop with 3:17 remaining in the period when he got his glove on Burish’s wrist shot from the left circle.
After concluding a mini two-game road swing with a 1-1-0 record, the Stars return home to face Chicago on Friday night (7:30 pm, FSSW) at the American Airlines Center. The Blackhawks currently sit sixth in the West (and therefore would be the Stars’ first-round opponent if the playoffs began tomorrow) with 84 points, so it will be another game with crucial points on the line for Dallas.
“I think rest is the key and you don’t dwell too much on it,” said Gulutzan. “If someone had told us a few weeks ago that you’re going to go 10-0-1 over the next 11 games but you’re going to lay a stinker in Winnipeg, we’d have grabbed it. That’s where we are right now. Give Winnipeg credit, they played good, they stayed on us, played tight D, stayed on us and just wore us down.”
- Eriksson’s two-goal night leaves him with 14 points (seven goals, seven assists) over the last 11 games.
- With an assist on Eriksson’s first goal, Ribeiro now has 17 points (five goals, 12 assists) over his last 15 contests.
- Ryder, who saw his nine-game scoring streak end in Minnesota a night earlier, started a new one with an assist on Eriksson’s second goal and now has 18 points (11 goals, seven assists) over his last 18 outings. He also led the Stars with five shots on goal.
- Goligoski snapped a seven-game point drought with his assist.
- Daley led all Stars in ice time with 25:08.
- Larsen wound up logging just 3:43, although he did record a +1 plus/minus rating, as he was on the ice for Eriksson’s first goal late in the second period, his only shift after leaving the ice midway through the first.
- The Stars were missing defenseman Sheldon Souray and fourth-line forward Jake Dowell for the third straight contest with injuries, while Radek Dvorak was out of the lineup for the second game in a row. Toby Petersen sat out his eighth consecutive game as a healthy scratch.
- Dallas owned an 11-1-1 all-time record against the Jets’ former incarnation as the Atlanta Thrashers, including a 5-0-1 mark on the road.
- After killing off 1-of-3 Jets power plays, the Stars’ penalty killing unit is now 26-for-27 over their last nine contests and 36-for-38 over the last 12. The Stars did not have a power play of their own.
- The loss was the Stars’ first this season in regulation against a Canadian club (9-1-1).
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