The Dallas Stars’ chances of making the playoffs took a turn for the worse in a 30 second span Tuesday night in San Jose. The Stars gave up two goals in a 30 second span late in the third period, giving up a 2-1 lead and falling 3-2 to the San Jose Sharks.
The loss left the Stars three points out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference with two games left on their schedule. No longer in control of their own destiny, they’ll now need to win their final two games against Columbus and Detroit and get help from other teams to get into the playoffs.
“We need help now and we have to bounce back,” said Stars coach Glen Gulutzan. “That’s what you have to do. You have to bounce back and get two more wins.”
“It’s disappointing,” said Stars defenseman Stephane Robidas. “We’ve battled back hard since the deadline. Everybody thought we were out of the playoffs. I think guys showed a lot of character and came back, played hard and came back in that race. We needed a point tonight and we’re very disappointed in not getting one tonight.”
The Stars were in a position to take two points out of the game with just under six minutes remaining as they held a 2-1 lead and were riding a spectacular performance by goaltender Kari Lehtonen, who ended up with 34 saves on the night.
But with 5:27 remaining the Sharks, who had been stepping up the pressure on Lehtonen and the Stars, finally broke through. A Brad Stuart shot from the right point was deflected into the net by Joe Pavelski to tie the game at 2-2.
Just 30 seconds later the Sharks struck again. Patrick Marleau tapped the puck to Logan Couture, who scored from the left circle with 5:07 left.
”We wanted to slow down their momentum,” said Stars center Jamie Benn. “They came at us pretty hard, obviously. We needed a big shift after their goal (that tied the game) and we didn’t get it and it cost us the game.”
The Sharks clinched a playoff with the victory. They are still battling Los Angeles and St. Louis for the fourth seed and home ice in the first round of the playoffs.
“We stuck with it last game and that’s something we did again tonight, which is a positive,” said Couture. “It was nice to see us comeback and find a way to win. It was just awesome when the final horn sounded. We got the two points, we’re going on to the playoffs, big smiles.”
The Sharks jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the game, cashing in on their second power play of the night when Scott Gomez set up Raffi Torres off the rush and Torres chipped the puck past Lehtonen from close range 12:53 into the game.
The Stars answered 1:39 later when Antoine Roussel fought his way to the net and put home the rebound of a Cody Eakin shot.
The Sharks took three penalties in a 2:12 span late in the first period, giving the Stars two five-on-three power plays and the Stars cashed in on the second one 17 seconds into the second period. Loui Eriksson scored on the rebound of an Alex Goligoski shot to put Dallas up 2-1.
That lead held up until late in the third period thanks to some sharp netminding by Lehtonen, but the Pavelski and Couture goals 30 seconds apart put the Stars in a world of hurt in the playoff race as they now return home to play Columbus (Thursday) and Detroit (Saturday). The Stars aren’t out of it, but they need to win the final two games to keep their slim hopes alive.
“Desperation, do or die. Just like tonight,” said Benn. “We needed these points and we didn’t get them. There are still four out there that we can get and you never know what can happen.”