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Burnside: Five takeaways from Stars' 3-2 OT loss to Ottawa

Dallas can't hold off the Sens after tying the game late in the third as the wild-card race grows even tighter

by Scott Burnside @OvertimeScottB / DallasStars.com

OTTAWA -- The Dallas Stars continue to struggle against lesser teams as they dropped a 3-2 overtime decision to the Ottawa Senators on Friday night, the second time in less than two weeks they've lost to the lowly Senators in overtime.

Here are some thoughts and meanderings on a loss that extended the team's winless streak on this six-game road trip to four games with huge games coming up in Winnipeg and Washington.

 

[WATCH: All Stars vs. Senators highlights]

 

1. A 'good' point?

For the second game in a row, the Stars could not hold a third-period lead, giving up an early power-play marker in the to veteran sniper Marian Gaborik that tied the game at 1-1. Then, they had to scramble for a late Tyler Pitlick goal after Matt Duchene looked like he was going to win it for Ottawa in regulation with a late 5-on-5 goal.

Still, it was interesting to hear head coach Ken Hitchcock's assessment of this point, especially given how at various points in the season he has been adamant that loser's points can't or shouldn't be considered "good." 

Hitchcock acknowledged dropping the extra point in Toronto on Wednesday -- when the Stars blew leads of 4-2 and 5-4 en route to a 6-5 shootout loss -- was not a good point, but he felt that scratching and clawing their way to a loser's point against a much lesser Ottawa team represented something else entirely.

"This is a great point," a surprisingly upbeat Hitchcock said. "To come back -- and we've got nothing left in the tank -- and to keep pushing, this is a good point. The point in Toronto was tough. That's really tough. But this is a great point, and Ottawa -- they've got a lot of skill and a lot of speed and they put us to the test. And to come back and get a point in this game after we almost gave it away is good. We move on."

Video: Hitch on loss in Ottawa

 

2. Maybe it's 'good' because to speak of the alternative is too hard to take

The Stars opened the scoring in this game on a power-play goal by Tyler Seguin off a tremendous Jamie Benn feed in the slot. But after the first, it appeared the Stars were leaking energy.

Part of that was, once again, taking needless penalties.

The Pitlick double-minor -- even though it was an inadvertent high-stick -- happened on a neutral-zone play involving Ben Harpur with less than a minute to go in the middle frame. Pitlick acknowledged he needed to get the puck deep and didn't.

The whistle cost the Stars as just two minutes, 20 seconds into the third period, Benn left the Dallas zone looking for a break when it looked like the Stars were going to be able to chip the puck out. But the puck never left the Dallas zone and Marian Gaborik finished off a pretty three-way passing play to tie things up.

More troubling, though, was that the Stars went more than 16 minutes in the third without registering a shot on goal, and it was right after their first quality chance in the third, by Mattias Janmark, that the Senators took a 2-1 lead on a nice move by Matt Duchene at the side of the net, setting the stage for Pitlick's heroics.

"We had no energy. We had nothing," Hitchcock said. "Guys are taking 10, 12, 15-second shifts. This is a long road trip and we're in the middle of a battle, and it's been taxing on a lot of guys. So we take the point and we move on and get ready for Winnipeg."

Dallas netminder Ben Bishop, playing for the first time since the first Ottawa game as he's dealt with a left knee injury, feels the Stars need to do a better job of committing to adding to leads as opposed to sitting back.

"I don't think it's fatigue," Bishop said. "It's a little concerning that we wait for them to get the lead before we decide to turn it up a gear and start getting some shots. I feel like it's there for the taking. It's about going out and doing it and not waiting until we have to get a goal or we have to come back.

"We're getting the lead. It's about extending it now instead of sitting on it and then waiting for them to take the lead and then us turning it up a notch."

Video: DAL@OTT: Bishop turns away Pageau in front

 

3. Speaking of Bishop

It was a mild surprise that Bishop, who missed five starts, was back in action this soon. But he seemed none the worse for wear for the layoff and was especially sharp in the third period when it was the Senators who seemed to have all the jump.

