The Dallas Stars allowed the San Jose Sharks to get "off the mat" Saturday night. Lindy Ruff''s bunch had their foot on the underachieving Sharks' collective throat through half of a hockey game- And couldn't put the game away.
The officials blew down a puck that was never even close to being covered, which Colton Sceviour put in the net to make it 3-0- Only it was called back. Erik Cole rang one off the cross-bar to very nearly restore the two-goal lead Dallas had worked diligently to build. Antoine Roussel failed to score on a breakaway, leaving the door open once again.
They just didn't execute when an ample number of opportunities were fought for and won. Nothing handed to them. No mistakes on San Jose's part- Just good, hard work by the better team.
A skills-competition later and the Sharks had escaped narrowly with the full two points while the Stars were left to tuck their single into their back pockets and venture south to take on a much better Los Angeles team Monday night.
It's a frustrating result after leading 2-0 and silencing the home crowd quite expertly. The Stars used their speed and grit to great effect, killing penalties (they needn't have taken) and capitalizing on their opportunities early.
The resurgence of Ray Whitney continued with an incredible backhand shot to give Dallas a 1-0 lead, and Cody Eakin's efforts during a delayed penalty call made it 2-0 off Antoine Roussel's skate, again. When Sceviour beat the covereage and the San Jose netminder to make it 3-0 the result seemed assured.
He just couldn't beat the official, who seemed to immediately apologize.
Phoenix came from behind to grab a full two points this afternoon and Colorado did the same before dropping a shootout of their own to the Kings, so there is no moral victory tonight- Just another opportunity lost after leading by multiple scores in another team's building.
In a results oriented business it's a real shame, because Dallas played a great game. Their positioning was sound. Their "compete level" was top-notch. They won puck battles. They won races. They back-checked. They supported one-another.
And in the end they lost- Not just the game, but Sergei Gonchar as well, who took a puck to the face and was not able to return, leaving four young players plus Alex Goligoski to mind the proverbial store. Brenden Dillon played what is probably a career-high 32:15 in making up for yet another loss.
Stephane Robidas, Trevor Daley, Aaron Rome and now maybe Sergei Gonchar- Nearly 60% of Jim Nill's targeted blue line options for the season wiped out by injury.
Where this one was lost, where games like this against elite competition continue to be lost, is where number-one lines meet number-one lines.
Which is to say that Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Val Nichushkin, and check it out here at Extraskater.com, had the worst possession numbers on the entire team by a wide margin. On a night when the Stars attempted nearly 70 shots and official out-shot San Jose 46-39, their best players were the only ones with negative metrics.
That's becoming a trend. Not a good one.
On the positive side the Stars out-shot one of the best teams in the league. The killed three penalties, giving up just four shots on goal in doing so. Kari Lehtonen was great. A shredded defense held together. Colton Sceviour found the back of the net again, though not officially. Every player on the roster had a shot on goal, except for Erik Cole.
So they inch forward tonight- And if they can turn a frustrating, though hard fought point out of this one with a positive attitude and turn it into an even better performance in Los Angeles (for surely a much better performance will be needed as the Kings are even better) for points, then it will have been time quite well spent.
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