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Stars Lose Breathing Room In Playoff Race

Brian Waddle for CBSDFW.COM
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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – The race for the playoffs continued with an unfocused 2-1 loss for the Dallas Stars Thursday night. Losing to the Vancouver Canucks at home cost the Stars an extremely important two points, eliminating breathing room in the playoff race.

“I didn’t think we were focused,” said Stars head coach Glen Gulutzan, “It is funny, our game plan at the start was to keep the pace high and stay whistle to whistle. It was on the board (in the locker room) that we wanted to play whistle to whistle with these guys tonight because they came off an emotional game last night.”

The Canucks capitalized early, grabbing the 1-0 with a goal by Mason Raymond, his ninth of the season. Raymond took a cross-ice pass while standing in the Stars’ back door, leaving him a wide open net past goaltender Kari Lehtonen.

The goal ignited the tempers of both teams; players traded comments and hits in a tension-filled atmosphere that would last the rest of the contest.  Scrums after the whistle were frequent in the first period: a fight erupted between Stars forward Jake Dowell and Canucks forward Dale Weise.

Penalties were plentiful in the first and second periods. Vancouver got under Dallas’ skin early and the Stars felt the effects, spending a total of 17 minutes in the penalty box. Dallas has successfully killed 39 of their last 41 penalties and is currently ranked 10th in the league on the kill.

The Canucks, however, made a potentially costly mistake:  defenseman Kevin Bieksa slashed Mike Ribeiro on the breakaway, which resulted in a penalty shot. Ribeiro attempted a fancy between-the-legs move, only to be denied by Canucks goaltender Cory Schneider. This was the third career penalty shot for Ribeiro, who is now 0-3 in penalty shots. Clearly, Ribero was frustrated by his foiled attempt at a penalty shot, which in turn caused him to lose focus.

“He (Ribeiro) is hard on himself. I have talked to him about that at length, and if he feels that he’s not doing enough, he gets frustrated and it affects his game,” said Gulutzan.

Vancouver continued to pour it on four minutes into the third period with a broken play, leaving defenseman Kevin Bieksa wide open to put away his eighth of the season. The dashed hopes of Stars fans were briefly uplifted when Dallas caught a break due to a misplayed puck by Schneider. Stars forward Vernon Fiddler was able to bury the puck into an open net and make the score 2-1, his eighth goal of the season.

“You don’t want to be down in the game, but I thought Fiddler got a big goal for us to give us a chance but we just couldn’t get one in the end there,” said Stars forward Jamie Benn.

The Stars had an opportunity to try and tie the game at 2-2 with a late power play in the final 45 seconds. Dallas pulled Lehtonen for the extra skater to no avail.

“I give them (Vancouver) credit. They’re pretty savvy, and they’ve got some savvy guys because they’ve been in some pressure situations. We had a couple chances but we couldn’t get it to go. That’s just the nature of the beast. We worked, it wasn’t that we didn’t lack work or came out flat, but we were not as focused as we need to be this time of year,” claimed Gulutzan.

Prior to tonight’s game, Dallas lead the Pacific Division with 85 points. With the playoff race as tight as it is in the Pacific, the team must be wary of the closing gap from its lead on division rivals. Three rival teams are right behind Dallas in the Division standings: Los Angeles and Phoenix are both tied at 84 points and San Jose trails them with 82.  Following the loss, Dallas falls to 8th in the conference playoff race.

Brian Waddle is the producer for the K&C Masterpiece heard on 105.3 The Fan Sundays from 9am to 1pm.

(© Copyright 2012 CBS Local, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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