Power-play woes, close calls spell doom
DALLAS -- Brad Richards pumped the pedals on his stationary bike after Wednesday's game, trying to grind the frustration out of his body.
And it wasn't the controversial penalty call in overtime -- Nicklas Grossman was called for delay of game, although it appeared he wasn't in the defensive zone when he flipped the puck into the seats -- that had Richards disappointed.
For the better part of 59 minutes, the Dallas Stars outplayed the Calgary Flames in nearly every facet of the game. But Dallas gave up a one-goal lead with 49 seconds left and lost the game 1:25 into overtime, 3-2. The Stars are 1-6 in games that get past regulation (overtime or shootout).
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"We dominated the game, we were ahead in the game and we're sitting here like this," Richards said. "That can't happen."
It did. The Stars were clearly the better team for most of Wednesday's game. But they let too many opportunities slip away despite outshooting the Flames 40-23. Dallas was 0-for-5 on the power play, including 52 seconds of a 5-on-3 advantage in the first period. The Stars also missed a penalty shot and hit a post.
And they had trouble getting much past Flames goalie Curtis McElhinney, who made 38 saves and stopped a gaggle of good scoring chances.
"He played good, but you have to remember we were leading the game and in control," Richards said. "We lost the game. If we lost the game 1-0, I'd tell you that their goalie stole it. But we were winning the game on home ice. We didn't get it done."
The Stars had too many players near the puck carrier behind the net in overtime, and the puck squirted through to the front, where Daymond Langkow deposited it behind Marty Turco to tie things. In overtime, Grossman sent the puck out of the ice surface and was whistled for delay of game. If officials deem that he deliberately shot the puck out, he can be called for the penalty. Normally, that's called in overtime only if a player does it when in the defensive zone.
Replays show that Grossman was mostly in the neutral zone, with maybe his skates on the blue line. The rule as written does not state whether the puck or the player has to be in the zone.
"I thought I was on the right side," Grossman said. "I felt like I was in the neutral zone. I shouldn't have shot it out anyway. And I should have played it better on the tying goal. I just have to learn from it."
Coach Marc Crawford didn't want to blame the officials or dwell on the loss. He was pleased with his club's improved play after struggling against some teams near the bottom of the standings last week.
"We're disappointed with the loss, but there are a lot of things to be positive about," Crawford said. "I thought this was one of our best home outings, for sure. We did what we wanted to do against Calgary: We got the puck behind the defense. I thought they were on their heels the better part of the night. We generated a number of power-play opportunities. I thought we were the better club in terms of chances generated by a long shot."
The point Crawford was making is that if his team stays aggressive and plays the way it did Wednesday, he's confident the Stars will win most of the time.
Crawford also was pleased that he was able to roll his lines and use his forward depth, which got deeper Wednesday with the return of center Mike Modano and winger Jere Lehtinen. Crawford used Modano on the half-wall on the power play and had him centering a line with Steve Ott and Jamie Benn. That group created some chances, and Modano was flying around the ice. Lehtinen played quality minutes on the penalty kill and was on the ice as the right winger with Brenden Morrow and Mike Ribeiro.
"I felt better than I thought I would be," Modano said. "I think my legs felt better. It was a good start, and I have to get the rhythm of playing every day."
Of course, Modano would have preferred a win in his return. The Stars feel they can get those victories if they play the way they did for most of Wednesday's game.
"We just have to make sure we take better advantage of the chances we get," Ribeiro said.
Richard Durrett covers the Dallas Stars for ESPNDallas.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.