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Burnside: Five takeaways from better Stars effort in loss to Florida

Dallas picked up an important point in Tuesday's shootout loss, but it's still seeking a winning road formula

by Scott Burnside @OvertimeScottB / DallasStars.com

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Dallas Stars bounced back after a miserable effort in Raleigh on Monday night to obtain a loser's point in a 4-3 shootout loss to the Florida Panthers. The Stars moved to 0-1-1 on their current three-game road trip with the finale set for Thursday in Tampa against the Lightning -- the top team in the NHL.

Here are some musings and meanderings about getting a critical point on a night that looked like it might be simply more of the same for a team that has yet to consistently find the winning formula on the road.

Video: 'We deserved a much better fate'

 

1. Better effort nabs important point

Let's not go overboard with the clichés -- this still ended up being a loss to a Florida team that began the evening with the fewest points in the Eastern Conference --- but let's not understate just how important it was to obtain a point.

Given how this game unfolded, the Stars began the night looking exactly like the team that gave up four third-period goals en route to a 5-1 loss to Carolina Monday. Yet in spite of giving up two power-play goals in a 10-minute span of the first, the Stars didn't quit a-la the third period Monday.

In fact, the opposite response was revealed.

After they got a late first-period goal from Jamie Benn, Dallas took control of the game in the second, unleashing 18 shots and taking a 3-2 lead, allowing just four Florida shots. That the Panthers tied it early in the third, and came up with the extra point in the skills competition, didn't dull much of the optimism displayed in the Stars' locker room.

"We should have won the hockey game," said Dallas head coach Ken Hitchcock. "We deserved much better fate. The second period's the best we played all year on the road. Thought we played excellent. We even managed the game well in the third. We had lots of chances, breakaways, two-on-ones, hit what? Four bars? Played a helluva hockey game."

In all, the Stars had a whopping 43 shots on net.

Video: DAL@FLA: Benn scores off Radulov's gorgeous dish

 

2. Like building a fort -- or something like that

Hitchcock warned that for a team that has been unable to withstand the momentum swings in road games, it would take time and that success would not come overnight.

Guess he knows what he's talking about, But heading into Tampa Bay for the finale of the three-game road trip Thursday, which will prove a mighty challenge, the difference in demeanor on the ice was palpable in the 24 hours that elapsed between Monday and Tuesday.

Much of that is the leadership on this team.

Benn was a force. John Klingberg bounced back nicely after a ghastly night in Carolina, and Remi Elie, inserted in the lineup, was a dynamo in a limited role.

"I mean, there was better compete from everybody," said Tyler Seguin, who scored the lone Dallas goal in the shootout. "Close to a 60-minute effort, which is what we were looking for after last game. Obviously not the result, but sometimes, at the end of third periods like that, you want to get that point and see what can happen in overtime and shootout, and unfortunate not to get the extra one. But (it's) something to build off of."

Video: DAL@FLA: Benn nets second goal on wide-open net

 

3. Captain takes the reins

Benn was hard on himself after Monday's loss, as he often is after Dallas loses, saying that the team laid an egg and that it started with him in getting back to the right way of playing, especially on the road.

Benn scored twice in the game including a pivotal late-first-period marker on a 2-on-1 and now has 10 goals on the season, tops on the team.

As important, he was engaged, physical and playing with a snarl as Hitchcock once again juggled his lines, using Benn with Alexander Radulov and Mattias Janmark. Radulov was, as has often been the case this season, an offensive catalyst, earning the primary assist on both Benn goals.

The second came after Florida netminder Roberto Luongo managed to pass the puck directly to Radulov behind the Panther net.

Still, it took more than a little hand-eye coordination to get the puck to Benn, who scored before Luongo could get back into place.

But it was Benn who does what we often talk about as an admirable quality: leading by example, but which is often hard to achieve when the moments call for it.

Tuesday was one of those moments.

"It's good progress right now. It's really good progress," Hitchcock said. "Happy with a lot of elements that we had here. We're still going to need more participants, but I thought led by Benn and his line, he showed why he's the captain. He showed he had a helluva hockey game. He really took it seriously and he did a heck of a job today, so that's a big step for us. If we can carry it from here, it would be great shape."

Video: Stars can't complete comeback in Florida

 

4. Kari quietly solid again

Hard to fault netminder Kari Lehtonen on the two power-play goals -- both by Jonathan Huberdeau -- or the tying goal by Aleksander Barkov early in the third. And even though the Stars didn't get the win, Lehtonen's outing marks something of a pattern for the veteran netminder, who is now 2-0-1 in his last three starts.

In each case, Lehtonen has come up with a solid performance following a disheartening loss.

Twice those performances have come on the second half of back-to-backs. Ask any backup and those are the hardest games with players tired and, in this case, coming off a demoralizing loss.

Again, Lehtonen made key stops when the team needed him to in order to stay in the game, as he finished the night blocking 26 of 29 shots fired by the Panthers.

"Every day is a new day -- a new game," Lehtonen said. "We're professionals here. We knew we didn't play well last night and today was a good opportunity to change that, and I think we moved in the right direction, but still, work has to be done."

Video: DAL@FLA: Elie beats Luongo with quick backhand shot

 

5. Kids and other things

It's been interesting to watch the young players on the Stars roster come in and out.

We thought Elie had hit a bit of a wall a week or so ago, but on this night, after being scratched for the Carolina game, he was a dynamo in creating chances throughout the night, beating defenders to the puck and, generally, creating havoc.

He played just 8:39, but they were meaningful minutes as he finished with three shots on goal -- including one that found the back of the net 1:07 after Benn's tying marker that gave the Stars a 3-2 lead.

The penalty kill has been a staple of the Stars' success early this season, but they gave up two while short a man on Tuesday, and a third goal shortly after a Jason Dickinson penalty expired and the Panthers outworked the Stars in the moments that followed.

In the third, Radulov took an offensive-zone holding penalty. When a team is as fragile on the road as the Stars are, those are the small things that separate two points from one point.

Going back to Monday's loss, it was an early third-period power play by Carolina that started the deluge.

"Well, I think one of the big positives we're going to take out of it is coming back from being down two," offered defenseman Dan Hamhuis. "It would have been nice to close it out. Their power play was really good tonight and we'll have to take a look at our penalty kill to see if our breakdowns were."

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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