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Burnside: Five takeaways from another Stars road struggle

Another opportunity to find success away from home falls by the wayside in Wednesday's 3-0 shutout loss

by Scott Burnside @OvertimeScottB /

DENVER -- The Dallas Stars continue to find new and grisly ways of not winning away from home as they dropped a 3-0 decision to the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday to fall to a miserable 3-8-1 away from home this season.

Here are some musings and meanderings on a night when, like many nights on the road, the Stars played well enough to find positives, but not well enough to earn two points. Which is sort of the point.

Video: Stars can't overcome Avalanche


1. Bottom line: Results matter

We'll take a page from head coach Ken Hitchcock, who insisted that the second quarter of the NHL season is for results. And so, the fact that for much of this game the Stars played as well as they have at any time this season on the road counts for, well, nothing.

No moral victories, no 'trending the right way' -- nothing but the stark reality that this team cannot find a way to dig deep and come up with a road win, especially against a quality opponent.

The loss drops the Stars to 3-8-1 on the road and 1-6 overall against Central Division foes this season.


Earlier in the day, Hitchcock had talked about falling behind at home against Edmonton and Montreal before wearing both teams down. He used the term 'cracked'. As in, they forced opponents to break through their own perseverance.

On this night, a similar dynamic, yet it was the Stars who cracked and the Avs -- the NHL's worst team last season by a country mile -- who made them crack, their best players making a difference on a night when the same could not be said about the Stars' best players, or at least their best offensive players.

"When we need to step up. We're not doing it like we're doing it at home," said Mattias Janmark, who finished the night minus-3. "Like yesterday in the second period, we were down by one goal and we start to push, and today, we let in a late goal instead, so that's kind of how the (things) are going on the road, so we got to change that."

That is the simple truth: Change or kiss the playoffs goodbye.

"There's a different body language in our team between home and away, and that's something that we've got to change if we're going to make the playoffs," Hitchcock said. "We're going to have to be better obviously on the road, and we're going to have to change a little bit of thinking and our mindset."

Video: Road woes continue in Denver


2. How did it happen?

You want to get a snapshot of the Stars' road woes this season? Watch the last 10 seconds of the second period.

Trailing 1-0 but playing well with time running out, Jamie Oleksiak gets caught at the Colorado blue line, sending the Avs away 3-on-1. Ben Bishop makes an incredible stop on Gabriel Landeskog with 1.9 seconds left. Whew, right? Wrong. 

Oleksiak and Stephen Johns remain on the ice for the ensuing face-off, which is won cleanly by Nathan MacKinnon over Jamie Benn, and former No. 1 overall draft pick Nail Yakupov hammers a shot through traffic in past Bishop with 0.1 seconds left to give the Avs a 2-0 lead.

For all intents and purposes the game is over at that point in time.

"Pretty obvious," a despondent Benn said. "Lose a faceoff and it's in the back of your net. Something that definitely can't happen. That's a tough one to give up at the end of a period going into the third."

So many ifs go into that singularly important play.

If Oleksiak backs off on the earlier play, the Stars get out of the period down just one. If Benn wins the draw or even gets a partial win, this never happens. If someone gets to Yakupov, this never happens. Maybe it's different if shutdown duo Dan Hamhuis and Greg Pateryn come over the boards.

But it did happen. And so, the opportunity to patiently look for a tying goal -- and maybe at least a loser's point in overtime or a shootout -- went by the boards.

Woulda. Coulda. Shoulda. The loser's lament.

Video: DAL@COL: Bishop stones Comeau's deflection in tight


3. Bish bounces back

If there's one guy that we felt bad for out of this loss, it's Bishop.

Last time through Denver, Bishop got yanked early in the second period of what would turn out to be a 5-3 loss, and his displeasure with the decision turned into a story for a couple of days and started a trend of uneven starts on the road for the veteran netminder. But playing for the second straight night, because Kari Lehtonen is away from the team following the birth of his son, Bishop was outstanding.

Sure, the Avs first goal was a stinker, a backhand from defenseman Erik Johnson that found a hole between Bishop's pads early in the second period. But Bishop made a handful of game-saving stops, most of them on Landeskog, it seemed like, although the Colorado captain did finally score the Avs' third goal when he was abandoned in front early in the third period.

Still, Bishop gave his team a chance. Not sure the Stars deserved better on this night, but Bishop sure did.

"It's disappointing," said Bishop, who stopped 29 of 32 Colorado shots. "

I don't think any of us are very happy right now. We can't keep coming on the road and having the same talk after every road game. We've got to dig within look at ourselves in the mirror here and find a way to get wins on the road, because we're clicking at home. It's just about finding our way on the road now."

Video: DAL Recap: Stars shut out by Avalanche, 3-0


4. Hey, um, shoot the puck

A handful of times Wednesday night, the Stars passed up what looked to be clear shooting opportunities to make passes that ended being cleared from the zone.

Through two periods, when the game was ultimately decided, the Stars had just 16 shots on goal. The Avs had 26.

If part of the plan to win on the road is simplicity, then putting pucks to the net would seem to be a fallback position. Wouldn't it? This would especially seem prudent when the Avs were going with backup netminder Jonathan Bernier with starter -- and Stars nemesis -- Semyon Varlamov ill. Bernier entered the game with a 3.59 GAA.

Did we mention shots on goal might have been important?

Still, credit Bernier for being good when he had to be as he was early in the third, making a great stop shortly before the Avs made it 3-0 as he joins a long list of netminders the Stars have made look really good, at least on the road.

Sure, Bernier got a bit lucky, too, as witnessed by an early Antoine Roussel chance on a puck that ended up bouncing off the end boards and past Bernier into the crease. But Bernier got just enough on the shot to deflect it off the crossbar.

So close and yet, well, you know the drill.

The Stars finished with 28 shots in total, 12 in the third period.

"I think it's all connected," Hitchcock said. "I think it's passed up shots, I think there's a bigger picture there. It's not just missed opportunities."

It is, he insisted, less technical and more mental.

"We're doing a lot of things technically right, but there's the little things that you need to do on the road to win, and we're not doing them. We're getting them done to us, quite frankly," he said.

Video: Janmark on loss to Avs


5. Some other observations

Oleksiak and Stephen Johns were on for the second and third Colorado goals, while Benn, Radulov and Janmark were on for the first two goals, and Janmark on for the third as well for a minus-3 night.

The Stars might have quibbled with the officiating, but they gave up the first three power-play opportunities in the game before getting two chances in the third with the game already out of reach. That, too, is another bugaboo of playing on the road for the Stars, generating power-play opportunities -- another in a series of negative dominoes that continue to fall in the team's path.

After a strong game playing together on Saturday, Tyler Seguin, Devin Shore and Jason Spezza were, like the rest of the Stars offense, stymied by Bernier and a very fast, committed Avs team. Janmark led the Stars with five shots on goal, playing mostly with Benn and Radulov, but admits they lost the big-boy battle.

"Today I play with the best players, so we've got to beat their best players. Otherwise, we don't do our job," Janmark said.

The Stars head home where they're 8-2-0 to face a Calgary Flames team coming off a disappointing 1-0 loss in overtime to Columbus.

Next week, the Stars will get two cracks at exorcising their road demons with visits to Vegas and Chicago -- two teams that figure to factor into the Western Conference playoff picture moving forward.

This story was not subject to approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. You can follow Scott on Twitter @OvertimeScottB, and listen to his Burnside Chats podcast here.

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