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Stars with a big advantage in shots, but mistakes prove costly in loss to Avalanche

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

If shots on goal and attempted shots determined the winner, Saturday night’s game would have been a rout for the Dallas Stars. But games are still won with goals and the Colorado Avalanche won that battle, topping the Stars, 3-1, at American Airlines Center.

The Stars outshot the Avalanche 43-15 and had a 106-32 advantage in attempted shots, but they made mistakes that led to Colorado goals and could get only one puck past Colorado goaltender Semyon Varlamov, who turned in a sparkling 42-save performance.

“There were costly mistakes that hurt us in the end, preventable mistakes. We need to take responsibility for that,” said Stars forward Patrick Sharp. “You can look at the shots and think that you outplayed them or whatever you want to call it, but we’ve got to do a better job of working their goaltender and get those second and third opportunities, and find a way to score more than one goal.”

The game turned on special teams. The Stars had the game’s first five power plays and scored once, but they surrendered two shorthanded goals including one on a four-minute power play that snapped a 1-1 tie and held up as the game-winner.

“Obviously, we had some big negative plays on us,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “You look at the short-handed goals. There's always some risk involved when you're playing four forwards. I take that risk, and that risk is on me because I just feel that's the best opportunity for us.”

“We made too many big mistakes that cost us and then we were chasing [the game],” said Stars defenseman Jason Demers. “Our power play has been struggling for a while, and we all need to pick it up. It’s a privilege to play on the power play and penalty kill, and those are two areas we haven’t been good on. We all have to pick it up and clean that aspect up because it’s costing us games.”

Demers scored the lone goal for the Stars, and Antti Niemi got the start in goal and stopped 12 of 15 shots. The Stars (30-14-5) lost for the eighth time in the past ten games (2-6-2).

Colorado (26-21-3) won its fourth straight game and improved to 5-1-0 over its past six games. The Avalanche, who moved ahead of Minnesota for the first wild-card spot in the Western Conference, have allowed just six goals in the past six games. They’ve won eight straight games against Dallas and 11 of the past 12.

“Back-to-back game, playing against these guys, we expect them to have a strong game, and it’s what they did,” said Avalanche coach Patrick Roy. “It’s funny how things are some nights. I thought our penalty killing was really good, and we scored two shorthanded goals. That gave us a chance to win this game and [Varlamov] was phenomenal out there.”

The Stars had a 30-9 advantage in attempted shots in the first period, but Colorado scored the only goal. Varlamov made ten saves, including a big stop on a close-range bid by Tyler Seguin with 2:36 left in the period. Colorado’s Carl Soderberg scored shorthanded with 53 seconds left, stealing the puck in the neutral zone after the Stars misfired on a drop pass. Soderberg then slipped around Jamie Benn, broke in on goal and roofed a shot over Niemi.

The Stars tied the game at 7:24, cashing in on their third power play of the game. Demers knocked in a rebound from close range to make it a 1-1 game and was high-sticked by Soderberg on the play, giving the Stars a four-minute power play.

But Colorado scored another shorthanded goal to take a 2-1 lead. As John Klingberg tried to keep the puck in at the Avalanche blue line, Gabriel Landeskog poked it past him, broke into the Dallas zone and scored on a wrist shot at the 10:12 mark.

“That’s the risk I take when I put another forward on the other side of the ice. If you’ve got a defenseman there, the defenseman is going to support his partner as soon as there is trouble. He got no support,” Ruff said. “I know it’s a tough play, but he’s on his backhand against the boards, and he needs someone to back him up.”

The Stars had a 29-11 advantage in shots and a 73-21 advantage in attempted shots through 40 minutes but were down 2-1 heading into the second intermission.

“I think we almost died after the second period,” Varlamov said. “We took too many penalties and then they were all over us in the second period. Thank God that we scored. Like I said before, this team never gives up. We play all 60 minutes. I think that we’re playing very solid hockey right now.”

The Stars had a great chance to tie the game on a couple of shorthanded bids in the third, but Avalanche defenseman Francois Beauchemin blocked a Demers shot from the slot and then Varlamov stopped Cody Eakin’s backhand shot off the rebound to keep it a 2-1 game.

The Avalanche extended their lead to 3-1 with 5:51 remaining in the game. After the Stars turned the puck over in the defensive zone, Mikhail Grigorenko scored off the rebound of his own shot.

Stars defenseman Jason Demers left Saturday’s game briefly after taking a stick to the mouth and losing a tooth. He was injured as he scored the Stars’ only goal, taking a high stick from Avalanche forward Carl Soderberg.

“He high-sticked me trying to get under my stick and knocked my tooth out,” Demers said. “It’s a temporary tooth anyway that comes out pretty easily, but it didn’t feel too good, but it’s part of the game, and it happens. I’m sure he was just trying to get under my stick.”

*The Stars are 1-8-3 in their past 12 games against the Avalanche.

*The Stars are 4-7-3 since the NHL’s holiday break.

*The 15 shots against were the fewest the Stars have allowed this season.

*Tyler Seguin led the Stars with eight shots on goal and 17 attempted shots.

*The Stars were 1-5 on the power play Saturday and are 4-33 (12.1 percent) on the PP over the past 12 games.

*The Stars won 35 of 68 faceoffs (51 percent).

*Jason Spezza won 10 of 13 faceoffs (77 percent). Vernon Fiddler won 6 of 10 (60 percent). Cody Eakin won 6 of 10 (60 percent). Mattias Janmark won 6 of 16 (38 percent). Jamie Benn won 4 of 10 (40 percent).

*Alex Goligoski led the Stars with 24:21 of ice time.

*Saturday’s attendance was 18,532, a sellout. It was the eighth straight sellout for the Stars and their 15th of the season.

The Stars wrap up the homestand and play their final game before the All-Star break when they take on Calgary Monday at American Airlines Center.

Jamie BennTyler SeguinPatrick Sharp

Valeri NichushkinCody EakinJason Spezza

Antoine RousselMattias JanmarkAles Hemsky

Colton SceviourVernon FiddlerPatrick Eaves

Alex Goligoski
John Klingberg

Johnny OduyaJason Demers

Esa LindellJyrki Jokipakka

Antti Niemi

Kari Lehtonen

Jordie Benn (lower body)

Scratched: Patrik Nemeth, Travis Moen

Conditioning: Jamie Oleksiak

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 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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