Feb 7, 2012; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Stars left wing Loui Eriksson (21) screens Phoenix Coyotes goalie Mike Smith (41) as defenseman Derek Morris (53) defends during the first period at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-US PRESSWIRE

Rapid Reaction: Coyotes Hand Stars Disappointing 4-1 Loss

What Happened:

The Stars and Phoenix Coyotes both entered the game fresh off victories, and on the heels of the Minnesota Wild for the eight and final playoff spot. With valuable points at stake, both teams wanted to strike quick and early. Unfortunately, a screened Kari Lehtonen had no chance when a Keith Yandle rocket from the blue line deflected off of Alex Goligoski and into the net. The fluke goal would prove to be the only one of the first period, giving the Coyotes a 1-0 lead into the middle frame. The Stars wasted no time in tying the game. 2:34 into the second period Michael Ryder ended his scoring drought with his 19th tally of the season, evening up the score at 1-1. Lehtonen followed up that Stars goal with a highlight reel save that should make it on some best of lists at the end of the year. The Dallas momentum continued into a four-minute power play, but despite numerous chances, the Stars could not convert. The Coyotes took the broken momentum of the Stars and converted it to momentum of their own, putting pressure and shots on goal leading to a predictable Radim Vrbata goal, giving the Coyotes the lead once again, taking the 2-1 score into the third period. The Coyotes never let up and added a decisive third goal from Raffi Torres 5:40 into the final frame, bringing the Phoenix lead to 3-1. The dagger was added with four minutes to go courtesy of Derek Morris, ending the game with a 4-1 score.

What It Means: 

Not to be a sensationalist, but this is the type of game we could look back on at the end of February and say “that’s where it started, where the Stars couldn’t win the big games”. Again, this game could mean nothing in the long run, but there is no hiding from the fact that the Stars let two incredibly important points slip from their grasp and into the hands of a team they are directly competing with for a playoff spot. Due to a Minnesota Wild loss, the winner of this game jumps into a tie for that eight playoff spot, and it’s the Coyotes, not the Stars. Missed chances, blown coverage, emotionless play. There’s a multitude of problems that were present in this game tonight, and it’s just further proof that this is still a team looking for the recipe for success. The Stars lean far too heavily on the play of Kari Lehtonen, and there’s going to be nights like tonight where no matter what he does, it just won’t be enough. The Stars are now sitting in 10th place with a long road in front of them, but with the playoffs still very much in their grasp. Other game notes:

  • Michael Ryder scored his team-leading 19th goal of the season, ending a 13-game scoreless drought.
  • Philip Larsen tallied an assist on the Ryder goal, giving him 4 points over his last 6 games. Despite a rough game tonight, playing with Alex Goligoski seems to be a perfect matching, with both finding their offensive touch.
  • The Coyotes improved to a near-pristine 21-1-0 when leading after two periods.
  • To the surprise of no one, the Stars went 0/4 on the power play. Including a double minor that would have shifted the momentum of the game. When will the Stars find a solution?

What’s Next:

The Stars have a day off before embarking on a two-game back to back series versus the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Buffalo Sabres. Given the Stars horrendous record in the second night of a back to back this year, the Stars have no choice but to pick up a win Thursday night against a Blue Jackets team that is coming off a huge victory against the Wild, and has won two games in a row for just the second time this season. The Stars have had a bit of a problem beating the supposed worst teams in the league this year, and with two games against two cellar dwelling teams, the Stars need to shirk the trend and pick up four points. The Puck drops at 6:00pm and will be televised on FS-SW.

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Tags: Jamie Benn Kari Lehtonen Keith Yandle Loui Eriksson Michael Ryder Mike Smith Philip Larsen Radim Vrbata Ray Whitney Shane Doan

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