Over the past two weeks, the Dallas Stars have lost their grip on top spot in the Pacific Division but currently sit 8th in the Western Conference. As the Stars return to full health and mesh together as a group, they will have a strong a chance at climbing the ladder in a tight Western Conference playoff race.
A 4-3 shootout victory over the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks seemed to be a step in the right direction as Dallas halted a four-game slide. It was a return for former Stars' goalie Marty Turco who was given a warm reception by the American Airlines Center crowd. Despite Chicago scoring three unanswered goals, the Stars battled back.
Langenbrunner and Wandell fight for a puck against the Blackhawks.
Late in the second period, Stephane Robidas began the fight-back scoring his fourth goal of the year. Dallas went on the power-play and Brad Richards unleashed a cannon shot for his twenty-third goal of the season just before the second intermission. The Stars continued to keep up the pressure and less than a minute into the third period, Captain Brenden Morrow was credited with a peculiar goal that bounced past Turco. It was his twenty-fourth of the season as Jamie Langenbrunner picked up his fourteenth assist.
Neither team could pull ahead in overtime and the game entered a shootout. Morrow and Richards both converted their chances but Blackhawks' sniper Patrick Kane missed wide. Mike Ribeiro's wrist-shot eluded Turco to win the game.
"It was huge. We're going through a little patch here that hasn't been fun. We're down 3-0 in a sold out building and it wasn't too pretty for a bit. We've done that a lot this year. People around us have maybe started to doubt but we in here, we keep plugging away. It's not ideal how we did it tonight. Maybe it'll get us back going," Richards said post-game.
Before Sunday's game against the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Stars signed free agent winger Jason Williams who was a member of the Detroit Red Wings' 2002 team that claimed the Stanley Cup. Williams was brought in to add some experience and depth as the Stars were without many regulars due to injury. Richards gave Dallas the early first period lead as he scored on the power-play. It was his twenty-fourth of the season. About a minute later the Blue Jackets tied the game through Matt Calvert's effort.
Langenbrunner sets a screen in front of Columbus' Steve Mason.
Nicklas Grossman was forced out of the game due to a groin injury, leading Head Coach Marc Crawford to mix and match defensemen. Rick Nash gave Columbus a 2-1 second period lead that the Blue Jackets did not relinquish. The Stars were heavily out-shot but Kari Lehtonen did everything he could to keep Dallas in the game by making 37 saves. The Stars were dealt another bad blow late in the game when Richards had to leave the ice with an undisclosed injury that was later determined to be a concussion.
Without their leading scorer, Dallas traveled to Edmonton to begin a three-game trip to Western Canada. It was a night to forget as the Oilers cruised to a 4-1 victory. Loui Eriksson provided the lone highlight for the Stars as he scored his nineteenth goal of the year as Williams picked up his first point since joining Dallas with an assist. At their next stop in Calgary, the Stars suffered a similar result to the Flames. Olli Jokinen gave the Flames the first period lead with a tipped-in effort.
The Stars found success in the second period as Ribeiro evened the contest and minutes later Langenbrunner's sixth of the season gave Dallas a 2-1 lead. It was Ribeiro's eleventh goal of the year while Langenbrunner capped a two-point night by notching his fifteenth assist. Before the second intermission, Calgary was able to draw level through a Tom Kostopoulos power-play goal.
After scoring, Langenbrunner and his teammates gather to celebrate the goal.
It wasn't Dallas' night as the Flames scored twice in the third period, marching on to a 4-2 victory. Veteran Stephane Robidas was able to reach a career landmark by his participating in his 700th career NHL game that evening.
A difficult match-up against the Western Conference leading Vancouver Canucks followed. James Neal found his twenty-first goal to even the contest before the close of the first period but it was all downhill from there. Leading NHL point-getter Daniel Sedin and his brother Henrik put on a show by combining for seven points. Dallas crashed the net late in the third period as Brenden Morrow collected his twenty-fifth goal of the season while Langenbrunner took his assist mark to sixteen. Vancouver soon scored two goals in quick sucession to put the game out of reach as Canucks out-shot the Stars 38-24 in their 5-2 victory.
Recent losses to Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver proved that the Stars needed to shake up their roster. Dallas was outscored 13-5 over that stretch and General Manager Joe Nieuwendyk sought to address the issue. He moved talented left-winger James Neal and defenseman Matt Niskanen to the Pittsburgh Penguins to acquire a two-way defenseman in Alex Goligoski. Like Langenbrunner and Williams before him, Goligoski continues the trend of players brought in with Stanley Cup credentials, as he was a member of the Penguins' 2009 championship roster.