The frustration with the Stars’ power play Saturday was tangible.
Not only did Dallas fumble a couple of early opportunities against the worst penalty killers in the league, but it also squandered several great scoring chances in the third period with a chance to tie the game.
In the end, Esa Lindell hit a post and was robbed by Thatcher Demko as the Vancouver Canucks took a 4-1 win on the strength of two late goals and a Stars team that simply couldn’t cash in with the game on the line.
“We were coming at them but couldn’t get that next goal to make it 2-2,” Stars coach Rick Bowness said of Lindell’s two missed on a power play with 10 minutes left in the third period. “We make it 2-2 then we’re good. You can’t miss there. We had too many chances to make that game 2-2 in the third period and we didn’t score. You hear me talk a lot about timely goals and that timely goal would make all the difference in the world in this game.”
The Stars fall to 36-25-3 and slip one point behind Vegas in the race for a wild card playoff spot. Dallas still has four games in hand and can easily surpass the Golden Knights, but the night shows just how slim the margin is. The Golden Knights rallied with four third period goals to eventually get an overtime win against Chicago, and that shows just how close all of this is.
Yes, the Stars just took three big wins against the Capitals, Oilers and Hurricanes, but losing to the Canucks really hurts.
“We had enough to tie that game up at the end, but [when] you score one goal you expect more,” said forward Joe Pavelski. “Chances or not, you’ve got to finish. We had some good looks early, the second wasn’t our best, but we pushed at the end. It was there, but the result we didn’t get.”
The Stars had moments where they were the better team. Dallas was strong in the first period, weak in the second and hungry in the third. The problem with waiting to be hungry is they didn’t show the poise they could have.
Both teams had about 30 scoring chances, both teams won 35 faceoffs, Dallas had a 35-31 edge in actual shots on goal, while Vancouver led 65-59 in shot attempts. That’s a close game.
And as for that late power play where the Stars could’ve tied things up, Vancouver coach Bruce Boudreau said he thought he knew what was coming.
“Well, I just kept waiting for it to go in the net, quite frankly,” Boudreau said. “I’ve never seen so many open nets that a team missed in succession. Demko was great and made great saves, but they did have some looks with no Demko in the net, so when that happened, I thought, ‘Okay, karma is with us tonight and we’re going to sneak this one out.'”
And on this night, the hockey gods seemed against the Stars and Lindell. It happens, but it’s frustrating. So now Dallas must gather itself and go back on the road. The Stars have had four one-game homestands in the past month, and that’s been a challenge.
Now, they head out on a four-game West Coast road swing before coming back for six of seven at American Airlines Center. That reward will be important in the push to make the postseason, but so are the four road games first.
Dallas is flying out Sunday to get ready for a Tuesday game in Anaheim. It shows just how important it is to make sure all the little details are handled.
“We only had four home games this month and we’re 2-2 which is disappointing for me,” Bowness said. “It magnifies the importance of this road trip. We have the games in hand and are still in the driver’s seat for getting that seventh or eighth spot. It’s up to us to come through and deliver.
“We’re going to practice Monday and that’s why we’re going out early (Sunday),” Bowness added. “You get the time difference and this teams need a good hard practice. Our team game is slipping, and we need to get it back and we will.”
Courtesy: Mike Heika