Stars fall in OT at Sharks but road trip a rousing success

Sure, the Dallas Stars lost 2-1 in overtime on Wednesday night at the San Jose Sharks, their fifth straight OT defeat, but looking at the bigger picture, the Stars got five of a possible six points during their three-game road trip, so losing to San Jose in the Shark Tank is far from the worst thing that could have happened in the trip’s finale.

The game was scoreless for most of the opening 40 minutes, at least until San Jose’s Martin Havlat scored to put the Sharks ahead 1-0 with 1:54 remaining before the second intermission.

However, Dallas answered when Valeri Nichushkin tied it with his 12th goal of the season 6:27 into the third. The Stars were forced to kill several penalties in the third period, both by Erik Cole, both of which were drawn by Tommy Wingels, who ended up netting the game-winner for SJ in the extra frame, but all in all leaving the Bay Area with a point is never a bad thing.

"I thought our penalty kill was fabulous. It really was," Stars head coach Lindy Ruff said. "They were aggressive. It was like a dog on a bone. They were relentless."

Dallas goaltender Kari Lehtonen was once again rock solid between the pipes for the Stars, stopping 19 of the 21 shots he faced. However, the game-winner from Wingels, which came on his first shot of the game, was a bit of a head scratcher for the veteran netminder.

"I don’t know. I haven’t seen it. I just felt it kind of popped into his stick there and he was able to shoot fast," Lehtonen said. "I wasn’t there yet. That’s a tough one, like they always are."

And that point allows Dallas to inch ever so closer to that second and final Wild Card spot in the Western Conference. The Stars are now just one marker behind Phoenix, who currently occupies the second Wild Card spot with 62 points. Dallas beat the Coyotes 3-1 in Glendale on Tuesday night and will host Dave Tippett’s club on Saturday night at American Airlines Center.

"When you come in this building, it’s always going to be a tough night, especially on a back-to-back," Stars defenseman Jordie Benn said. "So we just wanted to come in here and keep things pretty simple, work hard and I guess we stole one point. Two would have been nice, but we got one."

But if there was one negative to come out of this OT loss, it was the fact that Dallas saw their overtime record fall to just 1-6 on the season, something the man behind the Stars bench agrees needs to be addressed.

"It’s something we talked about right after the game. That’s an area we have to improve in. It’s not good enough," Ruff said. "Those extra points are there. We lost coverage again on the goal and they made us pay for it."

Dallas now returns home to host Phoenix Saturday in what will be the Stars’ final game before the NHL Olympic Break begins on Sunday, Feb. 9. Three Stars-captain Jamie Benn (Canada), Lehtonen (Finland) and Nichushkin (Russia) will be skating in the Sochi Games for their respective countries while Ruff is a member of Team Canada’s coaching staff.