Stars fall in San Jose, slip out of playoff spot

With three games left in the season the Dallas Stars are now on the outside looking in at a playoff spot. The Stars fell to ninth place in the Western Conference Saturday, falling 3-0 to the Sharks in San Jose.

The Sharks, who entered the game one point behind the Stars, started strong, scoring in the first minute of the game and controlling play for most of the night.

“We needed to put more pucks on their net, create some more residual chances there. They had a lot of jump and did it to us,” Stars coach Glen Gulutzan said. “They got that one early and it kind of set us back. The early jump was kind of the difference.”

Sharks center Joe Thornton set up a wide open Joe Pavelski, who beat Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen with a shot from the slot just 58 seconds into the game to give San Jose an early 1-0 lead.

The Stars put the Sharks on three power play s in the first period and San Jose cashed in on the third one. Martin Havlat set up Jason Demers, who scored from the left circle late in the period to give the Sharks a 2-0 lead.

It was not the first period the Stars needed.

“Our start, for one thing. I think they doubled up on us in shots early in the game. We wanted to be disciplined and stay out of the penalty box. We didn’t do that. They made us pay on the power play,” Stars captain Brenden Morrow said. “Playing with more desperation. Our backs are against the wall. It was kind of a must win for us and we didn’t get the start we needed.”

Pavelski added another goal in the second period. Antti Niemi stopped a total of 22 shots for the Sharks, who outshot the Stars 34-22 in the game.

“It was the biggest game of the year for us,” Thornton said. “We started well and I though we competed hard all the way through. It was a good job by us.”

The Stars have lost six of their last nine games and went 1-3-0 on their just concluded four-game road trip. They fell to 1-11-2 in the second games of back-to backs.

“I was a little bit worried about this game coming in. We’ve never been good in back-to-backs,” Gulutzan said. “The whole road trip, I was most disappointed with the Calgary game (5-4 loss). We’d be sitting in a different situation in a winnable hockey game.”

The Stars are one point behind the eighth place Sharks, who will be at American Airlines Center Tuesday to conclude the home-and-home series.

“We’ve got to move on. We’ve got a big game against this team Tuesday,” Gulutzan said. “Our fate is in our own hands, still, and at this juncture of the season that is what you have to focus on.”

The Stars have three games remaining and it’s a tough schedule. They host San Jose onTuesday, play at Nashville on Thursday and then wrap up the season with a game against St. Louis on Saturday at American Airlines Center.

“We are where we are and, like I said, we still control our own destiny,” Gulutzan said. “We don’t need someone to beat somebody else. We just need to win our last three games.”

And that quest starts Tuesday with the rematch against the Sharks.

“We’ve just got to bounce back,” Dallas defenseman Stephane Robidas said. “We’ve got to learn from what we did wrong tonight. We’re playing the same team, so it should be fresh in our memory. It won’t be a different system, we know how they play and what they’re trying to do. It’s a good team, but it’s a team we can beat.”


*Stars defenseman Mark Fistric returned to the lineup after missing the last five games with an abdominal strain.

*Stars forward Toby Petersen was in the lineup after being a healthy scratch the past 15 games. He played 4:46 in the game.

*Radek Dvorak (ankle), Eric Nystrom (leg) and Tom Wandell (illness) were out for Dallas.

*Reilly Smith, Adam Pardy and Jordie Benn were healthy scratches for Dallas.