Saturday, March 26, 2011
Stars continue to slip in playoff race
By Mark Stepneski
Just about every team in the Western Conference playoff race is on a roll right now. The Dallas Stars are not, and they continue to lose ground in the race to secure a playoff spot.
The Stars’ winless streak hit three games (0-1-2) and their record over the last six games dropped to 1-3-2 as they kicked off a stretch of five straight road games with a 4-2 loss at Nashville on Saturday night.
“I don’t know how many of us realize exactly what the record has been, but I think we all know the situation we’re in,” said Stars captain Brenden Morrow. “We need to collect points and tonight was another missed opportunity. … It feels like we’ve had a lot of those lately.”
The Stars, who remained on the outside looking in at a playoff spot, are two points behind eighth place Chicago. Anaheim moved three points ahead of them Saturday night and both Nashville and Los Angeles pulled six points ahead. The Stars have eight games remaining.
“I’ve said it before and keep saying it, there’s lots of hockey,” Stars center Brad Richards said. “Win or lose tonight, we weren’t in the playoffs. We know that this road trip is a huge part of the season and we’re going to keep battling.”
Saturday’s game in Nashville was typical of the games of late. It was close. The Stars struck first on a power play goal by Alex Goligoski in the first period and the Predators answered with a goal by David Legwand. Mike Fisher put Nashville ahead on goal early in the second when the Stars got scrambling in their own zone. Brenden Morrow countered with a strange goal that bounced in off the head of Predators goalie Pekka Rinne. But a Stars turnover led to second Fisher goal midway through the second that held up as the game-winner.
“Good teams just don’t crack and don’t cheat when things aren’t coming easy,” said Morrow. “They keep doing the right things and keep it routine. Nashville is a team that really sticks with their system and make it hard on you. More times than not the other team starts to get away from their game plan and that was probably a little bit the case tonight.”
The Stars had two power play chances in the third period, including one in the final two minutes of the game but couldn’t cash in on the opportunities. Legwand scored into an empty net with four seconds left to round out the scoring.
“Our work ethic was there tonight. We had guys battling. We made a couple of mistakes and they capitalized on a couple of those plays,” said Stars coach Marc Crawford. “It was a one-goal game. It was exactly what we thought it was going to be, we just ended up on the wrong side of it. We have to keep persevering and we will.”
The loss was the second straight to a team the Stars are chasing in the playoff race. Each labeled a big game, biggest game of the season. Wednesday night it was a heartbreaking 4-3 loss to Anaheim. Saturday night it was another close one, but a loss to Nashville.
“There’s no time to sit and lament and get down on yourself or your team,” Richards said. “We’ve done a lot of good things over the last two weeks, but for whatever reason, it’s not going our way at certain points. If we stay positive, everything could go our way the last eight games and you get all those little breaks or those little turning points and they go your way. You never know what can happen. We’re going to stick with it. We’re not going home tonight thinking anything different than we were going into Wednesday’s game. We’re still right there.”
Burish continues to skate
Stars forward Adam Burish, who missed his sixth game due to a leg injury, traveled with the team to Nashville and skated Saturday morning.
“I feel better again than I did yesterday,” Burish said. “I am going to try to skate here and there and it’s just kind of wondering how I’ll feel tonight and how I’ll feel tomorrow. … I felt how I expected to feel. Do I feel perfect? No. Then again, probably nobody feels perfect. We’ll just see every day if I can skate a little more and if I feel OK I’ll push it a little harder. We’ll see how we go.”
Defensemen Karlis Skrastins (leg laceration) and Nicklas Grossman (knee) both missed their second straight game. Brian Sutherby (back) remains out as well.