The Dallas Stars proved a worthy adversary once again on Friday night but ultimately found unforced errors to be their undoing in a rather demoralizing 3-2 loss to the Anaheim Ducks.
The Stars opened the scoring on the power play after Jamie Benn drew a spearing penalty from Corey Perry, with Alex Chiasson finishing off a beautiful tick-tack-toe triangle passing play down low. The Stars would continue to control play through most of the first period and really put the pressure on Anaheim with an aggressive forecheck and some truly outstanding defensive backchecking by the forewards, but it wasn't enough to keep the Ducks off the scoreboard.
Eric Cole, fighting through some chewed up ice along the boards, tried to move the puck into the middle and it picked off by Ryan Getzlaf who roofed a shot in tight to tie the game just a few minutes before the end of the period.
The second on paper went well for the Stars up until the final few minutes of the frame, once again. The Ducks were able to slowly seize the momentum and tilt the ice in their favor, yet Dallas was able to get into lanes and block shots and survived lengthy cycles by Anaheim without surrendering too many prime chances. Yet again, however, it was a turnover that doomed the Stars.
A hot pass from Tyler Seguin to Jamie Benn was quickly burped up to Corey Perry, who drew back and ripped a powerful shot in stride past Kari Lehtonen to give the Ducks the lead and all the momentum in the game. The Stars had slowly been pulled off their game by the relentless forecheck and aggression by the Ducks and the strategy has certainly worked so far -- the Ducks have feasted on Dallas turnovers and both goals were the product of turnovers with a Duck right in the face of the Stars.
The same problems from the first game continued to plague the Stars in the third; Dallas came out charging hard to open the final frame, but couldn't cash in on several very prime opportunities before drawing a delay of game penalty to once again test their troubled power play.
Instead, the Ducks took advantage of a blown slashing call to score shorthanded on a fire drill in front of Kari Lehtonen. It was the third goal in which Lehtonen went down low and the shot went high, and suddenly the Stars were facing another two-goal deficit in the third period and all of the momentum on the side of the Ducks.
Ryan Garbutt made the game interesting by atoning for a bad first period penalty and scoring off a rebound midway through the third period, kicking off a long stretch of near-dominant play by the Stars that saw a lot of pressure but not a heck of a lot of actual rubber on net. Once there were about five minutes remaining in regulation the Stars really turned on the afterburners and were foiled several times on some prime chances by Freddie Andersen.
The Stars would be afforded a crucial power play with just under three minutes remaining, in a game where the man-advantage was anything but effective. Kari Lehtonen was pulled with just over 90 seconds remaining to give the Stars a short-lived two-man advantage and the siege yielded some big chances -- but ultimate the effort late in the game was not going to be enough.
The Stars once again put the pressure on Anaheim but costly turnovers and some rather unfortunate goaltending would be their downfall. The Stars now head back to Dallas facing a near-insurmountable 2-0 deficit in this series and now it's all about trying their hardest to make this interesting.
We'll have further observations on this game later tomorrow.