Stars Shell Shocked by Ducks

It was the best kind of hockey game, and it ended with plenty of excitement. After the Dallas Stars built a one goal lead late, the Anaheim Ducks surged back with a mad scramble at the end of the game to tie it up, and just a few minutes later, Cam Fowler jammed a huge dagger in the Stars' playoff hopes with the overtime winner.

The points in this game were remarkably crucial. The Stars went into this game tied with several other teams, including the Anaheim Ducks with 85 points and ten games to play. The fact that the Stars went to overtime should be considered a blessing on their part.

The scoring began early in the second period when Trevor Daley was sent to the penalty box for a holding call. Ryan Getzlaf fired across a seeing-eye pass to defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky who snuck in undefended and fired a snap shot top shelf for his 15th goal of the season. Visnovsky also added an assist in this game, bringing his point total on the season to 60.

The Stars fought right back midway through the period on their own powerplay, as Alex Goligoski continued his point producing ways with a one-time rocket from Mike Ribiero, eluding goaltender Ray Emery completely. That goal was Goligoski's 12th of the season, and his third as a Dallas Star.

The third period would see a ridiculous amount of scoring. First it was a scramble off of a set faceoff play that saw Loui Eriksson tally on a cross-crease pass from Jamie Langenbrunner to make it 2-1. The Stars tried to exploit Emery's very much reduced crease movement speed due to his decimated hip. This goal was a big example of that exploitation.

The Stars could not shut down the Ducks for long. That's a theme you'll hear again. Right off the ensuing faceoff, the Stars got mesmerized by themselves, and Bobby Ryan set up Corey Perry for a backhand dazzle that had Kari Lehtonen sprawled on the ice for a good two seconds before Perry lifted it past the helpless netminder. At that point in the game, defense would have helped, but it didn't take long at all for the Stars to be right back on their heels.

Halfway through the third, the Stars had a great chance to take the lead with a powerplay. Chance after chance, the Stars could not beat Emery until the turning point came on a Brenden Morrow interference minor, making it 4-on-4. Off the ensuing faceoff, Ribero's shot went right to Trevor Daley who jammed a rebound home to take the lead.

In a perfect world, a team looking for points would be able to shut it down completely. This was a gut check effort for the Stars. It was a close game with huge playoff implications. A win could have added some serious separation between the Stars and Ducks.

But this isn't a perfect world, now is it?

Kari Lehtonen was marvelous late in the third period, making humongous saves on the line of Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan with four minutes left in a mad scramble. Ryan caught Lehtonen on a miscue setting up Perry again for a one timer, and Lehtonen matched him with a glove save, keeping the puck out and setting it down. Too bad keeping that play alive set up Teemu Selanne's tying goal with just five seconds left to play.

Five seconds separated the Stars from a crucial two points.

The momentum was clearly in the Ducks' favor, forcing the Stars further and further back with furious forechecking. The Stars took a chance as Eriksson came close to cashing in, but right back came the Ducks on a two-on-one break, and Ryan set up rookie defenseman Cam Fowler for his second overtime winner and sealing the Stars' fate.

As Stars' play by play voice Ralph Strangis put it, and he put it best--"The collapse is complete."

Lost in this game was a statement game from some of the Stars' best players. Brad Richards turned in yeoman's work with a two point game. Loui Eriksson was spectacular on both ends of the puck with four shots and a goal, and getting the puck deep on a line change opportunity after the Ducks were pressing.

Losses like these go to show you--in this crazy game, anything can happen. Now the Stars have to seriously regroup and get back at it as they travel to Nashville to take on the Predators on Saturday.

It'll just be another crucial two points, and an opportunity for a bounceback effort.