Devils celebrate Sykora's goal in the second period. (Getty/NHL Images)
The Devils closed out their four-game road trip on a sour note Saturday, dropping a 3-1 decision to the Stars in Dallas.
It came down to one bad bounce: Vernon Fiddler's wraparound attempt went in off the skate of Mark Fayne and broke a 1-1 tie with 8:26 to go in regulation.
“Tough bounce,” coach Peter DeBoer said. “That was going to be the difference. We didn’t have a lot of luck around the net and they got one. Good for them. We’ve got to continue to build on what we’re doing….We deserved a better fate.”
The Devils (4-4-1) had a chance for the equalizer after Michael Ryder landed in the box for firing a loose stick across the ice with 1:02 remaining. They pulled Johan Hedberg for a 6-on-4 advantage, but ex-Devil Sheldon Souray scored into the empty net with 2.7 seconds to go.
New Jersey's lone goal was scored by Petr Sykora, who notched his first of the season – and first in nearly two years.
Hedberg started his sixth in a row and posted 20 saves.
"Tough bounce. That was going to be the difference. We didn’t have a lot of luck around the net and they got one. Good for them. We’ve got to continue to build on what we’re doing….We deserved a better fate.- Coach Peter DeBoer
"Both goalies were good," said DeBoer. "[Hedberg] always gives us a good game and [Kari] Lehtonen obviously has had a great start for them. He's playing with a lot of confidence in the net."
After picking up one win on the trip, the Devils return home to host Toronto on Wednesday.
"Those kinds of games are going to happen," said Henrik Tallinder, who played 23:03. "You have to feel good with the way you played. We can go out here with our heads high. It's a tough loss, though."
Loui Eriksson put the Stars on top in the first. Dallas got the cycle going in Devils territory with Jamie Benn handing off to Steve Ott, who set up Eriksson in front for his sixth of the year at 10:51.
Hedberg had to be sharp on the Devils' first penalty kill. With Sykora in the box for goaltender interference, Hedberg denied Ott bursting down the left side at 13:02 and recovered to stop Eriksson on the rebound. Later, on the same kill, Hedberg used his blocker to thwart Ott from the doorstep.
The Devils finished 0-for-3 with the man advantage, but went 2-for-2 on the penalty kill.
Sykora tied it up in a Devils-dominated middle frame. Patrik Elias won a left circle draw back to Sykora, who went top shelf on Lehtonen for his first of the season at 12:00.
Clarkson swept the puck just wide of the goal mouth after this battle with Lehtonen. (Getty/NHL Images)
It was Sykora's first since Oct. 30, 2009 (with Minnesota), and first as a Devil since April 12, 2002. New Jersey had 12 shots in the second period to the Stars' four.
The Devils outshot Dallas, 32-23, overall.
A first-round draft pick of the Devils in 1995, Sykora returned to New Jersey this summer after splitting last season between the Czech league and the KHL. An injury limited him to just 14 games with the Wild in 2009-10.
Kovalchuk had a game-high seven shots on goal, followed by Sykora's six. Elias went 13-for-19 on draws; Henrique went 7-for-11.
Henrique took a Stephane Robidas blast off his foot with 19 seconds to go in the second and Devils penalty killers scrambling to preserve the 1-1 tie. Ryder missed an open left side in the dying seconds, and the game remained even heading to the final frame.
Hedberg robbed Benn's chance in the slot four minutes into the third. After Fiddler's goal at 11:34, Hedberg came up big during a 4-on-4. He kept the Devils within a goal with a strong pad stop on Benn on a Dallas 2-on-1 with 5:20 to go.
Former Devil and Stanley Cup champion Joe Nieuwendyk was honored in a pregame ceremony. Currently the Stars' general manager, Nieuwendyk will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame next month along with former Devil Doug Gilmour. Nieuwendyk was a member of the Devils' 2003 title squad.
With NHL.com and wire services
1 - 0 DAL
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 DAL
SHG - EN -
3 - 1 DAL
Interference - Goalkeeper
Delay of game