In a game where the Dallas Stars had the Montreal Canadiens pinned exactly where they wanted them, wasted opportunities and the inability to play a full 60 minutes led to a severely disappointing loss. It was also the sixth straight loss at home for the Stars, just the second time that has ever happened in franchise history.
The Stars came out in the game working hard, creating chances off the forecheck and doing a masterful job of forcing the Canadiens into bad penalties and even worse decisions. Loui Eriksson scored on a Dallas Stars two-man advantage but the Stars were unable to cash in during multiple other power plays in the first period. Dallas had another golden opportunity to start the second with multiple chances on a 5 on 3, spending nearly the first five minutes of the second period on the power play.
Yet the Stars never came close to scoring with the man advantage and immediately following the expiration of the final penalty to Montreal, Andrei Kostitsyn scored to tie the game. It was an immediate momentum shift in the game and it was instantly obvious that the Stars took a mental punch after failing to score early in the period. The Canadiens took the lead for good later in the period when Alexei Kovalev shot the puck past a diving Turco just as a minor to Mike Modano was expiring.
Never before has the absence of Brenden Morrow, Sergei Zubov, Brad Richards and Jere Lehtinen been more apparent than Sunday afternoon. The Stars lacked the mental fortitude to overcome the blown chances on the power play and allowed the Canadiens to seize control of the game in the second period. After a great hard-working first period the Stars were unable to maintain that energy and level of play and you could just see the air leave the team when Montreal scored to tie the game.
Yet the fact remains that none of these veterans are returning to the team any time soon. It has become imperative for the Stars to find some way, any way to overcome whatever mental barriers this team has when things aren't going well in a game. They have the ability to bounce back from a bad game, yet the Stars have not shown much in the ways of in-game reaction the past three weeks. Perhaps Dave Tippett needs to go with a more veteran lineup. Mark Parrish, Andrew Hutchinson and Joel Lundqvist were all healthy scratches today. Maybe the Stars shake things up a bit and sit a few players who otherwise think they're safe.
There are only 16 games left in the season. If the Stars have any chance of making it to the playoffs, even if they back their way in after the very final game of the season, these issues must be addressed. The mental makeup of this team is as shaky as I have seen from them in a very long time. The scoring issues of just a few years ago are back and couldn't have come at a worse time.
There's no doubt that Dave Tippett has his hands full now.
[UPDATE] Dave Tippett has never been one to shy away from calling out his veteran leaders and tonight was no different. After the loss Tippett had this to say:
``If we don't get something out of Modano and Morrison soon, we are going to be in trouble...We expect more from Modano than what he gave tonight, and without that, it's going to be bad for us.''
Morrison's only played three games with the Stars and already feeling the coach's wrath. I like it.
Notes on the game:
- Fabian Brunnstrom was cut early in the game and did not return. Check back often as we'll post an update as soon as we can. [UPDATE] Brunnstrom has a shoulder injury and is listed as day-to-day.
- Stephane Robidas seems to be hampering the power play more than helping it. Is it time for Trevor Daley to have a shot?
- Marty Turco with another mis-play of the puck that leads to a goal. Although this one didn't lose the game directly, how concerned are you with his these foul-ups so late in the season?
- Dallas outshot Montreal 31-19 in the game.
BW's three stars of the game:
Carey Price, Montreal: After going just 2-10-1 over his past 15 games, Price was outstanding as he thwarted the Stars from scoring early on the power play and held the lead for his team in the third.
Steve Ott, Dallas: Had five shots on goal, 8 hits and nearly goaded the entire Montreal lineup into penalties in the first period.
Loui Eriksson, Dallas: Was the Stars' most consistent player and scored the lone goal in the first period.