The lopsided score does a poor job of representing a dominating Stars performance in the first period and much of the second. They badly outchanced the Ducks in the first, hit three posts and out-shot them 12-7 but couldn't get one past Jeff Deslauriers and trailed 1-0 heading into intermission despite clearly being the better team.
Dallas pushed on in the second and was still just a shot away when the linesmen had a disagreement about a clear icing play that was touched up by Alex Goligoski. Most players were, to use Ralph's phrase "lulled to sleep" a little on the play and when the puck ended up on Luca Sbisa's stick along the boards Kari Lehtonen might not have been ready for the shot that put the Ducks up 2-0.
Dallas opened the third period with a penalty kill and two tallies to respond, finally breaking through on the career AHL goaltender to tie the game at 2-2 on the efforts of Steve Ott and Alex Goligoski, but those fun few minutes would be the game's last for the Stars. The Ducks responded nicely, dominating play throughout the period and eventually put two more behind Kari Lehtonen on busted defensive coverages and tired Stars legs late in shifts each time.
Anaheim clamped down, rolled line changes and had three men back at all times for the remainder of the period before potting a meaningless empty netter to seal the deal and earn just their 31st and 32nd points of the season.
On the heels of the loss to the Blue Jackets at home this one stings and is a reminder that if you let a bad team hang around for long enough in this league they can beat you.
The end result is that on a night where the Coyotes, the Blues, Canucks, Wild, Sharks, Blackhawks, Predators, Flames and the Ducks get points in the Western Conference race, the Dallas Stars get none and now go across town to Staples Center without Mike Ribeiro badly needing some to keep pace.
I'll be back with more in a bit after a frustrating, frustrating game.
"We played the way we wanted to," said Alex Goligoski after the game. "Up until we tied it."
Give Mike Heika credit here on television as I write this, standing there asking the question on the minds of every Stars fan after this one. (Paraphrasing) "Are games like this loss and the loss to Columbus ones you'll look back and wish you'd had at the end of the year?" (/Paraphrasing)
"I don't know, said Alex. "Every team loses to teams at the bottom of the standings. Those teams end up with 25 or 30 wins a year. They're obviously games you'd like to have, especially the ones at home. We just need to refocus and a get a win in LA."
A lot of attention will be paid out there to the goals against and what happened on the icing call or what happened with Adam Pardy. The second Koivu goal is a bit vexing as, if you look at the replay, Pardy is drawn to Selanne after the puck is moved to Koivu but in doing so took Sheldon Souray out of the play. We have no idea what the communication was on the play but at first and second glance it seemed like Souray should have had Selanne in the slot and Pardy should have taken some room away from Koivu.
Ultimately the game, for me, is about what happened in the first period. The league is littered with games like this, and the Stars have been on the right end of it some nights. When things don't go your way and you miss out on those chances and the other team jumps on it, it's hard to recover from it.
There's no doubt that the Boston Bruins were thinking the same thing on New Years Eve in Dallas. A bounce here, a call here, and it's a different game. The opening goal or the first couple of breaks can end up making a hockey game and the Stars weren't able to capitalize on any of their (many, many) quality chances in the first tonight. That they were able to tie it up in the third is a testament to sticking with it and playing their game, but it wasn't enough tonight with Mike Ribeiro out. They had the Ducks on the ropes in the first and couldn't make it count.
- The non-icing call aside, there was another weird sequence where they missed an offside call that nearly led to a Selanne goal, and did result in an Anaheim power play. While on the power play Getzlaf shot one off the post that went out of play and the officials incorrectly kept the faceoff inside the zone. None of it cost the Stars, though a couple extra minutes of even strength play rather than penalty killing would have been welcome for Dallas. Not a banner night for the zebras.
- The Stars looked tired in the third period. The minute distribution was not (completely) out of the ordinary and all seven defensemen saw time, but the team just looked sluggish as the game went on. Jamie Benn looked exhausted, though he played just 20 minutes. That's above his season average but he logged 24 a night last year for a while.
- Speaking of Benn, his point streak continues and he could have had more in the first. He was the best player on the ice by far but it's not going to manifest itself in multi-point nights every game, unfortunately. His whiff on the puck at the attacking blue line ended up costing them the game winner.
- Benn missed a couple of shifts in the second and got stitches over one of his eyes.
- The box score says the Wandell, Morrow and Eriksson trio combined for eight shots on goal, but we'll wait for our scoring chance report to say whether they were really that effective or not. Mike Ribeiro's play making ability is sorely missed. Brenden Morrow way overstayed a shift for his fallen homie and it more or less helped lead to the fourth Ducks goal.
- Where's the internet snark about empty seats in Anaheim?
- Steve Ott was barely able to get himself off the bench to end the first period, but came back and scored a goal. We'll hope that's not another one of those situations that bears watching a la Mike Ribeiro. Speaking of which, it is official that Ribeiro will not join the team for the Kings game on Thursday.