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Stars squander late two-goal lead in stunning loss to Panthers

Dallas collapses in the third period as Florida rallies with three straight goals to complete comeback

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

The Stars on Thursday gave away two points.

Call it a meltdown or a collapse or just a really bad ending to an otherwise good hockey game, it was a horrendous outcome at a time when the team needed something quite different.

Dallas was leading 2-0 with about seven minutes remaining against the Florida Panthers. Aleksander Barkov got behind Stars rookie goalie Jake Oettinger to tap in a loose puck and close the Stars lead to 2-1 with 6:21 on the clock, and that opened the door for two more Florida goals in the span of 3:11.

The 3-2 defeat leaves the Stars at 6-5-4, while Florida jumps to 13-4-2. Had the Stars won, it would have been their first consecutive victories in a month. Had the Stars won, it would have been the first time Florida lost consecutive games this season. Had the Stars won, they would have walked out of a three-game series against the top team in the division with four points. Had the Stars won, they could have started thinking that a horrible February that included a bunch of losses and a weeklong shutdown because of Texas snow could actually end on a good note.

But they didn't win.

Video: Bowness: Missed chances, poor defending cost Stars

They instead wasted an amazing 53 minutes of team hockey that appeared downright magical at times. It was completely different than Monday, when they wasted a 49-save performance from goalie Anton Khudobin, but it was a waste all the same.

It was a terrible squandering of points that this team is going to need if it wants to be one of the top four teams in the Central Division and make the playoffs.

"That's why they're battling for first place and this is why we're battling to get back to a race for the playoffs," said Stars coach Rick Bowness, who levied some pretty heavy criticism at his veterans for not defending well in the third period and for not handling the pressure of the situation.

"There's got to be some ownership taken here. Look at who let us down again tonight -- the veterans, they did. The defense has to be better than that. You can't get beat off the boards, you can't be turning pucks over like we did, so they're going to have to take some ownership here."

Jamie Benn, Radek Faksa, Jamie Oleksiak and Miro Heiskanen were on the ice for two of the goals, while Joe Pavelski, John Klingberg, Esa Lindell, Joel Kiviranta, and Jason Dickinson were on for the other. Kiviranta had a turnover that helped lead to Anton Stralman's goal that tied the game. Blake Comeau and Heiskanen lost a board battle that led to the game-winner.

Video: DAL Recap: Pavelski, Benn score in Stars' 3-2 loss

"We should have played smarter and have good structure and just chip the puck out, but we didn't do that," said Faksa. "They closed us in the D-zone and they had good momentum and they made us tired and they scored three goals."

In the first 40 minutes, the Stars played some of their best hockey in a month. They controlled the puck, they won physical battles and they created scoring chances. Pavelski scored on the power play two minutes into the second period, and then Benn tipped in a Klingberg shot with two minutes left in the second, and it looked like Oettinger had a nice cushion for the third period.

However, Florida goalie Sergei Bobrovski turned away several great scoring chances to keep his team in the game, and then a fluke board breakage caused a stoppage in play that allowed the Panthers the ability to catch their breath and realize they still had a chance to win.

They came back from the extended rest and controlled the rest of the game.

"To be honest, it wasn't in our favor," Faksa said when asked about the unexpected respite. "We had the momentum and we played really good for 50 minutes. The structure and the system was really good. That changed. I don't know what happened."

Video: Pavelski on tough loss: 'It's frustrating, for sure'

Bowness said the Panthers definitely were a different team after the break.

"It helped them, we had them on the ropes," Bowness said. "It gave them a long break to gather some momentum for the last six minutes. We've got to fight through that and we didn't."

Bowness said Bobrovsky deserved credit for stopping the Stars' scoring chances, but that his players can't continue to fail when they create opportunities. It's a recurring problem this year, and it's costing them points.

And points are getting to be pretty precious just a quarter into the season.

"The position we're in, we realize points are important," said Pavelski. "We're chasing teams and they're a team we're looking ahead at. We've got them in a good spot, we're playing good hockey, and for us to come out like that, it's a tough loss. It's frustrating, for sure. We understand where we're at right now and we're going to have to put it behind us and learn from it and go on the attack."

 

Up next

at Lightning; Saturday 6 p.m. CT

Amalie Arena, Tampa, Fla.

TV: FOX Sports Southwest

Radio: The Ticket 96.7-FM, 1310-AM

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.

Mike Heika is a Senior Staff Writer for DallasStars.com and has covered the Stars since 1994. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHeika, and listen to his podcast.

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