The Stars have gotten goals from unlikely sources over their last two games: checkers Stu Barnes, Jeff Halpern and Joel Lundqvist.Now they need more from offensive mainstays like Mike Modano and Jere Lehtinen, both of whom are without a goal in the first three games of the first-round series against the Vancouver Canucks.
Barnes, Halpern and Lundqvist make their livings by shutting down the opponent's most potent scorers. Modano is the all-time leading goal-scorer among U.S.-born players and Lehtinen led the Stars during the regular season with 26 goals.
"It's a huge concern,'' Stars coach Dave Tippett said after his team's 2-1 overtime loss to the Canucks on Sunday night. "We need someone else to score goals for us, that's for sure.''
Lehtinen had three shots on Sunday night, Modano and linemate Ladislav Nagy had one apiece. None found the back of the net as Vancouver goaltender Roberto Luongo stopped 29 of the 30 shots he faced.
"They have to find a way to make a difference, that's the bottom line,'' Tippett said.
Modano thrives in the open ice, and right now it's at a premium.
"It's a tight checking-type series and space is hard to come by,'' Modano said. "It's something where we need to stay on the attack and create the win instead of hoping for the win. You have to make plays and create something out of nothing in OT.'' Overtime has not been kind to the Stars, who've lost six straight playoff games that have gone past regulation. Home ice has also been tough for the Stars to defend in the post-season. Dallas has dropped five straight playoff games at the AAC.
The Stars are doing a lot right, and they're a bounce away from leading the series themselves. Vancouver picked up the physical play in the first period, outhitting Dallas 18-7. There were seven minor penalties in the scoreless opening period, including coincidental roughing calls against Dallas' Steve Ott and Vancouver's Alex Burrows. Ott was feisty throughout the game. Dallas held a 10-7 shots edge in a scoreless first period. Vancouver brought a harder forecheck than it had in the first two games, putting the pressure on Dallas' defensemen to get the puck out of the Stars' end without mishap. They were up to the task.
The Stars were more physical in the second period, outhitting the Canucks 14-7. When Barnes became the seventh different Star to score a goal, striking on the power play at 13:09 of the second period, Dallas had the momentum. But Vancouver tied it at 1 at 5:18 of the third period on Jan Bulis' rebound, breaking Marty Turco's shutout streak of 105 minutes. The Stars managed to take the game into overtime by weathering the Canucks' 15-4 shots-on-goal edge in the third period, but the momentum had shifted and Vancouver took the two games to one series lead on Taylor Pyatt's one-timer at 7:47 of overtime. Dallas tried to protect the slender one-goal lead, and it backfired.
"When we scored, we could tell they looked scared,'' Bulis said. "It was like they didn't want to win it in regulation, they wanted to get it into overtime. They never found their rhythm and it was up to us to take it.''
"I don't think we were playing conservatively, at least not intentionally,'' Barnes said, "but we are a better team when we're attacking. You've got to play complete games, that's the key. We did that in Game 2. We had a great game, start to finish. Tonight we tailed off a little bit as it got later on and they took advantage of it.''
Added Halpern: "They started pressing in the third period and we didn't push back.'' This was projected as a tight-checking series dominated by defense and goaltending, and thus far neither team has disappointed.
Tuesday night's Game 4 will be critical.
"We still believe in each other, believe we can win the series,'' Turco said. "Those guys aren't going to lay down. It's pretty tight out there. We'll see more of the same. It's a matter of not getting frustrated and sticking with your game plan.''