The Dallas Stars registered only 15 shots, but a pair ended up behind Nikolai Khabibulin while another slid into the empty cage. Sam Gagner added a late tally to put the home side on the board, but it wasn't enough as the Oilers' sputtering attack resulted in a 3-1 loss Friday night.
The Oilers got the game's best chance six minutes in when a strong fourth line sequence allowed Eric Belanger to dish to Ryan Jones in the slot. No. 28 collected the pass and attempted to swing around the defender, but his along-the-ice backhand shot was stopped by the challenging netminder.
As the period's 10-minute mark passed, the Oilers held a 6-2 shot lead but scoring chances on either side continued to be limited.
With 3:52 to play, Nick Schultz was charged with holding, putting the Stars' 14.5-percent power-play to work. With the visitors stuck at just three shots, the home side prevented any more, keeping the scoreless tie intact until the buzzer sounded.
Early on, the Oilers upped the pace with a quick-strike 2-on-1 opportunity. Jordan Eberle delivered a cross-ice pass to Lennart Petrell, who was being hounded by Trevor Daley, but his one-time backhand try was thwarted by a sliding Kari Lehtonen.
Although the Oilers were carrying the play territorially, Dallas was first to strike on the scoreboard. At 8:35 and from the corner, Eric Nystrom centered a pass into the crease area. The puck pinballed around and, whlie being mauled by Ryan Whitney, ex-Oiler Radek Dvorak was able to make contact and swipe the puck behind Khabibulin for the goal.
With 7:05 on the clock, the Stars extended to a 2-0 lead. Coming back to prevent the rush, Corey Potter inadvertently bulled into Khabibulin, causing him to slide behind the cage as the puck was centered. Tomas Vincour was quick to pounce, tapping the puck into the open cage as the Oilers' 39-year-old veteran scampered back into position.
After 40 minutes, the Oilers continued to lead in shots with a 16-10 advantage, but the Stars held a 2-0 lead where it counted.
57 seconds in, Schultz picked up his second minor of the night (the only two penalties to be called to this point) when he flipped the puck up and over the glass, resulting in a delay of game infraction. Much like the Stars' earlier advantage, it was killed off with ease without much of consequence directed on Khabibulin.
Midway through the period, the Petrell experiment came to an end with the kid line being reunited. Nugent-Hopkins, Hall and Eberle continued to generate chances as the 10-minute mark approached, but none could beat the netminder as the two-goal deficit remained.
As the game wound down, the same problems that plagued the home side all evening continued to persist: couldn't win a puck battle, couldn't retrieve loose pucks when they were there, incomplete stretch passes, nothing going on the rush. Perhaps most of all, nothing dangerous had been directed on goal.
As they had been all night, the Oilers continued to be a step behind.
With 1:48 to play, Dubnyk rushed to the bench for an extra-attacker. The Stars wasted little time in icing the outcome, as Michael Ryder launched the puck into the empty net at 18:32.
With just 30 seconds to the play, the Oilers gave their crowd something to cheer about. Ales Hemsky delivered a pretty cross-ice pass to Sam Gagner at the near hash marks, and No. 89 wasted little time in bulleting a one-timer post and in to make it a 3-1 game. But it was too little, too late as the Oilers dropped a 3-1 decision to the Stars.
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