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Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Last-place Oilers drill Stars

By Mark Stepneski


Hitting the road didn’t help the banged up, slumping Dallas Stars get back on track. The Stars lost 4-1 Tuesday night to the Edmonton Oilers, who sit at the bottom of the Western Conference. It was the Stars' sixth loss in seven games since the All-Star break.

“With the exception of our goalie tonight, there wasn’t a whole lot of desperation,” Stars captain Brenden Morrow told reporters after the game. “They were the hungrier team. They won more races to pucks. … They worked harder than us to tilt the ice in their favor.”

The Stars are now 1-5-1 since the All-Star break and 2-7-1 over their last ten game games. They were without five regular players for Tuesday’s game: Brad Richards (upper body), Nicklas Grossman (hip), Jamie Benn (shoulder), Adam Burish (orbital bone) and Krys Barch (orbital) bone.

“It’s very frustrating. I don’t think we played at the level we can,” said Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen. “It’s easy to say we have lots of guys hurt, but we are a better team than we’ve shown the last couple weeks.”

The Stars are tied with three other teams at 68 points in the Western Conference and based on tiebreakers they now sit third in the Pacific Division and fifth in the Western Conference. They are just two points ahead of the eighth place team and three points ahead of the ninth and tenth place teams.

“We’re letting things slip away. We’re talking about focusing on the guys we have and not the guys we don’t,” said Morrow. “We’re trying to get experience from young guys and expecting more from them, but in most cases it’s us veteran players that are making mistakes. We need to be better to get ourselves out of this.”

Tuesday’s game opened a three game road trip for the Stars, who have now lost five straight on the road and have been outscored 27-10 in those five games.

The Stars’ allowed Edmonton’s power play, ranked last in the league, to score twice and score a goal as another power play expired. The Stars penalty has allowed 12 goals in the last ten games.

"If our penalty kill works as hard as it needs to, I think that's where the difference is going to be," Crawford said. "You don't kill penalties in this league unless you have a superlative effort, and that's where we can pick things up. Give the Oilers credit, they had a very direct attack on their power play."

Edmonton’s first goal came just as their first power play expired. Sam Gagner made a nice move along the Dallas goal line and backhanded the puck to Jordan Eberle, who scored from close range with 1:58 left in the second period.

The Oilers extended the lead to 2-0 with a second period power play goal by Taylor Chorney, who took a cross-ice pass from Shawn Horcoff and scored off a one-timer from the right circle.

The Stars cut the lead to 2-1 with a power play goal by Loui Eriksson, who took a pass from Jason Williams, split the Edmonton defense and beat Oilers goalie Nikolai Khabibulin with a backhand shot late in the second.

But ten seconds after Eriksson scored the Oilers went on another power play and scored to make it 3-1 when Horcoff took a cross-ice pass from Ales Hemsky and scored from close range with 1:50 left in the second period.

Hemsky scored just 28 seconds into the third period to make it a 4-1 game and basically put it away from the Oilers, who snapped a seven-game winless streak at home and won for just the four time in their last 17 games.

The struggling Stars now head to Calgary, where they’ll take on a Flames team Wednesday that has points in 11 of the last 12 games (11-1-2).

“We have to concentrate on one thing and that is to make sure we work as hard as we absolutely can. And to me that is the only thing we need to focus on,” said Stars coach Marc Crawford. “We’ve got to get it in our mindset that each and every guy putting on the Stars’ uniform is going to be going short, they’re going to be going hard, they’re going to get above the puck, they’re going to work and do things the right way. You do that you keep games close and you give yourselves an opportunity.”