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Stargazing: Stars Lose to Kings in Shootout, 3-2

Stargazing is a daily assortment of Dallas Stars  and Texas Stars news, and whatever other random ramblings are bouncing around inside our heads.

On Saturday night the Dallas Stars surrendered points five and six on the year to the Los Angeles Kings, and as a direct result we all woke up in a world where the Kings are in first place in the Western Conference. The Los Angeles Kings. The Red Wings are still in 9th place. The world is a strange place.

It is a fascinating thing to look at the Western Conference standings. Some teams are as many as 34 games in to the season, and yet the group seems to creep forward at the same pace, with little separation from one end to the other. The Stars are stuck in the middle, seven points out of first place and seven points out of last place. I wrote those words many weeks ago but didn't think the situation would remain the same nearly halfway through the year. When the overtime loss point is handed out seemingly every other game, it's not hard to see why.

Dallas has completed three games of a five game trip, all against Pacific Division opponents. Some see this as a stretch where the Stars earned 4 out of a possible 6 points. They also gave away 5. Is this is a good thing? I think it's more of the same. The Stars are shuffling their feet with the rest of the pile, but they're not gaining, or losing any ground. For a team that can't score more than twice a night, this can be considered a good thing.

We theorized before the trip started that this would be a stretch that defined the rest of the Stars' season: They would fall behind and begin playing catchup the rest of the year, or they would come together and finally take a step forward. Through three games it appears as though it's neither. As long as they keep treading water, there is still time...

After the jump, reaction and quotes from Los Angeles and their 7th shootout loss of the year...

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First, we take a second to reflect on a milestone that gets lost in the disappointment:

Modano gave the Stars a 2-1 lead when he took a feed from Jere Lehtinen -- who notched his 500th career point -- and beat Quick from the slot for his fifth goal of the season, but Kopitar tied the game in the final minute of the second when he beat Auld glove side for his 16th goal of the season.

500 points for Jere Lehtinen. We've been focused on how we're going to replace him (Loui Eriksson) and not how much we appreciate what he's done here. 500 points is a fine mark for a model NHL player and human being.

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Mike Heika looks for the good...

Lots of good in the game.

I though Alex Auld was solid. Matt Niskanen might have had his most physical game. Jere Lehtinen looks like he's getting back to his old form. Mike Modano had jump. The top two lines created scoring chances.

That said, they lost again.

On the good side, they got four out fo six points on a tough road trip. On the bad side, the three Pacfic Division opponents got five points in these games.

I wish I could comment. I was told I would start seeing the game on FSN on Verizon FiOS at around 10:30, but the Mavericks went to overtime and then FSN did a 45 minute post game show, and I only saw the third period.

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Alex Auld was definitely a bright spot (so I hear) and has played well in his last three outings...

"My job is to stay ready whenever. I knew about this game for about a week now. I felt good out there. Probably the only area that I felt like I had some time off was playing the puck and the little movements to the defense, but other than that I felt pretty good. These are the games that you want to be in. You want to be in games that matter against good teams, and this team is probably playing as good as anybody in the league."

That link brought to you buy Kings Insider. The only thing I like about playing the Kings is that resource. It's a really great blog, and the hockey community would be better served if more teams had guys like that following them around.

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Speaking of Rich Hammond, he puts the Kings accomplishments in perspective:

After years of talk, talk about hope, about prospects, about the future, the Kings now have something tangible to point to in their rebuilding process: the top of the standings.

The Kings’ 3-2 shootout victory over Dallas, before a sellout crowd at STAPLES Center on Saturday night, coupled with San Jose’s loss to Phoenix, put the Kings atop the Western Conference standings for the first time this season.

There are still four months remaining in the season, but for a team that has scraped the bottom of the conference for the past three seasons, it’s quite an accomplishment.

The Kings have 45 points in 34 games, same as San Jose, but the Kings have 21 wins, two more than San Jose, and that is the first tiebreaker. Calgary, which has 42 points, has three games in hand over the Kings and has 19 victories.

They have 21 wins? Ugh. How long before the Stars have 21 wins?

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As for the shootout itself, I DID see that, and once again I was not pleased. Again we saw a Stars goaltender give his team ample opportunity to get the job done, but the shooters failed, and in increasingly different and exciting ways:

Kings goalie Jonathan Quick poke-checked a puck off of Ribeiro's stick. The puck went almost immediately off of Ribeiro's skate and right into the net. However, because the forward momentum of the puck was stopped, the goal did not count. As a result, Michal Handzus' goal in the fourth round against Alex Auld held up as the winner in a 3-2 victory for the Kings.

"Tough luck for us, and that's too bad," said Stars coach Marc Crawford. "I thought we played pretty well. I thought we really came on in the third period ... I loved the way we played in the third period and into overtime."

At least they're keeping it interesting.

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Mark Fistric had an interesting night prior to the game, and had to sit this one out:

He had some kind of parasite and actually had to go the hospital last night after the team landed in Los Angeles.

He's fine now, according to coach Marc Crawford, but he's just drained from the experience.

Jeff Woywitka will jump in.

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Richard Durrett of ESPN is choosing to look at things in a positive light:

How you look at this road trip is all about perspective. The Stars got four out of a possible six points on this California swing. Of course, those were Pacific Division opponents and they got points too based on how the games went (an overtime loss to Anaheim, a shootout win against San Jose and a shootout loss to LA). The Stars sit eighth in the Western Conference, a point ahead of Detroit and two ahead of Vancouver.

I choose to look at this as a glass half full kind of thing. Some players are starting to step up, in particular Matt Niskanen who is getting more comfortable out there with every game and starting to asert himself. Both goalies are playing well. You take four of six points every time on a trips like this, no matter how the other teams do. But that's just me.

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Mike Ribeiro:

"(In Anaheim,) we kind of gave that one away and tonight, losing in a shootout, we’ll take the point. but it’s hard knowing that we could have had more points than we have.  L.A.’s been playing pretty well lately. We will take those points but we knew that we could have more if we played 60 minutes. We have a few days to get our legs back and get ready for the next game."

Marc Crawford:

(on Ribeiro’s shootout attempt): "It was forward progress. Once the goalie touches it, it’s deemed forward progress. Tough luck for us, and that’s too bad. It was a great game. I thought the fans certainly got their money’s worth. I thought we played really well. I thought we really came on in the third period. It was an entertaining game and the shootout was entertaining."
(on the game): "(Auld) played well in net and we had a little bit of a slip in our play in the second period. But I loved the way we played in the third and in the overtime we carried the puck really well and put pucks on the net."