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Scoring barrage sinks Stars in ugly loss to Panthers

Dallas allows seven goals for only the second time in three seasons, including five in the middle frame

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Stars have had some discussion concerning which was their worst game this season.

Friday's likely will stand the test of time.

Dallas lost 7-4 to the Florida Panthers, allowing seven goals on the first 21 shots, including five on the first six shots of the second period. It was stunningly unexpected for a team that led the NHL in goals against average and save percentage entering the night.

 

[READ MORE: Pavelski reaches 1,000 career games played milestone against Panthers]

 

But whether it was goaltending or poor defense, or simple fatigue from playing the night before, the bottom line is the Stars were horrible. They were bad defensively, they didn't get the big stop from Ben Bishop, and they allowed seven goals against for only the second time in the past three seasons.

"We got what was coming to us," said interim coach Rick Bowness. "Listen, this is a league that if you're not ready to compete, they can embarrass you, and we got embarrassed tonight by a very highly-skilled team."

The game was disappointing for a lot of reasons, but maybe the biggest was the fact the Stars played poorly in Tampa on Thursday and Anton Khudobin saved them in a 4-3 overtime victory. Players pledged after that game that they would be much better the next night, and it sure seemed there was plenty of motivation to be good in this one.

Video: DAL@FLA: Bowness on Stars' lopsided loss to Panthers

But the Stars weren't.

They put the Panthers on the power play four minutes into the game, and Florida converted at the 4:37 mark. Denis Gurianov answered with the tying goal nine minutes later, but then an unfortunate bounce off the skate of Roope Hintz made the score 2-1 Florida at the first intermission.

The thought was Dallas would respond to the adversity as it has so many times this season, but things unraveled quickly. Bishop allowed four goals on five shots in eight minutes and then was pulled from the game.

"It just wasn't my night," said Bishop. "After they get that third goal, as a goalie, you need to come up with a big save and keep your team in it. I wasn't able to do that tonight. Not a good night for me."

The decision to pull Bishop was a tough one for Bowness, as Khudobin faced 48 shots on Thursday and the coaches still have to make a decision on who might play a Sunday home game against Calgary, but Khudobin helped calm things down.

He allowed a shorthanded penalty-shot goal to Noel Acciari, but then kept things in check while the Stars rallied back with two goals from Tyler Seguin and one from Jamie Benn.

Video: DAL@FLA: 'Not a good night' for Bishop in tough loss

That was a positive for a team that needed something.

"We used that third to try to get our game back, because there's another game before break," Joe Pavelski said of the Stars' playing Calgary at home Sunday. "It was 20 minutes to try to get skating, try to get our minds in the right spot and go from there."

It was needed, because Dallas has been uneven in games against Florida, Tampa Bay and Edmonton. The Stars have to find their team game again and play defense that supports good goaltending.

 

[WATCH: All highlights from Stars at Panthers]

 

"This was a great reminder of how hard you've got to work," Pavelski said. "Not just a couple of guys, but everyone who steps over the boards. If you're willing to do that, you give yourself a chance to win. It's not guaranteed, but you give yourself a chance.

"We can play with the best teams, but we can play with them when we're ready to compete, when we're a good four-line team," Pavelski added.

Bowness cautioned that the Stars made their statement against a Panthers team that was just trying to secure a victory, but he added that they needed to start somewhere.

Video: DAL@FLA: Pavelski says Stars were 'exposed' in loss

"You say that, but they're up 7-1," Bowness said of the third period. "It was nice, but they stopped playing to the level they were at. We're not going to pat ourselves on the back. We didn't quit, I'll give our guys credit for that, but the opposition had a six-goal cushion and they weren't throwing their A-game at us anymore.

"We did fight back, and I hope that does carry over to Sunday."

The game was an odd contest. Pavelski played in his 1,000th regular season game, Seguin scored his first power-play goal of the season, the Stars allowed their first shorthanded goal of the season, and Florida's Acciari scored his second consecutive hat trick. So a lot to digest there.

But the Stars know they have to learn from the game and move forward.

Asked if this was a game the team needed to flush, captain Jamie Benn said: "When you give up seven, you can't flush it too quick. We'll figure it out."

They have before. Maybe not to this extent, but they certainly have figured things out on plenty of occasions this season.

Don't miss your chance to see the Stars take on the Calgary Flames as they return home to American Airlines Center on Sunday, Dec. 22 at 6 p.m. The first 5,000 kids receive a Miro Heiskanen youth jersey presented by AT&T. Get your tickets now!

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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