The Dallas Stars got a chance to see how they stacked up against the best team in the league Thursday night. The first 20 minutes went well, but the final 40 minutes were ugly, and the result was a 6-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena.
[WATCH: Full Stars-Lightning highlights]
"This was probably the biggest disappointment of a game so far this year," said Stars captain Jamie Benn. "They pretty much took it to us from the start of the second and took over. They kept coming at us, and we didn't help ourselves at all."
The Stars and Lightning were scoreless after the first period thanks to some sharp goaltending from Ben Bishop who was playing his first game against Tampa Bay since the Lightning traded him to Los Angeles at last season's trade deadline. But the Lightning outscored the Stars 3-1 in the second period and then 3-0 in the third.
"It was a poor effort out there tonight. We hung our goalie out to dry in his big return to his old team," said Benn. "It was just more embarrassing hockey."
Video: DAL@TBL: Faksa steals puck, bags breakaway goal
Bishop stopped 22 of 28 shots, and Radek Faksa scored the lone goal for the Stars who fell to 9-9-1 on the season and finished their three-game road trip with a 0-2-1 record. The Stars were outscored 14-4 during the three games excluding the goal Florida was awarded for defeating the Stars in a shootout on Tuesday.
"We can be better. We can live in the dream world that it's unfair, but we are what we are," said Stars coach Ken Hitchcock. "We are giving up way too many goals. On this trip we gave up 14 or 15 goals. You can't do that. You can't play this way and be successful. So that's the base we have to start from; we have to start keeping it out of our net. We've got to be better defensively. We've got to be better across the board defensively. Let's start from there."
Steven Stamkos tallied four points (two goals, two assists), Nikita Kucherov recorded three points (one goal, two assists), and Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 27 shots as the Lightning won their fifth straight game and improved their league-leading record to 15-2-2.
"It seems like we're relying on one line, but everyone is contributing, especially our defense. Everybody's chipping in," said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. "In the end, [the Stamkos] line is going to get a lot of accolades, but Brayden Point's line went against Jamie Benn for 21 minutes tonight."
Video: DAL@TBL: Bishop fights off Johnson's quick wrister
The Lightning outshot the Stars 13-6 in the first period, but Bishop was solid in goal and came up with a couple of big stops early, denying both Victor Hedman and Tyler Johnson on quality looks from the slot.
The Stars outshot the Lightning 15-8 in the second period, but the Lightning scored three goals on their first four shots and had a 3-1 lead after 40 minutes.
The Lightning had 1:52 of power play time to open the period and Stamkos scored off a one-timer from the left circle 47 seconds into the second to give Tampa Bay a 1-0 lead.
The Stars tied it at the 3:34 mark when Faksa blocked Braydon Coburn shot at the point to create a breakaway and beat Vasilevskiy with a wrist shot to make it a 1-1 game.
Video: Stars struggle against Lightning
Just 1:17 later Tampa Bay regained the lead after Mikhail Sergachev's shot from the left point eluded Bishop, putting the Lightning ahead 2-1.
The Stars got three straight power plays, including 25 seconds of five-on-three time, but Tampa Bay scored the only goal during that stretch. John Klingberg fumbled the puck behind the Dallas net, Point stole it and beat Bishop, who was trying to set a pick for Klingberg and was late getting into position, on a wrap-around for a shorthanded goal.
"The third goal killed us," Hitchcock said. "Played a great second period, managed the first period. The third goal really took the momentum out of us. The third goal really hurt us."
The Lightning poured it on in the third period, scoring three more times. After the Stars couldn't clear the zone, Kucherov set up a wide-open Stamkos who scored from close range to make it 4-1 at the 3:57 mark. Jake Dotchin scored from the point to at 8:18 mark to push the lead to 5-1, and Kucherov rounded out the scoring by redirecting a Hedman pass into the net to give Tampa Bay a 6-1 lead at 13:52 of the third.
Video: Bishop on return game in Tampa
The Stars are 3-7-1 on the road.
Both teams had 28 shots on goal. The Stars had a 51-46 edge in shot attempts.
Tyler Seguin and Devin Shore led the Stars with four shots apiece. Seguin led the Stars with eight shot attempts.
The Stars were 0-3 on the power play and 3-4 on the penalty kill.
The Stars won 45 of 66 faceoffs (68 percent). Jamie Benn won 13 of 17 (76 percent). Tyler Seguin won 9 of 16 (56 percent). Martin Hanzal won 8 of 9 (89 percent).
Alexander Radulov did not factor in the scoring, ending his nine-game points streak.
John Klingberg led the Stars with 22:54 of ice time.
Video: Klingberg on disappointing game in Tampa
The Stars return home to play the Edmonton Oilers Saturday afternoon. This will be the second meeting of the season with the Oilers who defeated the Stars, 5-4, in Edmonton on Oct. 26. Saturday's game will kick off a stretch that will see the Stars play three of their next four games at American Airlines Center where they are 6-2-0 this season.
Video: DAL Recap: Faksa scores in 6-1 loss to Lightning
Mattias Janmark - Jamie Benn - Alexander Radulov
Gemel Smith - Tyler Seguin - Devin Shore
Remi Elie - Martin Hanzal - Jason Spezza
Antoine Roussel - Radek Faksa - Tyler Pitlick
Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Dan Hamhuis - Greg Pateryn
Jamie Oleksiak - Stephen Johns
Scratched: Brett Ritchie
Injured: Marc Methot
This story was not subject to approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.