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Thursday, February 17, 2011
Hot Flames keep Stars reeling

By Mark Stepneski

The Dallas Stars put themselves in a position to get some points Wednesday night in Calgary, but couldn’t close the deal. The Stars lost a 2-1 lead and fell 4-2 to the Flames, dropping to 1-6-1 since the All-Star break.

“Early in the year we were finding ways to win games. Now we are finding ways to lose games,” said Stars defenseman Stephane Robidas.

The Stars, who are 2-8-1 in their last eleven games, are tied with four other teams at 68 points. Based on tiebreakers they are 7th in the conference and they are now just one point ahead of ninth place Los Angeles.

“We’re missing a lot of guys, but nobody cares in this league who is in the lineup. You still have to go out and get points,” said Stars forward Jamie Langenbrunner, who had a goal and assist in the game. “We know now we’re in a battle for a playoff spot and we know these games are going to keep on ticking by - we got to pick up some points.”

The Stars were outshot 16-3 in the first period, but were only down 1-0 thanks to some solid goaltending from Kari Lehtonen. The Stars bounced back with a solid second period, getting goals from Mike Ribeiro to take a 2-1 lead. The Flames tied the game on a power play goal by Tom Kostopoulos late in the second.

And the Flames took control of the game early in the third period with two goals in a 2:12 span and both of them came from defensemen.

The first goal came at the 2:35 mark of the third when Cory Sarich got a wide open look from the slot and roofed a shot over Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen.

The Stars had chances to get right back into it. A shot from defenseman Stephane Robidas rocketed off the post. Then the Stars went on a power play, but Calgary scored shorthanded to take a two-goal lead. Off the rush Rene Bourque set up Steve Staios, who blasted a shot through Lehtonen from the left faceoff circle.

Stars coach Marc Crawford pulled Lehtonen after that goal and put in Andrew Raycroft and then put Lehtonen back in at the next whistle.

“The shorthanded goal, we can’t make that play,” Crawford said. “The game is there, the game is in the balance and we’ve got to just be smart on that. You’re trying to tie it with 15 minutes to go and you don’t have to. You're trying to tie it with 15 minutes to go and you don't have to. You just have to keep doing things right. We've got to get that through our thick skulls."

Said Langenbrunner: Obviously, it’s bad timing for that. You’re in a tight battle, you have an opportunity on the power play to tie up the game, and you give up a shorthanded goal. Those are back-breakers. You can’t get caught like that. We’re better than that. Those are ones that definitely hurt and just can’t happen.”

It was the tenth shorthanded goal the Stars have allowed this season, tied for the second most in the NHL.

Among those teams now tied with the Stars at 68 points are the Flames, who are 10-1-2 in their last 13 games. Their turnaround in fortunes hasn’t gone unnoticed by the Stars.

“Obviously there are not a whole lot of positives when you are on a losing streak. We’ve just got to keep working hard,” said Robidas. “We’re going through adversity right now and it’s going to make our team stronger. Every team goes through it. Look at Calgary, earlier in the year they were one of the worst teams in the league and look where they are at right now.”

Notes

*Stars center Brad Richards, who has missed the last two games with an upper body injury, will not join the Stars for the rest of the road trip, a team official said. Richards will stay in Dallas to rest and workout.

*Defenseman Nicklas Grossman (hip) missed his second straight game.

*Texas Stars defenseman Severin Blindenbacher cleared unconditional waivers Wednesday, clearing the way for him to head back to Europe.