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Stars Fall to Sharks, 5-2

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

The Dallas Stars had a chance to pull to within two points of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference Thursday night, but when the night was over they found themselves six points off the pace. In a big four-point game with the San Jose Sharks, the Stars came out on the wrong end, falling 5-2 at American Airlines Center.

San Jose (30-22-8) moved into the final playoff spot in the West with the win, moving two points ahead of Los Angeles and extending their lead over the Stars (27-23-8) to six points.

"It's a good hockey club over there. We're both jockeying for some position, so it's a tough one to lose,” Stars defenseman Trevor Daley said. “We have to put it in the past."

The Stars, who talked about getting off to a good start and jumping on the Sharks early, found themselves down 1-0 three minutes into the game and in a 3-0 hole by the 26-minute mark.

"When you give a team a lead like that, you know it's going to be hard to come back,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. “I liked the fight. We had trouble with the hands. We missed opportunities.”

Trevor Daley and Erik Cole scored for the Stars, who outshot San Jose 39-28. Kari Lehtonen started in goal but was pulled six minutes into the second period after allowing three goals on 17 shots. Jhonas Enroth played the rest of the way and stopped all nine shots he faced.

"I don't think any of those goals you can fault Kari,” Ruff said. “It was just a little momentum change.”

The Sharks, who had surrendered 26 goals in their past six games, were better defensively for the most part Thursday night. The win was just their second in the past seven games (2-4-1).

“Better, more responsible, less risk,” Sharks coach Todd McLellan said of his team’s defensive effort. “Still spent time in our zone, but that’s going to happen. I thought when we got up 3-0, we focused so much on that area of the game that we took our foot off the gas a little bit and then they got some momentum on their power play. I think they had three in a row where we had to kill, but it was improved, and the goaltender (Antti Niemi) played a tremendous game as well.”

The Sharks struck 3:24 into the game when defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic joined the rush and tipped in a centering pass from Logan Couture.

The Sharks extended the lead to 3-0 with a couple of goals early in the second period, chasing Lehtonen from the goal. A Tomas Hertl shot from the right boards deflected off Andrew Desjardins’ stick and past Lehtonen at the 3:38 mark.

"It was one of those things. I saw the lane, I think I just kind of got lucky to be honest with you. I lost it for a second, and it hit my stick and went in,” Desjardins said. “It was a great shot by Hertl. It might have been going in either way. I don't think [Lehtonen] saw it.”

Desjardins beat a screened Lehtonen with a shot from the slot at the 6:14 mark. Enroth took over in net after that goal.

The Stars got on the board less than two minutes later by cashing in on their first power play. Benn took the puck to the net and Daley scored off the ensuing scramble to make it a 3-1 game at the 8:00 mark of the second.

The Stars had a 15-4 shots advantage in the third period and two power play chances, but couldn’t cut into the San Jose lead until 2:16 remaining when Benn set up Cole, who scored from the slot to make it a 3-2 game. But San Jose sealed the win with empty net goals by Patrick Marleau and Tommy Wingels.

“We’re going to move on here,” Benn said. We’ve got another big game coming up Saturday (vs Detroit) and Sunday (at Minnesota). We can’t be dwelling on this one.”

Garbutt benched for penalty; Ranford makes NHL debut

*Stars forward Ryan Garbutt took an elbowing penalty 13 minutes into the second period, and Stars coach Lindy Ruff sat the Dallas forward the rest of the night. The Stars were down 3-1 at the time, and the penalty gave San Jose a chance to extend the lead. The Sharks didn’t score, but Ruff didn’t like the penalty and sent a message by not playing Garbutt another shift.

“That can't happen,” Ruff said. “That can't happen this time of year. He didn't just hurt himself. He hurt 19 teammates on that play."

*Brendan Ranford made his NHL debut Thursday, registering no points in 9:19 of playing time for the Stars. Ranford had two shot attempts and two hits in the game.

“I liked Ranford’s game,” Ruff said. “I thought he showed some composure with the puck. He had a good scoring opportunity in the first period.”

*Stars forward Ales Hemsky missed his third straight game with a lower body injury, but Ruff said there is a good chance Hemsky will play Saturday vs. Detroit.

“He was close today so he’ll probably be a player on Saturday,” Ruff said. “Back-to-back, I don’t know but he should be a player Saturday.”

*The Stars assigned defenseman Patrik Nemeth to the Texas Stars of the AHL on Thursday. Nemeth, who has been out since Oct. 18 with an arm laceration, will get some games in the AHL to prepare for his return to the NHL.

Notes

*The Stars outshot the Sharks 39-28 and had an 84-55 advantage in attempted shots.

*The Stars are 7-15-4 when outshooting their opponent.

*Jamie Benn led the Stars with seven shots on goal.

*San Jose blocked 24 shots. Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic led the Sharks with seven blocks.

*The Stars were 1-3 on the power play and 2-2 on the penalty kill.

*The Stars won 43 of 81 faceoffs (53 percent).

*Jason Spezza won 16 of 24 draws (67 percent). Cody Eakin won 11 of 19 (58 percent). Vernon Fiddler won 6 of 16 (38 percent).

*Alex Goligoski led the Stars with 23:26 of ice time.

*Stars defenseman Trevor Daley had a goal and an assist Thursday and set a new career-high with 29 points (15 goals, 14 assists) this season. His previous high was 27 points in 2010-11.

*Stars captain Jamie Benn registered two assists, pushing his points streak to five games (six goals, three assists).

*Brendan Ranford became the fifth player to make his NHL debut with the Stars this season. Jyrki Jokipakka, John Klingberg, Curtis McKenzie and Brett Ritchie were the others.

Stars lineup

Jamie BennJason SpezzaErik Cole
Antoine RousselCody EakinRyan Garbutt
Curtis McKenzieVernon FiddlerBrett Ritchie
Brendan RanfordShawn HorcoffColton Sceviour

Alex GoligoskiJohn Klingberg
Jyrki JokipakkaTrevor Daley
Jordie BennJason Demers

Kari Lehtonen
Jhonas Enroth

Scratched: David Schlemko

Injured: Ales Hemsky (lower body), Tyler Seguin (knee), Patrick Eaves (concussion), Travis Moen (upper body), Patrik Nemeth (arm), Valeri Nichushkin (hip)

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.

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