- Mark Stepneski, ESPNDallas.com
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Scoring the first goal wasn’t a formula for success for the Dallas Stars on Tuesday. Neither was scoring the first two goals.
The Stars built a 2-0 lead at American Airlines Center, but couldn’t hold it and fell 6-3 to the San Jose Sharks.
The loss was the second straight for the Stars, who remained in seventh place in the Western Conference with a two-point lead over the ninth place position in the playoff race. The Stars fell to 1-2-1 on their current homestand and to 3-5-2 in their last 10 home games.
“It was a tough game. We obviously didn’t have our best,” said defenseman Stephane Robidas.
The Stars actually did get off to a good start, getting a goal from Mike Ribeiro to take a 1-0 lead early in the second. Jamie Benn made a pretty play to set up a shorthanded goal by Toby Petersen a minute-and-a-half later and the Stars were up 2-0 just 25 minutes into the game.
The Sharks were able to turn things around with special teams play, scoring their first goal just after a power play expired and then tying it with a 5-on-3 power-play goal.
“We thought thus far in the series this year our special teams were second to theirs and tonight they were maybe a hair better,” said Sharks coach Todd McLellan. “Maybe that was the difference.”
A couple of mistakes by the Stars early in the third period and the Sharks had a 4-2 lead.
The Stars got within 4-3, but couldn’t score on two power-play chances late and the Sharks popped in a couple of empty-net goals to finish things off.
“Very often times it is a brief lapse in your play that costs you at this time of the year and that’s something that we’ll have to rectify,” said Stars coach Marc Crawford. “It was a helter-skelter game with all the head hits in the game.”
The Stars losing an important game was one story of the night. The other was the loss of Loui Eriksson, who left the game in the second period after taking a hit in the head area from Sharks defenseman Douglas Murray. There was no penalty on the play and Eriksson immediately left for the Stars’ locker room and did not return.
“That’s one that they’ll have to look at, and I am sure that they will,” Crawford said of the hit. “We’re hopeful that Loui is going to be alright. He is not feeling good right now and we’ll see where he is at tomorrow. It’s always the next day that you’ve got to look to.
“You want to take those hits out of the game. That ends up being something we can’t control and it’s out of our hands now.”
Murray offered this take on the play.
“Well, when it comes to Eriksson, it’s a 50/50 puck,” Murray said. “If he pokes it by him, he’s getting a breakaway, so as far as I remember the situation, I went to play the puck in the body on the same time and I hit him. You never try to hurt a guy, but it’s unfortunate.”
The Stars weren’t happy with a Murray hit on Tomas Vincour in the game and then a Dany Heatley shot on Steve Ott late in the game. There were no calls on the Murray hits, but Heatley did get a minor for interference.
“They missed the Murray one on Vincour. That was definitely an elbow to the head,” said Crawford. “And the one on Heatley that they did get you wonder why it is only two minutes. Again, that’s wondering.”
Said Ott: “Colin Campbell has his hands full, that’s for sure. The Loui Eriksson hit, I think that is prototypical. He’s reaching for the hit. The big guy knows what he is doing. He’s bearing down and finishing the check. He did it again on Vincour and elbowed him right in the face. My head is killing me from the light right now from Dany Heatley’s little cheap shot. If this doesn’t get looked at, I don’t know. I guess when you’re used to being on the other end and being suspended like I have in the past, it’s pretty evident where this stuff should go in a hurry. I don’t care if Heatley makes $10 million or if Murray makes this, it’s time to get this out of the game as fast as we can and protect guys. We’ve got guys in there that are going to be icing heads. You only have one brain, so let’s honestly start figuring something out.”
“Well, obviously he didn’t return,” said McClellan. “He went head first into the glass and he’ll be evaluated tomorrow when we get home and we’ll go from there.”
The teams meet for the final time in the regular season March 31 in San Jose. But the focus for the Stars now is on Chicago, which comes to town Thursday.
“We’ll take [Wednesday] off,” Crawford said. “Our guys need to re-energize right now and they’ll re-energize and we’ll come back on Thursday morning and get prepared for Chicago.”