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Stars 5, Sharks 1 - They Kept Their Bigger Boat

But I have to admit that after squandering that 5-on-3 opportunity in the latter half of the first period, that boat would be useless tonight. Even with a 2-1 lead after 20 minutes.

Surely the Sharks, who had rolled into the AAC on a four game winning streak including a 3-0 win at home over Dallas just six nights ago, would take advantage of the Stars' power play futility and get back into the game.

But they never did.

And just like the last time San Jose darkened the doors of the AAC 15 nights ago, they were done in by some horrible defensive breakdowns and less than spectacular goaltending from Evgeni Nabokov.

I'll go into more depth in that, and I'll also bring you the infamous 38th star after the jump.

The defensive breakdowns started early for the Sharks as they were awarded a power play just 63 seconds in. 30 seconds later, Steve Ott already had the San Jose defense back on it's heels as he marauded his way into the Sharks zone past an ole'ing Dan Boyle, who allowed Otter to get off a nice backhander that Nabokov turned aside.

Then inexplicably, Patrick Marleau committed one of the most egregious turnovers that I think I've ever seen in handing it back to Ott at the ladies' tees.

Ott obliged Marleau and slapped a shorty past Nabokov's glove hand to open the scoring 1:45 in.

The Sharks tied it on that same power play thanks to a Logan Couture goal. But it would prove to be the only shot to get past Marty Turco on the night.

He turned aside the next 25 San Jose shots. Which should also tell you something about how well the defense played tonight in limiting the Sharks to just 30 shots on the night.

I don't know if it was a testament to how much the Sharks missed Joe Thornton in their lineup. But seeing that big 30 in the Sharks shot total tonight ought to allow Crow and Huddy to sleep just a little easier tonight.

On the flip side, San Jose's defense continued it's poor coverage as they allowed Brad Richards to spot Loui Eriksson in front of the San Jose net. In spite of not getting 100% wood on the shot, Loui still had enough to propel the puck into the net to restore Dallas' 2-1 lead.

Then laziness set in for the Sharks as they committed two straight interference penalties within a 45 second span to give the Stars a two man advantage for 1:15. But despite having one of their better penalty killers in Douglas Murray sitting in the box, the Stars couldn't manage a shot for the first 1:14 of the two man advantage and the Sharks escaped the first 20 with a 2-1 deficit.

Again, I thought to myself that San Jose would re-discover it's game and get back into it.

Instead, their offense remained in a slumber and kept turning the puck over. Just after an Ott boarding penalty handed San Jose their second power play of the game, Dan Boyle handed the puck over to James Neal, who streaked the other way before being denied by a Nabokov kick save into the corner.

Six minutes later, Jamie Benn raced by the Sharks third defense pairing of Nic Wallin and Jason Demers, then noticed Nabokov was too far out in front of his net. A deke froze the Sharks netminder and Neal went in to stuff the puck just inside the right post. Somehow Nabokov made the save on the play, but surrendered the goal when the backchecking San Jose forwards forgot to pick up Brian Sutherby.

And the second period onslaught was on. Ott complimented his first period short handed goal with a pair of deflections into the net late in the second to pick up his first career hat trick

And just like a few weeks ago, the rout was on for the Stars over the Sharks. Todd McLellan pulled Nabokov during the second period intermission and San Jose waved the white flag.

So for at least one more night, the Stars stave off official elimination in the playoff race. Had they lost in regulation tonight and Colorado had beaten Anaheim at home, the Stars would have been eliminated.

Instead, they sit 7 points out with 5 games to play and a tragic number stuck at 3. And at least, they put a little fear back into the hearts of San Jose fans as they inch closer to the playoffs. And perhaps to more playoff heartbreak.

Your Defending Big D 3 and 38th Stars:

1st Star: Steve Ott  (DAL) - No question about this one for one of the most popular Dallas Stars. He picked up his first career hat trick.

2nd Star: Brian Sutherby (DAL) - Played a solid game tonight. He was a certainly a beneficiary of Jamie Benn's hard work on the goal he scored in the second. But he also setup Ott for his second goal of the night and had a very impactful 10:34 of ice time.

3rd Star: The Stars' defense - Marty Turco would have been a sensible selection here. But that would have taken away some richly deserved recognition from the Stars' team defense that really put the clamps down on San Jose.

38th Star: The Sharks defense - Conversely, it would be unfair to simply pin the 38th star on Evgeni Nabokov. Sure, he played subpar in the net. But the guys in front of him left him out to dry far too often tonight with poor coverage and flat out stupid giveaways.

Some, like on the Marleau giveaway to Ott on the first period shorty, that the Sharks probably couldn't give away any easier if they tried.