DALLAS — It’s information that’s hardly newsflash-worthy, something the Dallas Stars know all too well: To beat the Detroit Red Wings, you better be darned close to perfect.
The Stars were shooting for that early in Game 3 of their Western Conference Final series on Monday night. But when mistakes started to creep in for the Stars, the Red Wings were all too happy to turn them into goals — and an overwhelming series lead.
Pavel Datsyuk tallied a hat trick and linemate Henrik Zetterberg added a shorthanded goal and two assists as the Wings beat the Stars 5-2 at the American Airlines Center. The Wings took a commanding 3-0 lead over the Stars, whose mistakes were once again turned into Detroit goals.
“We had some breakdowns here and there that you can’t afford against these guys,” Mike Modano said. “You’re pretty much expected to play a mistake-free game and everybody has to be at such a high level.”
The Stars were playing better early, when they were outshooting the Red Wings 5-0 in the opening minutes. They were driving, they were hitting and they were looking for their first lead in this series.
And yet they still ended up down 1-0 when a turnover turned into Pavel Datsyuk’s first goal. The Stars answered six minutes later, when Mike Modano — playing for some time with Brenden Morrow and Mike Ribeiro — found a wide-open Nicklas Grossman on the other side of the ice for the tying goal. But just 37 seconds later, Datsyuk was nullifying that with goal No. 2.
“You feel like you’ve got a lot of momentum going your way, then the next shift we gave it right back,” coach Dave Tippett said. “And those are demoralizing things.”
And despite Brad Richards’ tying goal early in the second period, it would get worse for the Stars. A bad defensemen’s change cleared the way for a wide-open Jiri Hudler, whose backhand put the Wings up 3-2.
Then there was the crusher. The Stars went on the power play, but another turnover was gobbled up by Zetterberg. He skated, he put a quick move on Richards, then bested Turco for a debilitating short-handed goal.
“That’s stuff we have to clean up,” said defenseman Stephane Robidas, who was on the ice for three of Detroit’s goals. “We can’t let them get any chances. They’re a good enough team that they’re going to create them on their own. We can’t give them freebees.”
The Stars are facing the ultimate deficit, the one that has them on the brink of elimination. They say they’ve played their best with the adversity on their side. They also need to play that just-about-perfect game. The Wings have shown the Stars what happens when they don’t.
“You give them opportunities like we did they are going to make you pay for them,” captain Brenden Morrow said. “Are they beatable? Yeah. Do we have to play better than we are? Absolutely.”