DALLAS -- The Dallas Stars had a chance gain some ground in the playoff race, and also finally get that back-to-back monkey off their back, but they came up short on both fronts, falling 3-2 to the Nashville Predators at American Airlines Center Sunday night.
The Stars, who are 1-3-2 over their last six games and 4-5-2 since the All-Star break, remained three points out of a playoff spot with 23 games remaining. The Stars, who have had games in hand on several of the teams they are chasing, are now even in games played with Phoenix, Calgary and Los Angeles.
There’s still ample time left and the deficit isn’t large, but the Stars need to find a way to start stringing some wins together.
“We’ve got to get some kind of consistency with winning, and that point is probably right now,” said Stars defenseman Alex Goligoski. “You say it’s the Phoenix game and then after that you say maybe it’s this one, but right now our desperation level has to be as high as it is going to get.”
The Stars fell to 0-9-2 in the second game of back-to-backs this season. They are the only team in the NHL without a win in the second game of a back-to-back.
“I don’t know. It’s frustrating for sure. It’s something I can’t really explain why,” said Stars defenseman Stephane Robidas. “You look at Phoenix the other day (Feb. 7), they played a back-to-back game in our building and beat us 4-1. There’s no excuse. It’s part of the reality of the NHL, every team goes through back-to-backs and you’ve got to be able to win some of those games, and we haven’t been able to win any so far this year.”
The Stars got off to a good start in Sunday's game, scoring 6:49 into the game to take the early lead. Mike Ribeiro circled out from behind the Nashville net and setup Michael Ryder, who scored from the slot to put the Stars up 1-0.
But Nashville scored two goals late in the first period to take the lead. David Legwand centered the puck from the left boards and Gabriel Bourque deflected it into the net to tie the game with 4:21 left in the first.
The turning point of the game came when Nashville got the game’s first power play with 51 seconds remaining in the period and then scored with 0.2 seconds left when Shea Weber put a rebound past Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen.
The goal came after the Stars won a faceoff in their own zone with 11 seconds left in the period, but couldn’t clear the puck.
“We made a mistake with 11 seconds left. We did not know what our escape route was off that faceoff,” said Gulutzan. “We won it clean and we couldn’t get it out, and that is a mistake that can’t happen. It just can’t happen.”
The goal was a blow to the Stars and a big boost for the Predators.
“That was pretty important,” said Nashville coach Barry Trotz. “Any time you score late in a period or at the start of a period, that’s a big momentum builder. That was huge for us.”
The Predators extended the lead to 3-1 with 3:55 left in the second period on a goal by Colin Wilson, who scored on a nice backhand shot from the slot.
Goligoski pulled the Stars to within 3-2 when scored from the left boards with 4:49 remaining. The Stars got a power play, their only one of the game, with 2:05 remaining but couldn’t take advantage and Nashville held on for the 3-2 victory and to defeat the Stars for the first time in three tries this season.
"It’s good to get the win. We hadn’t played well against Dallas at all this year," said Weber. "We’ve lost twice to them and they weren’t even close games, so it was good to get the win.”
*The Stars were 0-1 on the power play and 1-2 on the penalty kill.
*Toby Petersen was the lone healthy scratch for Dallas.
*Nashville center Mike Fisher missed Sunday’s game due to illness.
*Sunday’s attendance was 11,865.