The Dallas Stars’ drive to a playoff spot took an unexpected turn on Thursday when they absorbed a stifling loss to the Detroit Red Wings.
They will try to get back on the right path in the series finale Saturday against the Red Wings, again in Detroit.
The Stars had won four games in a row, including two home victories over Detroit, before the Red Wings blindsided them Thursday in Motor City.
Jakub Vrana scored a career-high four goals in the Wings’ 7-3 victory.
Dallas (19-15-12, 50 points) is battling for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Central Division, sitting two points behind fourth-place Nashville with two games in hand.
The Stars allowed just six goals during the winning streak before sagging against the depleted Wings. The seven goals by Detroit were two more than Dallas had given up in any game this season.
“I think we have to learn, because we play on Saturday the same team, so we have to learn from the mistakes and be better,” forward Radek Faksa said. “If we are not playing Detroit, then maybe we just throw it behind our head, but when we’re playing Detroit again, we have to see what we did wrong, and don’t repeat the same mistakes.”
The Stars had won five of their first six meetings in the season series, but on Thursday the Wings jumped out to a 3-0 first-period lead and never let up.
“Just swallow this pill, have practice (Friday), and get ready for the next one,” goaltender Anton Khudobin said. “I think we have been playing good hockey. The only thing we have to do right now is get ready for the next one.”
If Dallas reaches the playoffs, it will have to do so on the road. The Stars play eight of their last 10 games outside of Dallas.
Making it even more surprising was that the Wings (17-25-7, 41 points) are dealing with a number of injuries. They declared two of their forwards out for the season prior to the game and were also missing first-line center Dylan Larkin, who is dealing with an upper body injury.
Vrana, whose season goals total jumped from 12 to 16, was acquired from Washington at the trade deadline earlier this month. He scored the first goal of the game, another in the second and twice in the third.
“We’ve been missing some big key guys in the lineup and it’s great to see the guys coming in, stepping up and playing great games and get the win,” Vrana said. “We’re trying to create some momentum.”
Vrana’s third goal came on a breakaway after the Stars had cut Detroit’s lead to 4-2.
“When you have a guy who can score on one shot, he can change the complexion of the game,” Detroit coach Jeff Blashill said. “They were pushing and he got a breakaway and he scores and now you feel the game is in hand.
“They push again and he scores, and it’s just constant momentum going our way, and going against the other team when you have guys like that.”
Richard Panik, the other forward Detroit acquired in the deal that sent Anthony Mantha to the Capitals, scored his first goal in a Wings uniform with just 11 seconds remaining in the first period making the score 3-0.
Luke Glendening added his third goal in three games.
–Field Level Media