"Bish was good," Hitchcock said. "I thought our defense hung in there. I thought we needed a lot more from some guys up front or we need to find more somewhere along the way. I thought our group back there they held the fort pretty well, and Ben was a big part of it."

Bishop stopped 22 of 25 and really couldn't be faulted on any of the three Ottawa goals, including the overtime winner scored by Mike Hoffman from the right side.

"I was alright. A little rusty, but I felt alright," Bishop said. "Just about getting in kind of that game mode as far as the speed and whatnot. As the game went on, I felt better."

Video: DAL@OTT: Pitlick spins, nets shot while falling

 

4. Laying out the facts

Having collected two of a possible eight points on this road trip (0-2-2), and having slipped to the very edge of the playoff bubble in the Western Conference, it puts significant pressure on the Stars to come up with points in the two remaining games before returning home.

Winnipeg has mauled the Stars all season, winning all three previous meetings, while Washington is starting to roll and sits atop the Metropolitan Division.

The Stars did get some help Friday with Colorado losing, so they still technically own a playoff berth with 84 points -- tied with the Avalanche, who still control the first wild-card spot because they have played one fewer game than Dallas. The Stars are also knotted with the Ducks, who defeated Detroit on Friday, but continue to hold the second wild card since they have more regulation and overtime wins than Anaheim (34-32).

Hitchcock has told his players that as long as they can hold ground until they get home, they'll be okay.

Benn insisted there wasn't any frustration in the Stars' room at the lack of results on this road trip this far.

"No, we've just got to dig in and find a way to win these games," Benn said.

The captain suggested that Ottawa somehow plays a different style than the Stars are used to.

"It's hard to play against. We should have done a better job of recognizing and taking care of the puck and finding a way to play in their end," said Benn, who finished with five shots on goal, tied with Pitlick for the game-high for either team.

"I think obviously (Pitlick's) goal was big -- it got us a point. Last game, we got some depth scoring, so (we are) just finding a way to win these games right now."

If there is disappointment or frustration at how this trip has unfolded, they need to put it to rest and find a way to move forward, Hitchcock said.

"Ultimately, if we're going to get into the playoffs, we're going to have to come together at an incredible level and as a group, and this is a test to see how deep we want to dig for each other," the coach said.

"It's a good test."

Video: DAL Recap: Benn records two assists in 3-2 OT loss

 

5. Odds and ends

The Stars managed to draw just one minor penalty on the night, which they did capitalize on. But maybe it's a function of the team's general lack of energy that they're not getting more power-play time.

They managed just one power-play chance against Toronto, and that came in overtime. You can call the special-teams game a wash if you'd like, given that each team scored once with the man advantage on Friday, but that's being charitable to Dallas, which, once again, found itself on the wrong side of careless stick fouls.

Pitlick's double-minor ultimately cost the Stars a goal, and before that, they gave the Senators two other man-advantage opportunities.

This was the second time on this trip that they lacked discipline against a team that is well out of the playoff race, having allowed three power-play goals in a 4-2 loss to Montreal in the second game of the road trip. To follow this trend against a powerful Winnipeg team is a recipe for a fifth straight loss.

Brett Ritchie did not play Friday and is considered day-to-day with a lower-body injury, but we thought Gemel Smith brought a welcome dose of energy in Ritchie's place, playing mostly with Jason Spezza and Janmark.

No question a huge relief for Pitlick to score the equalizer with 1:48 left in regulation -- and just 1:22 after the Duchene goal had given Ottawa a 2-1 lead. And lots of credit is due to Dan Hamhuis, who saw Pitlick in front and got him the puck from the point, after which Pitlick swept home his own rebound.

In the end, if the Stars manage to secure a spot in the top eight, that Pitlick goal will loom large.

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

Scott Burnside is a senior digital correspondent for DallasStars.com. You can follow him on Twitter @OvertimeScottB, and listen to his podcast.

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