If the Dallas Stars were hoping to build on Friday’s dramatic win over the Chicago Blackhawks, it didn’t happen Sunday afternoon. The Stars lost 2-1 to the Columbus Blue Jackets at American Airlines Center, falling to 1-4-1 since the All-Star break and to 2-6-1 over their last nine games.
The Stars remain in first place in the Pacific Division but this recent slide has left them just three points ahead of the ninth place team in the Western Conference.
“We’ve got to get our game back consistently,” said Stars center Brad Richards. “It’s going to be a dogfight from here on in. We know that. We’re going to learn from these games and keep building.”
The Stars, who snapped a four-game winless streak by rallying to beat Chicago Friday, got off to a good start on the scoreboard Sunday afternoon. They cashed in on an early power play chance to take an early 1-0 lead when Richards scored from the bottom of the right faceoff circle just 4:36 into the game.
But the Blue Jackets scored 46 seconds later when Matt Calvert banged home the rebound of an Anton Stralman shot off an offensive zone faceoff win. The Blue Jackets controlled the rest of the period, outshooting the Stars 18-6 over the first 20 minutes. Only some great netminding by Kari Lehtonen kept the Stars headed into the first intermission.
“Can’t explain it, but they were a lot more into it in the first period than we were,” said Richards. “We chased the game after that.”
“We scored the first goal, so I don’t think it was a slow start for us,” said Stars coach Marc Crawford. “I thought we were guilty of being too casual for 7-10 minutes and casual play can’t be accepted at this time of the year. We have no one to blame but ourselves for that.”
The Blue Jackets continued to push early in the second period and got a goal from Rick Nash to take a 2-1 lead that would hold up the rest of the game. After taking a long pass from Jakub Voracek, Nash broke in on net and roofed a backhand shot over Lehtonen.
"It was a great pass by Jake, and it was just kind of an old-school backhand up top," said Nash. "I didn't even know it went in at first and I saw everyone raise their hands."
The Stars picked up the pace as the game moved along and would have their chances on that, but they were unable to crack Blue Jackets goalie Steve Mason, who ended up wtih 29 saves in the game. He had a big pad stop on Stephane Robidas with Dallas on the power play in the third period.
“Their goalie made some saves, but I thought our power play could have been a tad more determined,” said Crawford. “We had a couple chances, but there were more to be had.”
The Stars power play was 1-6 in the game and is now 3-33 over the last nine games.
Mason came up big on Steve Ott later in the third, denying Ott’s backhand rebound bid.
"I probably should have had that quick one there on my backhand, the guy made a great save," Ott said. All in all, it was a pretty hard fought game. They had the better of it. Luckily we had Kari playing phenomenal in the first two periods to keep us in it.”
The Stars ended this homestand with a 1-1-1 record. They now head out on a three-game road trip to Western Canada for games against Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver.
“It’s going to another big test for us,” said Ott.
Grossman leaves game with groin injury
Stars defenseman Nicklas Grossman left Sunday’s game early in the first period with groin injury and did not return.
“He has a pulled groin and couldn’t play,” said Stars coach Marc Crawford. “We’ll re-evaluate him tomorrow and hopefully he’ll be ready to go.”
Williams makes debut
Forward Jason Williams, signed to a contract on Saturday, made his debut on Sunday. He played right wing on a line with center Aaron Gagnon and left wing Brian Sutherby. Williams played 7:57 and had no points and no shots on goal.
“I thought he gave us a little bit. He had a couple opportunities to get pucks at the net, to get his shot away,” said Stars coach Marc Crawford. “I think the speed of the NHL, he still adjusting to that after being in the American League. There’s no doubt he’s a smart player and he puts himself in the right position. He’s above the puck all the time. He understands what’s going on out there. I think he’ll help us.”