The turnover bug struck the Dallas Stars again Saturday night, and it cost them an important point in the Western Conference playoff race. Turnovers led to both Phoenix goals, including Radim Vrbata’s game-winner 1:15 into the overtime as the Stars lost 2-1 to the Coyotes at Jobing.com Arena.
“We played hard, but we need results,” said Stars coach Glen Gulutzan. “It’s a results based business and we need results. We need to capitalize and we can’t make a mistake at the end to give away a point.”
After Steve Ott won a defensive zone draw, Stars defenseman Mark Fistric lost the puck behind the Dallas net and Ray Whitney centered the puck to a wide open Vrbata, who got Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen to go down and then lifted the puck over him and into the net.
“Unforced,” Gulutzan said of the turnover. “Gave it away.”
The loss denied the Stars a second consecutive win, and left them with a 4-4-2 record since the All-Star break. The Stars fell five points behind the seventh-seeded Coyotes, but did pull to within three points of eighth place in the Western Conference.
The tough loss spoiled an outstanding effort from Lehtonen, who stopped 31 of 33 shots in the game including all 11 he faced on five Phoenix power plays.
“Both goaltenders were really good, really good,” said Gulutzan. “It was a good hockey game. It’s a shame it had to end that way.”
Phoenix goalie Mike Smith won his seventh straight game, but had his shutout streak snapped at 171 minutes and 26 seconds.
“We gave up too many chances, but Smitty cleaned those up,” said Tippett.
The Coyotes got the only goal of the first period. After an offensive zone turnover by Michael Ryder, the Coyotes had an odd-man rush the other way and Mikkel Boedker scored on a shot from the right circle at the 13:13 mark.
The Stars got the equalizer on the power play in the second period. The Stars had 1:16 of five-on-three time, but couldn’t cash in on the two-man advantage. But while on the remaining five-on-four, Ryder scored on the rebound of a Mike Ribeiro shot at 12:37 of the second.
The Coyotes, who improved to 7-0-1 over their last eight games, stayed within two points of sixth-seeded Chicago.
“Huge points for us tonight, huge points against a team chasing us in the standings,” said Coyotes Dave Tippett. “But we’ve got to find a way to make our game better than what it was tonight.”
For the Stars, they liked the effort but not the result.
“I think we played a really good game. The game could have gone either way,” said Stars defenseman Stephane Robidas.” We had good chances, their goalie played well and they had some good chances and our goalie played well. Overall we’ve got to be pleased with our effort and the way we showed up.
“We would have liked to get the two points, but we’ve got a big game tomorrow night against Nashville at home. We’ve got to forget about this one and move on.”
*The Coyotes clinched the season series with the Stars by improving to 3-0-2 (8 points). The Stars are 2-2-1 (5 points). The teams will play one more time this season.
*The Stars lost in four-on-four overtime for the first time this season. They are now 3-1.
*The Stars were 1-5 on the power play and 5-5 on the penalty kill in the game.
*Ryan Garbutt made his NHL debut for the Stars. He played 5:41, had three shots on goal and three hits.
*Toby Petersen was the lone healthy scratch for Dallas.