Any breathing room the Dallas Stars earned for themselves in their recent 11 game point streak has evaporated quickly with the team losing three of their last four, including two of three on this four game home stand. They skated off the ice for the first time in a couple of weeks with their lead in the Pacific Division in serious doubt tonight after dropping a 2-1 decision to the Vancouver Canucks at American Airlines Center.
The Stars could find themselves in 8th place tonight, from 3rd, with Phoenix and Los Angeles wins.
Dallas would open the game with a golden chance for Loui Eriksson in the slot, out-shooting the Canucks 4-0, but they fell behind on the first Vancouver shot on goal of the game. A beautiful Dan Hamhuis pass found a wide open Mason Raymond thanks to a screen by Kassian, and Lehtonen had no idea where the puck was. Chippy play would dominate the remainder, and the Stars had to kill a roughing penalty taken by Sheldon Souray well after a whistle. Dallas would put no pucks on Schneider in the final 9:38 of the period. Vancouver out-shot them 11-7 in the frame.
A scoreless second period was characterized by chippy play, resulting in multiple power plays for either side. Vancouver failed to score on a lengthy 5-on-3 and ended the period scoreless on four power plays for the game. Dallas failed to score on a full two-minute 5-on-4 advantage and an abbreviated 57 second affair toward the end of the frame. Dallas had quality looks throughout the first ten minutes of the period but Cory Schneider started to assert his dominance, which was on display in particular when he stopped Mike Ribeiro on a penatly shot at 12:55. Dallas would go into the dressing room down 1-0 again, with Vancouver carrying a 27-0-2 record when leading after two.
Adjustments were made to start the third period as Loui Eriksson and Jamie Benn were reunited, as were Mike Ribeiro and Brenden Morrow. The Canucks moved to a 1-2-2 look on their forecheck and it seemed the Stars had 20 minutes to break through and get one. Except hopes of a second third-period comeback against the Canucks at home this season were quickly extinguished when the Dallas got scrambling in their own zone and Kevin Bieksa deposited a rebound chance past a sprawled Kari Lehtonen to make the deficit two and bring the building to a whisper with about 15 minutes to play. Vernon Fiddler got Dallas on the board with half a period to play and then the team's best goal scorer, Michael Ryder, would put himself in the box for four minutes. The Canucks locked it down and carried their goaltender, who had carried them earlier in the game, to a win with very few quality Dallas shots of which to speak.
Dallas generated more than a few high quality scoring chances throughout the first two periods - Enough that they could have easily been tied at the end of two instead of chasing. Cory Schneider really stole the show at times and the penalty trouble in which the Stars found themselves late in the second period really stagnated their attempt to get things going offensively. Vancouver shut down the Ribeiro line effectively and the other three were unable to pick up the slack.
Give the Canucks credit for squeezing the life out of that third period and locking it down when they needed to, and give credit to Cory Schneider for keeping them ahead through two. The Stars face a nearly must win game on Saturday now just to salvage a 2-2 home stand.
More thoughts after the jump...
- On the plus side, if you're looking for something, the Flames lost in a shootout tonight to the Wild. Calgary would have to finish out their season 5-0-2 now just to make 94 points, which even then would promise them nothing. So if you want to declare them dead, I don't think it's an especially great idea, because the Stars have two with them coming up consecutively, but you'd be well within your rights to do so logically at this point. Odd, because the Stars got no points and are only three points up on them, but that's the way it is. What Calgary DOES have is a really good chance to wreck the Stars season this weekend.
- Schneider - He's an RFA, and he's playing for a big contract, trade, or otherwise big step in his career. He's too good to be backing up Roberto Luongo and you wonder if the Canucks want to try to have their cake and eat it too, keeping him somehow for the future. Any way you slice that, he was fantastic tonight when he needed to be, even if "when he needed to be" wasn't nearly often enough due to Vancouver's possession skills.
- Penalties - The Sheldon Souray roughing penalty after the whistle (well after the whistle) and the Mike Ribeiro minor after he missed the penalty shot are just things you absolutely cannot have in a playoff race like this. They know it. Glen Gulutzan knows it. I'm sure it will be... covered. It's just really disappointing to see when the team is behind. Putting your team on the kill due to things not having anything to do with the game play is a rough way to come back. There was a lot of slamming of the door on the Dallas bench tonight. Getting frustrated down just a single goal was not something they did on the 10-0-1 stretch. More resolve would have been key tonight.
- Did anyone else think it was ironic that when the Stars need to send two guys out on the kill, down to three men, they send Sheldon Souray and Steve Ott - Two men at the top of the minor penalties taken charts? They did a great job, but that's just a bit of fun irony there.
- Why do the officials watch a Canuck player - and I mean this guy was looking RIGHT AT THEM - grab onto Ott's stick away from the play and then just stare at him until he lets it go? Because it's Steve Ott, or...? Puzzling.
- Jamie Benn - This game was pretty sorely lacking the customary Jamie Benn "bull in a china shop" solo rushes and exhibitions, and people were making something of it out there on the internet tonight. I don't know if he's feeling some adverse effects from the Phoenix game or if people are just looking for something because he appeared so beaten up the otehr night. Only time will tell - Saturday afternoon.
- Faceoffs - The Stars had one of their more dominating nights on the faceoff dot that I can remember in two seasons - Something that should have led them to more possession and then shots on goal, but somehow it did not. Maybe faceoff dominance isn't all it's cracked up to be sometimes.
- This is one of those times where I want to praise the Fiddler line - For their penalty killing, for the goal they scored, and for the zone time they generated when the Stars needed a break back there, even if it didn't come to anything most of the time. I don't know how badly they were outchanced the other way yet, so I'll reserve the real superlatives. On a night short of positive performances, theirs stood out from time to time.
- 16,618 - Tonight's official attendance. Get your tickets for Saturday ASAP because we hear they're very scarce at this point already on Thursday.