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Friday, March 23, 2012
Loss drops Stars to eighth in Western Conference

By Mark Stepneski

DALLAS -- The Dallas Stars started Thursday in third place in the Western Conference. They ended it in third place in the Pacific Division and barely in a playoff spot. It’s a sign of just how tight the playoff race in the West is.

The Stars, who have lost three of four games, are now in eighth place in the Western, just percentage points ahead of ninth place Colorado and one point ahead of tenth place San Jose.

“Maybe it is a good reality check of how delicate these next eight games are going to be,” said Stars coach Glen Gulutzan.

With the Stars and Canucks playing for the third time in less than a month, things weren't exactly delicate on the ice and a lot of it happened after the whistle, which didn’t play into the Stars’ hands.

“I didn’t think our focus was high. Our game plan at the start was to keep the pace high, stay whistle to whistle,” Gulutzan said. “We wanted to get things deep and go after them. In the first few minutes (Cory) Schneider stood the test and made some real good saves. Then we lost focus. We wanted to get involved in an extracurricular game, some of the exchanges, the penalties and the frustration level was way too high. ... You have to be methodical and focused this time of year. You can’t be up and down like a yo-yo with your emotions."

That extracurricular stuff might have played into the hands of the Canucks, who had played the night before in Chicago.

“It kind of ruins the flow of the game, especially against a team coming off a back-to-back,” said Stars defenseman Alex Goligoski. “Don’t’ want to slow that game down all night, so I think we fell into that a little bit.”

The Stars started strong, creating some early scoring chances but Schneider made strong saves on a Mike Ribeiro redirection and a hard shot by Loui Eriksson from the slot.

The Canucks took the lead at 4:46 of the mark when Henrik Sedin sent a pass from the right boards that was tipped by Don Hamhuis to a wide open Mason Raymond, who scored from close range to give the Canucks the early lead.

The Stars had a chance to tie in the second when Ribeiro was awarded a penalty shot, but Schneider turned away Ribeiro’s bid to keep the Canucks ahead.

“I wasn’t really sure what he was going to do with it. But got him pretty tight and don’t know if he was trying to go past my blocker or through my arm, but stayed with him and made the save,” Schneider said.

The Canucks were able to extend the lead to 2-0 early in the third period when Raymond set up Kevin Bieksa, who had his first shot stopped by Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen but then put his own rebound into the net.

The Stars scored with just over 12 minutes remaining when Schneider came out of the net to play the puck, but it bounced over his stick and Vernon Fiddler put it into the net to make it a 2-1 game.

But the Stars could never get the equalizer on Schneider, who stopped 25 shots to improve to 17-7-1 on the season.

“Gave us a chance to win, played well, moved the puck well, everything you could ask from a goalie,” said Bieksa.


*The Stars were 0-3 on the power play in the game and had no shots on their chances with the man-advantage.

*Stars defenseman Mark Fistric missed Thursday’s game with an abdominal strain. He is expected to miss at least one week.

*Toby Petersen, Ryan Garbutt, Tomas Vincour and Jordie Benn were healthy scratches for Dallas.

*Canucks forward Daniel Sedin missed Thursday’s game with a head injury suffered Wednesday when he was elbowed by Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith.

*Thursday’s attendance was 16,618.