The Dallas Stars were able to stay close to the Vancouver Canucks until late into the third period Saturday, but when the game ended it was the same old story. The Stars lost 5-2 to the Canucks, their fourth lopsided loss of the season to the top team in the Western Conference.
"There's five minutes left and it's 3-2 against the best team in the league. It's kind of the way it's gone for us," Stars goaltender Andrew Raycroft said . "But we can't hang our heads. We have to keep grinding and keep pushing."
The loss was the fourth straight overall for the Stars and their seventh straight on the road. They are 1-7-1 since the All-Star break and 2-9-1 in their last 12 games.
"It's just bad timing right now, being in a funk that we can't get out of," said Stars captain Brenden Morrow.
The Stars, who remained sixth in Western Conference, lost ground in the Pacific Division, where they are now five points behind Phoenix and four points behind San Jose. They missed a chance to gain ground on teams below them and remain only one point ahead of 10th place Minnesota.
After giving up an early goal to Daniel Sedin, the Stars bounced back quickly to tie the game on a tally by James Neal. The Canucks got a second-period goal from Raffi Torres and then another by Sedin early in the third to build a 3-1 lead. But Morrow cut the lead to 3-2 when he knocked home the rebound of a Jamie Langenbrunner shot with 6:27 remaining.
But the Canucks scored two quick goals -- one on a three-on-one and the other on a two-on-one -- to put the game away.
"You can't give them outnumbered chances, and they scored four goals on outnumbered chances," said Stars coach Marc Crawford. "That’s one of the things going into this game trying not give up and we were guilty of it. From that standpoint we didn’t do a good enough job with our third guy. Their forwards are dangerous, especially the ones with speed. They can hurt you."
Raycroft made 33 saves for the Stars, including several good ones to keep the Stars close in the game up until the final five minutes. But he gave up a couple of goals that he would probably like to have back.
"He battled, but you can't give up two bad goals in this league. It's not acceptable," said Crawford. "He made some real good saves."
The Stars had a great chance in the first period with the game tied 1-1, going on a five-on-three power play for 54 seconds, but they did not get a shot on goal.
"Power plays and penalty kills are a way to shift momentum. Not getting a good chance deflates the team a little bit," said Morrow. "We would have liked to gain some momentum at least, and that wasn’t the case."
The Stars weren’t able to generate much in the game against a Canucks team that was missing several of their regular defensemen because of injuries.
"We thought maybe we could grind out an ugly one here, take advantage of the back end," said Morrow. "We just turned over too many pucks and didn't sustain pressure in their zone."
The Stars went 0-3-0 on their Western Canada road trip and were outscored 13-5. With Saturday's 5-2 loss to the Canucks, they were outscored 20-5 in the four-game series against Vancouver. They now head home to play Tuesday against New Jersey, one of the hottest teams in the league.
"It's no fun losing," said Crawford. "Our guys obviously are feeling the pressure of being in a race and not being at your best. We know the way out of it and the way out it is through hard work. You can't do anything but really hone in on the work ethic.
"You look at the game tonight and credit them for getting back in the game. But our work ethic on a consistent basis hasn't been there from some people. We're getting great efforts, Herculean efforts from Morrow and [Stephane] Robidas, but just not enough of them. I thought Jamie Langenbrunner was really good tonight. We're not getting enough from some of the others.
"That’s where the value comes from. When you are going through tough times you just can't have four or five guys play hard and play well, you've got to have everybody. Our guys know that. We've got to keep persevering, stick together and get through it."