Just one month ago, the Dallas Stars were in the midst of an impressive winning stretch and appeared to be on their way to a Pacific Division title. My, how things have changed.
The surging San Jose Sharks have raced to the top of the Pacific, while the Stars have been stumbling down the stretch.
The Sharks look for their 15th win in 17 games Thursday when they host the Stars, who are trying to avoid losing five straight for the first time in more than four years.
On Feb. 28, the Stars (42-29-5) defeated Chicago 7-4 to win for the 13th time in 15 games. Dallas had an eight-point lead over second-place Anaheim in the Pacific, and was just three points behind Western Conference-leading Detroit.
Since the calendar turned to March, however, the Stars have gone just 1-7-0 and fallen all the way to third in the division and to sixth in the West.
San Jose (45-21-10), meanwhile, was nine points back of Dallas on Feb. 28, but is now atop the Pacific with a four-point lead over the second-place Ducks and an 11-point advantage over the third-place Stars.
The Sharks have risen to the top of the division behind a 14-0-2 run, which includes a franchise-record 11-game winning streak. They have not suffered a regulation loss since Feb. 20 at New Jersey.
San Jose is coming off a 5-4 overtime loss at Phoenix on Tuesday despite Joe Thornton's first hat trick of the season.
"We had 14 good ones in a row, and I guess we had a bad one (against Phoenix)," Thornton said. "It shows we're only human."
Thornton has seven goals and 14 assists in his last 16 games, and has two goals and six assists in six games against the Stars this season.
|San Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton, middle, notched his first hat-trick of the season this past Tuesday in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Paul Connors)
San Jose goaltender Evgeni Nabokov stopped 22-of-26 shots on Tuesday before being pulled midway through the second period. It was just the second time in his last 16 games that Nabokov, who is 12-0-1 with a 1.92 goals-against average since Feb. 21, had allowed more than three goals in a game.
Nabokov has been in net for each game against the Stars this season, going 3-3-0 with a 2.82 GAA.
Dallas has won all three games at San Jose this season, and its last six trips to HP Pavilion.
The Stars lost to Los Angeles 4-2 on Saturday on another third-period collapse.
Dallas allowed three third-period goals on Saturday, has been outscored 11-0 in the third in its last six games and yielded eight goals in the final period during its current four-game losing streak. The Stars have not lost five straight games since Nov. 30-Dec. 10, 2003.
"It's a cliche, but it's a 60-minute game," Dallas center Steve Ott said. "Fifty-five minutes isn't good enough. For some reason we're not finishing out games."
Left wing Niklas Hagman, who is third on the Stars with 25 goals, has no points in eight games this month after scoring five goals in the final six February contests. He has two goals and two assists in his last four games versus San Jose.
Marty Turco stopped 26 shots against the Kings, as he fell to 1-7-0 with a 2.39 GAA and one shutout in March after going 10-2-0 with a 2.00 GAA and a shutout in his previous 12 games. Turco is 3-2-1 with a 2.49 GAA against the Sharks this season, and has posted a 1.49 GAA and one shutout in winning his last six starts in San Jose.