(Sports Network) - Coming off just their fourth regulation loss in two months, the San Jose Sharks try to snap a three-game winless drought this evening against the Pacific Division-rival Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center.
After dropping consecutive shootout decisions, the Sharks were dealt a 6-3 defeat last night by the Blackhawks. San Jose led by a 2-1 margin after the first period, but Chicago tallied five times in the following frame, including four straight.
Joe Pavelski had a goal and an assist and Joe Thornton and Logan Couture each scored a goal for the Sharks, who have lost four of their last five overall and are 18-4-3 in the past 25 games. San Jose still leads the division by three points over the Kings and Coyotes, with the Stars four points off the lead, and are four back of Detroit for the Western Conference's fourth seed.
"Every game and every point means so much right now," said Thornton. "You can't afford to lose three or four in a row and expect to keep up."
Antti Niemi made his 25th straight start, the second longest such streak in club history, but was pulled in the second period after yielding four goals on 18 shots. Antero Niittymaki halted 14-of-16 shots the rest of the way in his first action since Jan. 13 due to a nagging lower-body injury.
It is unknown who will get the start tonight, when the Sharks try to bounce back after having a four-game road winning streak halted. Niemi is 2-2-2 with a 2.75 goals-against average versus the Stars, while Niittymaki has split two decisions versus them with a 3.01 GAA.
Dallas will try to make up some ground in the division race after Sunday's disappointing loss to Los Angeles. Jamie Langenbrunner had tied the game with just 42.1 seconds left in regulation, but the Kings' Michal Handzus potted the winning goal with 20.8 ticks left on the clock to hand the Stars a 3-2 regulation loss.
Dallas had an eight-game point streak end (6-0-2).
"We did a lot of good things," Stars head coach Marc Crawford said. "We battled to get shooting lanes, the amount of block shots we had and the perseverance we had was good."
By failing to get a point, the Kings jumped over the Stars in the standings, and Dallas is now seventh overall in the West, one point behind Phoenix and just one up on eighth-place Calgary.
Though Jamie Benn failed to score in a seventh straight game, Brad Richards did light the lamp and Kari Lehtonen made 27 saves as Dallas fell to 1-1-1 on its homestand.
Lehtonen is 3-2-1 with a 3.38 GAA in his career versus the Sharks.
Dallas' recent point streak did include a 3-2 victory at San Jose on March 5, giving the Stars a 4-0-1 mark in their last five versus the Sharks.
The Sharks halted a three-game skid in Dallas with an overtime victory on Dec. 16.