Saturday, March 31, 2012
Stars fall in Vancouver, crucial series with Sharks up next
By Mark Stepneski
In a tight playoff race and needing points, the Dallas Stars couldn’t find a way to get any in Vancouver on Friday night, falling 5-2 to the Canucks. But they’ve got to put the loss behind them and move on to San Jose, where they open a crucial home-and-home series with the Sharks Saturday night.
“We need to find a way to regroup. We have a big home-and-home against San Jose. We’ve got to focus on that,” said Stars forward Steve Ott. “We’ve got to kick the loss as soon as we can and move on to the next game because there are only four games left.”
Friday’s loss in Vancouver knocked the Stars out of first place in the Pacific Division and third in the Western Conference to seventh in the West. They trail Los Angeles, a 4-1 winner in Edmonton Friday night, by one point in the division and lead the ninth place San Jose Sharks by one point.
“We have a chance to control our own destiny and that starts tomorrow,” said Stars forward Jake Dowell. “We’ll be glum about this tonight, but tomorrow we’ll get back at it.”
The Stars had a chance to enhance their destiny Friday night, but Vancouver Canucks goaltender Cory Schneider wouldn’t have any part of it. He turned in a stellar performance, stopping 28 of 30 shots to lead Vancouver past the Stars.
“I thought we played well. We had chances. Five-on-five I thought we were going real good, but once again (Cory Schneider) was real good and made good saves on us,” said Stars coach Glen Gulutzan. “You run it into that every now and then. Goalies win you games and our goalie has won us enough this year. I thought it was a pretty equal game, but Schneider withstood the test. … We played well. We just didn’t get anything to go and we made a few mistakes that cost us. You can’t do that against Vancouver.”
The Stars played a strong first period, outshooting the Canucks 13-8. But the Canucks scored the only goal of the period. Jannik Hansen set up Chris Higgins, who beat Kari Lehtonen with a quick shot from the slot at the 6:43 mark.
Cory Schneider, who got the start in goal because Roberto Luongo had some stiffness in his neck, was sharp in the first, making several nice stops to keep the Stars off the scoreboard.
The Stars drew even early in the second period, when Ott scored off the rebound of a Jamie Benn shot at the 3:16 mark.
But Schneider kept the Stars from taking the lead with some big saves while the Stars were shorthanded. He stopped Ott busting in on net and then made a spectacular toe save on Loui Eriksson during Vancouver’s second power play of the game.
He then stopped Vernon Fiddler’s point blank shorthanded attempt during the Canucks third power play of the game. But the Canucks ended up taking the lead on that power play when Sami Salo scored on a blast from the right point at the 11:01 mark. A little more than five minutes later, Vancouver defenseman Andrew Alberts took a pass from Henrik Sedin and scored from the left circle to make it a 3-1 game.
“That’s why the goaltender is there. He was able to keep us in the game until we were able to score a couple of goals,” said Canucks coach Alain Vigneault.
The Canucks extended their lead to 4-1 at 9:06 of the third when Sedin set up Alex Burrows, who scored from close range. A short time later the Stars pulled goalie Kari Lehtonen, to rest his for Saturday’s crucial game in San Jose.
Richard Bachman took over in net and Vancouver’s Maxim Lapierre cashed in on a wide open look from the slot to make it a 5-1 game.
Dowell scored a late goal to make it a 5-2 final.
*The Stars ended the season 14-6-0 against the Northwest Division.
*Stars forward Reilly Smith, playing in his second NHL game, played 7:47 and had one shot on goal. He started the game on the fourth line, but in the third period was bumped up to the second line with Jamie Benn and Steve Ott.
*Mark Fistric (abdominal strain), Radek Dvorak (ankle) and Eric Nystrom (leg) were out for Dallas.
*The Stars were 0-1 on the power play and 2-3 on the penalty kill in the game.