DALLAS -- The Dallas Stars were just seconds away from a regulation win over the Anaheim Ducks in an important game in the Western Conference playoff, but the puck didn’t bounce their way late in regulation, they gave up an outnumbered chance in the extra period and they ended up falling, 4-3, in overtime Wednesday night at American Airlines Center.
The defeat left the Stars in ninth place, one point behind Anaheim in the race for the final playoff spot in the conference with nine games to go.
“We’re not going anywhere,” said Stars center Brad Richards. “It’s a tough one, but we look at the next one as just as important as this one. Win that and we’re back here smiling and going into another game with the same points-at-all-cost attitude. “
There were few smiles for the Stars after Wednesday’s game. The Stars took a 3-2 lead when Trevor Daley scored with 6:39 left and appeared to be on their way to big regulation victory. But Anaheim’s Teemu Selanne tied the game with 5.4 seconds left after the Ducks got a good bounce. As the puck was winding around the boards it took a strange bounce out of the corner onto the stick of Saku Koivu, who put the puck on net and Selanne scored on the rebound.
“It’s a tough one, but it’s also just a horrendous break. The puck comes around, hits the damn referee and goes to their guy,” said Stars coach Marc Crawford. “What do you do? You don’t plan for the referee to be in the way, he doesn’t plan to be there. Unfortunately, we got a horrendous break with five seconds to go.”
“It was a tough break on the way it bounced, but that’s hockey and we have to move on,” Stars forward Jamie Langenbrunner said. “That’s a team that’s been playing well, but we were in control and had every opportunity to win the game.”
There were no complaints about how the puck bounced in the final minutes from Anaheim’s perspective.
“Obviously I just tried to find somewhere, some spot that nobody else is around and hope the puck is going to come there. Luckily, the puck came there,” said Selanne. "I had already had a chance earlier in the power play to score in the same situation, an empty net but I shot too high. You usually don’t miss two of those. It was good to see the puck coming exactly where I was. Good break there and obviously a huge two points. Got to be happy with that. That’s all that really matters.”
The Ducks won the game in overtime when rookie defenseman Cam Fowler poked the puck away from Richards at the blue line, setting up a two-on-one with Bobby Ryan, and finished it off, scoring from the left circle 1:42 into overtime.
“Bobby gave me a great pass,” Fowler said. “I didn’t really have much work left to do. You put the game on those guys’ sticks and 99 percent of the time, they’re going to come up with a result for you.”
This wasn’t the result the Stars wanted, but they did get a point out of the game and they have another big game coming up Saturday when they take on the Predators in Nashville. Wednesday’s game was called the biggest of the year. Now Saturday’s game is the biggest.
“As hard as it is -- and that’s what we told the guys in there -- as hard as it and as much as this sucks, and believe me it does, you've got to look at the positive side of it,” said Crawford. “We played a real strong game. We battled, we battled a hard team. By all rights we should have won the game and we got a point out of it. All is not lost. We will survive to fight a better day and we move forward.”
“Anytime you win you enjoy it for a bit and then move on and I think it is the same when you have a defeat like tonight,” said Stars defenseman Mark Fistric. “Obviously, it didn’t go the way we wanted and it’s going to suck for a bit, but we’ve got to move on and start preparing because the next nine games are huge for us.”