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Burnside: Five takeaways from Stars' 5-4 OT loss to Tampa Bay

Dallas claws back late -- really late -- to pick up a hard-earned point against the league-best Bolts

by Scott Burnside @OvertimeScottB / DallasStars.com

The Dallas Stars came up with a much-needed loser's point after dropping a wild one to the NHL's leading team, the Tampa Bay Lightning, 5-4 in overtime on Thursday night.

Here are some musings and mutterings on a game in which the Stars appeared to be down and out, but somehow found a way to erase a two-goal, third-period deficit and, maybe, make a little statement of their own.

Video: Stars steal a point late against Tampa

 

1. Doesn't matter how you cut it, that's a pretty good point

Remember back in January when Dallas head coach Ken Hitchcock jumped all over our poor friend Mike Heika from the Dallas Morning News when Heika had the temerity to suggest that a shootout loss to Columbus was a "good point?"

It was a good point then, and Hitchcock made no bones about the fact that this was a good point to get for a Dallas team that entered the third period down 4-2 in spite of being the better team for about 32 of the first 40 minutes of this game.

"I'm really pleased with the way we played the game," Hitchcock said not long after Cory Conacher - who once upon a time was involved in a trade that sent Stars netminder Ben Bishop to Tampa from Ottawa - had somehow deflected the rebound of his own shot into the Dallas goal for the overtime winner with 41 seconds left.

"We made a couple of mistakes and paid the price for it, but we played a very good hockey game and especially in the third period," Hitchcock added. "This is going to end up, hopefully, being a really valuable point."

Valuable in the standings for sure, but valuable in the team's psyche, perhaps, as well.

This was a Tampa team that whipped Dallas 6-1 in November. And when they scored three times in just over seven minutes of the second period, it looked like another rout was on tap. But Brett Ritchie scored 1:50 into the third, and Mattias Janmark scored with 3.5 seconds left in regulation to send this one to overtime -- and that's why this is as good a loser's point as you're likely to find around these parts.

The best player on the ice Thursday, Tyler Seguin, agreed there was much to build on from the comeback.

"I think so. Not only for who we were playing, but also, I don't think it's happened enough this year," Seguin said. "There hasn't been enough of ... a pushback by our team, but tonight, I thought we did some stuff we can definitely build off of."

Video: Seguin scores twice against Tampa

 

2. Speaking of No. 91

This might have been as good a game as we've seen Seguin play this season.

And not just because he scored twice and added an assist to run his current point streak to four games (five goals, two assists) -- although that stuff was impressive. For us, it's once again about Seguin's overall game.

He was once again a key factor on the penalty kill, where the Stars were perfect for the second game in a row, including having to kill a long 5-on-3 for the second straight game. In fact, it was during the 5-on-3 that Seguin's determination on the boards in the Dallas zone, trying to clear a puck, led to a tripping penalty call against impressive Lightning rookie Yanni Gourde, and help the Stars escape that situation unscathed.

Seguin finished the night with 22:47 in ice time, 1:59 on the penalty kill. And he won 13 of 16 faceoffs.

Reunited with captain Jamie Benn and Alexander Radulov, the trio were a force all night, tracking down pucks and creating chances.

"I mean, (Tampa Bay is) the best team in the league, I think, and (we) found a way to get a point," a subdued Seguin said after the game.

"Would have liked to have two. I thought we were good. There was times where probably needed some more puck possession in their end, but overall, I thought we got some good looks. But again, would have liked to get the two points."

Video: TBL@DAL: Bishop denies Miller without a stick in 2nd

 

3. Sometimes, the goalie saves you -- and sometimes, the goalie needs to be saved

This was a strange game. Let's start there.

Brayden Point scored 1:02 into the game after J.T. Miller outmuscled Greg Pateryn behind the Dallas net on a play that seemed to surprise Bishop. Then, after the Stars had taken a 2-1 lead on Seguin's second of the night, with the teams playing 4-on-4, the Lightning scored three times in less than seven minutes, including the first-ever NHL goal for Anthony Cirelli on his first-ever NHL shot, beating Bishop short side.

Alex Killorn scored after Bishop couldn't control the rebound on a long Cedric Paquette dump-in, and Steven Stamkos beat Bishop five-hole on a breakaway.

In all, Bishop allowed three goals on 12 second-period shots, and five goals overall on just 25 Tampa shots. Still, Hitchcock scoffed when asked if he'd thought about lifting Bishop after the fourth goal.

"No, listen, this is playoffs for everybody. Ben's been terrific, you've got to go with it," Hitchcock said.

