The Dallas Stars gave the San Jose Sharks all they could handle Saturday night. The Stars put 46 shots on goal, built a 2-0 lead by early in the second period, but they couldn’t hold on as the Sharks rallied for a 3-2 shootout victory at SAP Center.
"We had some great opportunities and we could've put the game away in the second period,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “We didn't get much luck, we had a quick whistle and that hurt us. We had some great opportunities where [Sharks goaltender Alex Stalock] made some good saves, we had some great opportunities where we missed the net. Even in the third after the first couple of minutes. You come in here and win the faceoff battle and get over 40 shots. I thought we really skated well."
Ray Whitney and Antoine Roussel scored for the Stars. Kari Lehtonen stopped 37 of 39 shots in the game and then four of five in the shootout.
“It’s always frustrating to lose, but tonight it is really deep,” said Roussel. “For us it's a learning curve still. We played a great game, we had 40 shots, we were in their face, we got great bounces in front of the net. [But we] didn't capitalize. It's tough.”
The Stars, already missing three defensemen, suffered yet another injury on the blue line. Sergei Gonchar took a puck to the head in the second period, left the game and did not return.
“He’s alright,” said Ruff. “He just took that puck to the face and isn’t feeling well, so he has to stay out for a while probably.”
The Stars, 2-0-1 in their last three games and 3-1-1 over the last five, moved to within five points of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Jason Demers and Joe Pavelski scored in regulation for the Sharks. Joe Thornton scored the only goal of a five-round shootout. Stalock stopped 44 of 46 shots in regulation and overtime and then stopped all five shots he faced in his first career NHL shootout as the Sharks ran their home points streak to eight games (7-0-1).
"You have to give that team credit. They can skate, they make it difficult on you. They play four lines that can all compete. They made it tough on us,” Sharks coach Todd McLellan said of the Stars. “We talked about a few things between the second and third, small adjustments, and then went after them. I thought our penalty kill was very good tonight, very important part of the game. Alex was put in a tough situation, hasn't played for a while, but he delivered a very good night."
The Stars killed off an early San Jose power play and then a little more than a minute later scored to take a 1-0 lead when Ray Whitney beat Stalock with a backhand shot from the left faceoff dot at the 4:48 mark.
“In the big picture, where I was standing, I liked how we played,” said Lehtonen. “It's always tough to come here, especially in the first period. We were on the penalty kill there early and that's not a good sign usually but we were able to fight that off and get a goal. After that, I felt like it was our game."
The Stars extended their lead to 2-0 at 4:47 of the second with a penalty call coming on the Sharks. After Cody Eakin carried the puck from the Stars zone into the Sharks end, Alex Goligoski put the puck on net from the right wing and it deflected in off Roussel.
“It went off my skate,” said Roussel. “It was a great pass from Goose.”
The Sharks stepped up the pressure after the goal, and Lehtonen came up with big saves on the Tommy Wingels and then on Patrick Marleau.
The Stars thought they had a 3-0 lead when Colton Sceviour poked a loose puck in the crease past Stalock at the 8:17 mark of the second, but the referee had lost sight of the puck and had ruled the play dead.
Stalock came up big with a save on Whitney midway through the second to keep it a 2-0 game. A little more than two minutes later the Sharks cut the Stars’ lead to 2-1 with a goal off the rush. Tyler Kennedy set up Demers, who scored from the slot at the 11:47 mark.
Stars forward Erik Cole hit the crossbar early in the third, and shortly after that the Sharks went on their third power play of the game. The Stars killed off the power play, but less than 30 seconds later Pavelski scored off a backhand shot from the slot to tie the game 2-2 with 15:36 remaining in the third.
The score stayed 2-2 the rest of regulation and through overtime, sending the two teams to a shootout. Thornton scored in the fifth round for San Jose, beating Lehtonen with a snap shot. Stalock stopped Tyler Seguin, Rich Peverley, Jamie Benn, Cole and Whitney.
The Stars now head to Los Angeles, where they’ll play the Kings on Monday in their final game before the NHL’s holiday break.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.