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'It can't happen': Turnovers cost Stars dearly in loss to Lightning

Dallas' struggles against Tampa Bay goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy this season continue in 3-0 defeat on Thursday

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

Two too many mistakes were too much for the Stars to overcome Thursday.

Dallas had two key giveaways that the Tampa Bay Lightning turned into two key goals en route to a 3-0 win over the Stars at Amalie Arena.

"The two glaring mistakes end up in the back of the net, and that's the game," said Stars head coach Rick Bowness.

Dallas also put up a solid second period effort that resulted in no goals, and that created a game that was very difficult to win against goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, who posted his third shutout of the season against the Stars.

 

[WATCH: All highlights from Stars-Lightning on Thursday]

 

"The two mistakes we made cost us goals," Bowness said. "The second period, we need to score on those opportunities that we had, and we didn't. Vasi made some big saves for them, but when we controlled that second period as well as we did, we need to find a way to score a goal."

Video: Bowness on what went wrong in loss to Tampa Bay

And that was pretty much it. Needing a near flawless performance to defeat the defending Stanley Cup champions, the Stars had flaws.

Tampa Bay was dominating early play, but Dallas rookie goaltender Jake Oettinger was turning everything away. The game had the feel of one where if Oettinger could allow his teammates to find their legs, then maybe they could break through and get the all-important first goal.

Video: DAL@TBL: Oettinger stymies Point in the 1st

Instead, veteran winger Blake Comeau tossed a bad pass off the boards in his own end that veteran defenseman Jamie Oleksiak couldn't handle. Lightning forward Ondrej Palat took the gift and quickly beat Oettinger to give his club a 1-0 lead 14:41 into the game.

"It was just a slow start and obviously a bad turnover by myself," said Comeau. "This time of year, it can't happen. That's such a good team that any time you don't take care of the puck, they're going to capitalize. It was a frustrating turnover by myself. It was a needless play by myself that put us behind the eight-ball, so it's frustrating."

Video: Comeau on mistakes Thursday: 'It can't happen'

Still, Oettinger stayed strong and the Stars rebooted in the second period. They outshot the Lightning 12-2 in the middle frame and created several great scoring chances. However, they couldn't get a puck past Vasilevskiy, who is the favorite to win the Vezina Trophy and now sits 30-8-1 with a 2.10 goals-against average and a .929 save percentage.

Dallas had a game like this the other night in Detroit and stayed with it, scoring a third-period goal to tie things up and eventually winning in overtime. So when the Stars drew a penalty and had a third-period power play with a chance to get the tying goal, fans were on the edge of their couches.

Instead, defensemen John Klingberg and Miro Heiskanen misconnected on a pass, Klingberg tripped Tampa Bay's Blake Coleman, and the Plano native had a penalty shot and chance to put a dagger in the heart of his boyhood heroes. Coleman did just that, and the Lightning added an empty-net goal for the final score.

The Stars are now 1-4-1 against Tampa Bay with two more games to go in the season series. They finished 2-4-2 against Carolina including a 5-1 loss on Tuesday at home and are 2-3-2 against Florida with one game left in the eight-game season series. If Dallas makes the playoffs, it'll play one of those three teams, so getting some positive momentum going has been a goal.

"We've got to find ways to get points," Comeau said. "We want to make it in the playoffs, and if we get in the playoffs we're going to have to go through some really good teams to get to where we want to be at - and that's to win the Stanley Cup."

Video: Kiviranta on Thursday: 'It felt great to play again'

So not only do the Stars need these points to get to the playoffs, they need a boost in confidence by beating some of these teams. They play at Florida on Monday and then have two more games with the Lightning before finishing up against Chicago.

Oh yeah, and they have maybe the biggest game of the year on Saturday at Nashville. The Predators are two points ahead in the standings and hold the first tiebreaker, which is wins in regulation. So if the Stars are serious about getting the fourth spot, they pretty much have to get two points in that game.

"It's huge for them, it's huge for us," Comeau said. "Everyone knows where we stand right now and we have to expect their best. They know what's on the line, we know what's on the line, so it's going to be important we have one of our best showings. They're going to be a desperate team and we have to match that desperation. We've got to be clicking on all parts of our game - specialty teams, 5-on-5, all four lines, all D, goaltending, everything. These are the kinds of games you want to play in at this time of the year. They're fun to be a part of."

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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