And here's the thing: Bishop stole the last two home games he started, including Tuesday's 2-0 win over Calgary when he stopped all 38 Calgary shots on a night when many of his teammates were missing in action.

"You know, they've been the story of the team," Hitchcock said of his goaltending tandem of Bishop and Kari Lehtonen. "And we've just got to stick with them. Some days, it's going to be really good, and he's going to save us like he did against Calgary. And sometimes, we've got to help him out, and it's the same thing as Lehts.

"They've helped us more than we've had to help them, and tonight was a night we needed to help Ben, and we got to overtime. So that's a good feeling for us."

Fair point, and the Stars did respond, especially in the third when they outshot the Lightning 14-3.

Video: TBL@DAL: Dickinson sets up Ritchie's one-timer in 3rd

 

4. Take a bow, Brett Ritchie (and you too, Jason Dickinson)

Sometimes, when Hitchcock sings the praises of players, you wonder if he's doing so to simply help build their confidence or whether he's actually seeing things that aren't visible to the layman's eyes. But earlier this week, the Dallas coach said he was impressed with where Ritchie's game was at, even though he had just four goals on the season and had gone 21 games without a goal before Thursday's third-period marker.

But Hitchcock seemed prophetic as Ritchie enjoyed his best game, perhaps, of the season. Not only did Ritchie score, he had five shots on net and led all players with six hits.

Needless to say, Ritchie was pleased to find the back of the net, and the fact it led to a hard-earned point was another bonus.

"Yeah, it gets you off the schneid a little bit. I mean, I was getting chances. You start to worry when you don't get chances and stuff," Ritchie said. "I knew one was going to go in, and I knew I needed to try and help the team out with a little goal here and there, so it's good to get one.

"Every game's going to be huge, and any time you can contribute on the score sheet's a bonus."

Ritchie's goal came as a result of some hard work by linemates Remi Elie and rookie Jason Dickinson, who also has come in for some, if not praise, then certainly lofty expectations from Hitchcock, especially with Martin Hanzal out now week-to-week.

Dickinson had a fine night, as well, playing a surprisingly physical game, especially in the offensive zone.

"He's stronger than you think," Ritchie said. "He's wiry, but he plays a pretty hard game, and I think that's -- not a new part to his game -- but he's really embraced that, I've noticed, since he's become a pro. I watched him in junior and he was like a real dangler, but he's adding that element to his game and that's definitely something that's going to help him when he's up here."

Hitchcock, too, liked what he saw from the team's fourth line.

"Excellent -- that line was really effective, and in the third period, we played it as the third line and they got a lot of momentum for us," he said. "And they really turned pucks over, and it was really effective line. There is a real trust from the coaching staff with Dickie (Dickinson). Especially down low in our zone, he reads the game well. He's got a lot of courage to play down there."

Video: TBL@DAL: Janmark ties the game in the final seconds

 

5. Odds and ends

Early on, the Dallas power play -- which has now scored in back-to-back games -- looked like the unit that Hitchcock imagines moving the puck smartly, getting traffic in front and shooting the puck toward the opposing net.

So, that's a start.

"Obviously, it's been talked about a lot. Happy to get it going a little bit more tonight, and we've got some more work to do," Seguin said.

Fair enough.

Two games in a row, they've won the special-teams battle as they denied the Lightning on all three opportunities, including, as we noted, what started as 1:22 of 5-on-3 before Tampa Bay took a penalty to negate that.

And then, there was the frantic final moments of regulation that saw Janmark tie the game, and then officials having to check to make the game hadn't ended after the main scoreboard clock malfunctioned before having to see if Seguin had interfered with Tampa Bay netminder Louis Domingue before the Janmark goal.

He didn't, but honestly, in watching the replay, we wouldn't have been at all surprised if they'd overturned the call on the ice.

Lightning coach Jon Cooper thought they should have.

"You look at that and you say, 'What's the better call?' The better call was the goalie had no chance to make a save," Cooper said. "I guess I was in the minority on that one, but the result turned out the way we felt it should. We pulled it out."

And then, in overtime, more weirdness as the Stars had several excellent chances, including a Tyler Pitlick opportunity that hit the post. On that play, Domingue went down with some sort of pull or cramp and took considerable time getting himself back into form to continue playing.

Not sure what the protocol was, but we were surprised officials didn't force Domingue from the game in favor of Tampa's top netminder, Andrei Vasilevskiy, who played the night before at home against Buffalo, given the length of time it took to determine Domingue could carry on.

"I wasn't going to put Vasy in net ice cold. If someone's going to get hurt, I'd prefer it's me," Domingue said.

Okay then.

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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