Coming into tonight’s matchup, the Dallas Stars (37-28-11) had a great opportunity to create a bit of breathing room in the Western conference playoff picture. They faced off against the Carolina Hurricanes (34-32-11) who sit 14th in the Eastern conference and who are just about finished in their pursuit for the playoffs. So the Stars, with everything to play for, were going to go into Raleigh and take 2 points from the Canes, who oddly enough have nothing to play for, right? Instead, the Stars lost 4-1 to the Hurricanes who got a pair of goals on the powerplay from John-Michael Liles and Justin Faulk, as well as single tallies from Captain Eric Staal and third line centre Riley Nash.
Dallas came out like a team who wanted and needed 2 very important points in their chase to get back to the playoffs for the first time in 5 seasons. However, only 6 seconds in they lost former Hurricane Ray Whitney to an apparent lower body injury when he went awkwardly into the boards just infront of the Carolina bench. The Stars carried the play in the first period and peppered Hurricane goaltender Anton Khudobin with 13 first period shots. Numerous excellent opportunities for Vern Fiddler, Alex Chiasson, and Dustin Jeffrey went for not as the Stars failed to capitalize on a very dominant first period. Shot totals resembled the play at the end of the period as the Stars lead 13-8.
After a very upbeat first period for the Stars, they began to sag a little bit in the second. Carolina started getting scoring opportunities on Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen and eventually scored a miraculous goal when the puck was deflected 13-feet in the air and fell behind Lehtonen for the game’s first goal. Eric Staal was credited with the gift, Liles and Dwyer the assists. Less than 2 minutes later, Stars rookie defenceman Patrik Nemeth swatted the puck out of play and sent the Hurricanes to their first powerplay of the night. Justin Faulk would end up cashing in on the powerplay with his 5th tally of the season on a rocket from the blueline. Just less than 3 minutes after the Hurricanes had grabbed a 2-0 lead, Nemeth found himself on the wrong end of a hooking penalty and was sequestered again. The Canes would make the game 3-0 on the ensuing powerplay as Liles would score his 2nd goal of the year off the half wall as Eric Staal screened Lehtonen in front. Lehtonen would be pulled in favour of Tim Thomas after allowing a 3rd goal in less than 8 minutes. Dallas gained some jump off the goaltending switch and replied shortly after with a Tyler Seguin wrister for his 34th of the season, assists going to Nichushkin and Daley. The rest of the 2nd period was played fairly even and Dallas had many chances to get within one goal, but Khudobin had an answer for all their bids. Seguin would draw a penalty with 12 seconds left in the 2nd period to give the Stars a fresh sheet of ice and a man advantage to begin the 3rd.
Dallas started the period with a 5 on 4 advantage for 1:48 and failed to find the back of the net as Khudobin put up the wall yet again. The Stars best chance came off the rush when Jamie Benn snuck a succulent saucer pass over to Chiasson who was then unable to beat Khudobin. The Hurricanes put the game away for good when Riley Nash picked up a puck in the high slot and roofed it over Tim Thomas for his 10th of the season minutes after Chiasson was robbed. The Stars proceeded to pull Thomas with 2 minutes left in the game hoping for a miracle, but it was all for not as the Hurricanes nailed down a 4-1 win.
Dallas will take on Tampa Bay in their next game, Saturday April 5th, in St.Peterseburg. Lightning won the last matchup 4-2.
Notes & Observations
-Erik Cole missed his 4th consecutive game with an apparent upper-body injury. Lindy Ruff said he is progressing well and expects him to be available either Saturday in Tampa Bay or Sunday in Sunrise against the Panthers
-Ray Whitney did not return to the game and will be re-evaluated tomorrow.
-Stars finished the game with a 34-32 shot advantage despite the lopsided score
-Dallas was dominated in the faceoff circle yet again, as all four Hurricanes centres were well over 50%.
-Ever since Rich Peverley has been sidelined with a heart problem, the Stars have dropped from 6th to 14th in the league in faceoff win percentage