The Dallas Stars, without Jamie Benn, Jaromir Jagr, Derek Roy and Kari Lehtonen, fell to the St. Louis Blues 4-3 Saturday night, extending their losing streak to two games at American Airlines Center.
With newly acquired Cody Eakin the Stars' de-facto number-one center and Tom Wandell centering a line in need of generating scoring chances Dallas kept pace with St. Louis early, taking a 2-1 lead to the locker room at the first intermission, but turnovers and failed breakout attempts hemmed the Stars in their own end for much of the second period, resulting in three Blues goals.
Trailing by two in the third period Dallas got a much needed score from Ryan Garbutt to pull within one, but never found the equalizer as the Blues kept them far, far away from Jaro Halak until some perfunctory waning-seconds-attempts, including a 14.3 second power play.
The Stars have now dropped three of five to start the year and set out on the road for a tough back-to-back set with an improved Columbus team and the Red Wings again on Tuesday.
Dallas began tentatively with their newly formed line combinations and chemistry and what seemed inevitable started to unfold as St. Louis blocked five Dallas shots five minutes into the period for allowing even one, then Wade Redden, newly returned to the NHL for the first time in nearly three years, made it 1-0 Blues and the same old, same old was on.
Tomas Vincour had other ideas after a nice one-on-one battle won by Eric Nystrom saw him alone in front of the net following up his own rebound to give the Stars a massive tally to tie the game early and settle the troops.
A disjointed power play for the Stars about six minutes later ended with a Michael Ryder shot from the slot dribbling through Halak to give Dallas the lead, though they tallied just five totals shots in the frame to the Blues' 10.
The Stars missed on golden opportunities to extend their first period lead when Reilly Smith missed the net on a break away attempt after exiting the penalty box, and Ray Whitney had Michael Ryder completely alone in front of Halak but sent a pass too far behind him and the play was broken up.
Giveaways and turnovers were the story early and often as the Stars couldn't dig the puck out of their own end and as has been the story this year, it eventually led to penalty trouble and the momentum swung St. Louis' way completely.
David Perron finally gave St. Louis the equalizer when he circled the net and walked out into the slot with all five Stars spectating and beat a screened Nilstorp from the near circle. Chris Stewart took the lead when Ryan Garbutt and several others were out-hustled in the defensive zone and Berglund fed a pass through the Dallas defender for an easy tap-in goal.
Perron did it again after yet another failed clearing attempt was turned over by St. Louis and he fired a shot through Stephane Robidas that Nilstorp again couldn't handle.
The Blues took a seemingly insurmountable two-goal lead into the second intermission, 34-2-2 when leading after two last season under Hitchcock.
Though reeling after a 3-0 period by St. Louis (chances 8-1 in favor of the visitors) the Stars showed some fight when Brenden Morrow found Ryan Garbutt in front to give the home team a fighting chance as the period wore on, though the Blues put up a strong defensive front.
Cristopher Nilstorp appeared visually shaken and in pain throughout and was eventually replaced by Kari Lehtonen after an unsuccessful Dallas power play with seven minutes to play.
In need of a single goal as time ran out the Stars could not get anywhere near Jaroslav Halak, and a valiant short-handed effort concludes with no points earned on home ice. They move on to Detroit and Columbus, hoping an influx of talent and healthy bodies will produce more scoring chances.
- Historic night: Michael Ryder's first period goal was the 200th of his career. Vernon Fiddler and Alex Goligoski both tallied their 100th career assists in the first period as well. Colton Sceviour's assist on the Garbutt goal was his first career NHL point.
- Tomas Vincour told Mike Heika this morning that getting cut to start the NHL season was like a slap in the face to him and a good wake up call. He got to a tough, scoring area on that first goal and tenaciously stayed with it, banging home his own rebound over Halak, though would take a penalty later in the period. Will he stick in the lineup when the dust settles if he's able to show that kind of improvement consistently?
- Brenden Morrow began this one on what most would call the "fourth line" with Tom Wandell and Ryan Garbutt. That's not a bad energy combination for Glen Gulutzan in sparse minutes, but you have to wonder how the Dallas Stars' captain feels about an apparent demotion. He was on the ice for three of the first four St. Louis goals in just 6:17 of ice time and nine shifts, eventually assisting on Garbutt's third period tally.
- Injuries: Kari Lehtonen went through the complete morning skate Saturday, warmed up with the team before this game and backed up Nilstorp. No call-up was made. Jagr and Roy were out, but neither is said to be serious - It's clear they're taking it very easy with these injuries in the early going, not wanting to risk anyone long term. How long that lasts is anyone's guess, but if the team remains competitive then it gives Gulutzan and Nieuwendyk a little more rope to do so.
- Reilly Smith continues to intrigue. Gulutzan uses him on the penalty kill, the power play, and double shifted him with Wandell and/or Garbutt a time or two. He's been unable to finish or contribute offensively but appears to be getting stronger with each game. Is it just a matter of time?
- The Stars' first power play unit tonight was Eriksson, Ryder and Whitney with Goligoski and Robidas. No center to win those faceoffs. Hurry back, Derek Roy.
- Roy's injury is being officially listed as groin, so perhaps it has nothing to do with the Franzen knock as some had expected. Groin is a word we expected to hear a lot this season.
- Tough to evaluate Aaron Rome after 60 minutes. He made some nice play or two and was trusted with PK minutes immediately but was caught looking on the game winner in the slot. How do you proceed wit hthe D if you're Glen Gulutzan?
- Jamie Benn should be back on Monday. We can't say it enough. The Stars are showing the ability to hang tough with some teams but they're not generating nearly the scoring chances necessary to succeed.
- Cristopher Nilstorp looks to be added to the list of wounded. We'll update later when we know more. The Texas Stars are off for a few days for the AHL All-Star break and could send Bachman back any time.
- Attendance: 17,131. Another strong showing by the Dallas faithful, and a bunch of guys who strangely weren't here for Blues games in years past but are huge fans now.