DALLAS - Despite erasing two separate one-goal deficits, defensive miscues proved costly in Anaheim's season-opening 4-2 loss to the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center on Thursday night. Andrew Cogliano scored both goals for Anaheim, which fell to 6-17-0 in all-time season openers. John Gibson made 16 saves in the defeat.
Stephen Johns, Lauri Korpikoski, Antoine Roussel and Adam Cracknell scored for the Stars, who have earned points in 17 of their last 18 home openers, posting a 13-1-4 record since the 1998-99 campaign.
"These are the frustrating ones when you work hard and do the things you think can give yourself a chance, and then you're lax in an area where you can't be lax," said Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle. "You can't give up three goals from the top of the crease. We didn't have coverage and they scored three goals in tight. We were lax in our coverage and were 0-for-5 on the power play. That's the quickest point I can make on tonight's game."
The first scoring chance of the game came less than a minute into the contest, when Nick Ritchie and Josh Manson rushed up the ice on a 2-on-1. Ritchie elected to take the shot, but Niemi had a clear look at the attempt and managed to turn aside his short-side bid. It was a milestone evening for Manson, who appeared in his 100th career NHL game in the same building as his NHL debut on Oct. 31, 2014 (2-1 OT win).
Seconds later, Anaheim would get the game's first power play when Stars captain Jamie Benn sent a clearing attempt into the stands resulting in a delay-of-game penalty. No harm for the Stars, who killed the penalty with relative ease.
Dallas' high-octane offense kicked into gear at the 3:40 mark of the period when Johns snuck behind Cam Fowler for a backdoor tap-in to give the Stars a 1-0 lead and send the sellout crowd of 18,532 into a frenzy.
With 12 minutes remaining in the first period, Ritchie would again have a 2-on-1 chance, this time with Fowler who elected to wind up a slap shot that Niemi smothered.
Anaheim would get another man advantage midway through the opening frame, this one of the four-minute variety after Stars defenseman Jordie Benn was whistled for a double-minor high-sticking infraction. The opportunity was wasted, however, as the Ducks rarely tested Niemi. Anaheim went 0-for-23 on the power play during the preseason, and has put in considerable work during the practices leading up to this game.
But it wasn't until Ritchie was in the box for cross-checking when Anaheim answered back. Positioned between Jason Spezza and John Klingberg at the point, Cogliano intercepted Spezza's cross-ice pass attempt and rushed in all alone on Niemi. His persistence paid off, as Cogliano buried his own rebound attempt to even the score at one apiece.
"I got lucky," Cogliano said. "I knew he wanted to go across the ice, and I got a good stick on it. I think I surprised Spezz by having my stick there."
The goal was Cogliano's 11th career shorthanded tally with the Ducks, second among all-time franchise leaders and five shy of matching Paul Kariya (16) for the franchise lead.
The Ducks would take a 17-1 shot advantage into the first intermission.
After being limited to a single shot on net through 20 minutes, the Stars began the second period with a sustained attack that paid off in a goal. Signed just three days ago as a free agent, Korpikoski wasted no time endearing himself to the Stars faithful with a wrist shot from the left faceoff dot that seemed to surprise Gibson, who was late to react. The goal, at the 2:43 mark of the period, came on just their third shot of the game.
"Some nights I make those saves, but tonight I didn't seem to make them," said Gibson. "Their guy played better than me, and that's it. There are going to be breakdowns. Sometimes you make them and sometimes you don't."
Dallas' second chance with the extra man came midway through the period after Cogliano was whistled for tripping Patrick Sharp in the high slot. Despite a mad scramble in front of the net that had Gibson flat on his back, the Ducks held firm and kept the deficit to one.
Gibson's biggest save came in the final seconds of the period when he denied Tyler Seguin with a sparkling left pad save. Seguin had broken free from Ryan Kesler and walked in all alone after receiving the pass between the dots.
The third period started with Anaheim tying the game on Cogliano's second goal of the game on a play that started with Jakob Silfverberg's keep-in just inside the blueline. From there, he fed it to Kesler, who made a nifty backhanded pass to Cogliano, who fired it past Niemi on a one-timer in the high slot. Cogliano's two-goal night marked the seventh career multi-goal game of his career.
The Stars would answer right back just 22 seconds later when Roussel snuck behind Sami Vatanen to tap in a rebound past the outstretched Gibson.
Another defensive miscue would haunt the Ducks when they failed to keep tabs on Cracknell, who converted yet another uncontested rebound in front of Gibson to give the Stars a 4-2 lead midway through the third period.
"How can you allow a team to score three from the top of the crease?," said Carlyle. "That's blown coverage and missed assignments that we'll definitely recover from. We'll make sure those don't happen again."
Anaheim's best chance of the period came on Kesler's rebound curl attempt that nearly snuck past Niemi's glove on the power play with four minutes remaining.
The Ducks played the final two minutes of regulation with the extra attacker after Gibson was sent to the bench.
No comeback was in works for Anaheim, which fell 4-2 to the Stars.
"We did enough to score a few more goals, but we didn't," said Cogliano. "I thought it was a weird game in general. We held them to limited shots and did a decent job defensively, but we gave them easy goals and Grade-A chances on breakdowns. I thought we did a lot good things. We just beat ourselves tonight."
NOTES: Making his NHL debut, Jacob Larsson became the fourth youngest Duck (19 years, 5 months, 15 days) to play in an NHL game. Oleg Tverdovsky (18 years, 8 months), Fowler (18 years, 10 months) and Devante-Smith Pelly (19 years, 3 months) are the only younger Ducks to appear.
Simon Despres suffered an upper-body injury in the loss and is being listed as day-to-day. Despres had one shot on goal, one hit and one blocked shot in 16:08 TOI.