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Burnside: Five takeaways from Stars' 6-5 shootout loss

Dallas salvages a needed point from the wild contest in Toronto, but it leaves wondering about the other that got away

by Scott Burnside @OvertimeScottB / DallasStars.com

TORONTO -- The Dallas Stars overcame an ugly start in Toronto, but ended up blowing two third-period leads en route to a demoralizing 6-5 shootout loss to the Maple Leafs on Wednesday night.

Here are wonderings and wanderings after a game that had lots going on, but at the end of the day, ended with another dose of disappointment from the road.

 

[WATCH: All Stars vs. Maple Leafs highlights]

 

1. There is a crack in everything, that's where the light gets in

We actually stole this line from Leonard Cohen, but it seems apropos given the wild swings in emotion that this game featured.

After dropping the first two games of their current six-game road trip, the Stars looked very much like the team that head coach Ken Hitchcock had described as having revealed cracks in recent days as the pressure of the playoff race heated up.

Kari Lehtonen misplayed a simple dump-in and allowed Nazem Kadri to score uncontested 4:28 into the game. Then, just 25 seconds later, the Stars couldn't clear the front of the net and James van Riemsdyk scored off a rebound to make it 2-0 Toronto with his first of three on the night.

With the Leafs having won 10 straight at home, and with the Stars looking very much like a team that wasn't embracing the pressure but crumbling in the face of it, they somehow managed to turn in, perhaps, the best 40 minutes of hockey they've played in the last two months, scoring four unanswered goals.

But it somehow wasn't enough, just as a late goal by Brett Ritchie wasn't enough as the Leafs took advantage of a tired Dallas group to tie things with 15.3 seconds left in regulation. The Stars couldn't find a way in overtime, in spite of a power-play opportunity, and they came up dry in the shootout to come away with just a loser's point.

"We came back and won the hockey game about three times, but we ran out of gas. Back to back, and what we've gone through, we ran out of gas," Hitchcock said. "It's tough. Tough. I felt for the players to go down 2-0 in this building and mount that type of comeback, and play that well and really outplay them badly for two periods. ...

"It's obviously disappointing for everybody."

Video: Stars fight hard for a point in Toronto

 

2. A point is a point, but it's not two

The shootout loss dropped the Stars to 0-2-1 on the trip. And there really was so much to like about their game Wednesday, including the resiliency and the depth scoring.

But good teams don't blow two-goal leads in the third period. And they don't blow one-goal leads in the final seconds of regulation. And they find a way to score when they earn a power play in overtime. And that's why there is one point in the ledger for the Stars and not two.

It's hard not to think about the rest of the season and wonder how large that lost point will loom.

"We'd like some results. It's a crappy point to give away there," said Toronto-area native Tyler Seguin, who was terrific with a goal and a two assists.

"It's tough. It stings right now for sure," added another Toronto-area boy, Devin Shore, who, likewise, enjoyed a strong game, including setting up the Stars' fourth goal that gave them a 4-2 lead.

"It's tough. We gave that lead away in the third. We said all the right things in the room (about) how we wanted to keep it pushing because I thought that second period was really good. We just didn't execute, so it stings."

Video: DAL@TOR: Seguin pots own rebound after nice move

 

3. What about the good stuff?

Yes, so it was a squandered point. But the way the game began, it looked like getting even a point would be a longshot, so there is that. And after a soul-sucking loss 24 hours earlier to a weary, undermanned Montreal Canadiens team, the Stars looked like a different team for much of the night.

Before the game, Hitchcock was asked about the dearth of scoring for the Stars, and it was pretty simple stuff. The team has, for a long time, relied almost exclusively on three forwards (Seguin, Benn and Alexander Radulov) and one defenseman (John Klingberg) to produce the bulk of the offense.

The rest of the group? Not so much. Intermittent at best.

And with the temperature rising in the playoff race, Hitchcock was pretty candid: either you get more participation or you spread out the top players and hope you cobble something together. On this night, though, there was close to full participation as we've seen in a long time from the Stars.

Ritchie, playing with Seguin and Benn, looked like he'd scored the winner late in the third from the slot off a nice Seguin feed. Before Wednesday, he had scored once in 28 games. Elie's goal off a deft Shore feed ended a 22-game goalless drought. Radek Faksa, who tied the game at two with a nice deflection of a Greg Pateryn shot, has now scored on back-to-back nights.

That stuff matters. Or rather, it matters if that's the start of a trend.

"This is disappointing to not get two out of this, but points are points," Hitchcock said. "We wake up in the morning, we got another point, and we've got to go back into Ottawa and see if we can get there and keep building on this.

"I thought the way our lines looked, we looked more in sync. We looked like we had four lines that could play."

Video: Seguin on tense shootout loss

 

4. A shift without end and a power play without finish

If there were two snippets of this game that illustrate the struggles of the Stars, it was the final shift of regulation with Dallas nursing a 5-4 lead, and the Stars' overtime power play.

Mattias Janmark, Seguin, Ritchie, Klingberg and Esa Lindell were trapped on the ice for what seemed like an eternity with Toronto netminder, Curtis McElhinney, on the bench for an extra attacker. At one point, the puck was iced, and still, the Leafs refused to give up possession until finally Patrick Marleau redirected a Mitch Marner shot that snuck between Lehtonen's legs for the tying goal.

"We had a few chances, just a bounce to get it out," Seguin said. "I had one it hit off the guy's butt. It's tough. I mean, we probably need some more composure. I probably need some more composure with the puck find a better space to get it out. That was a long shift, and I've got to look at that replay. I don't know if that puck bounced off a few players.

"That's the way it went."

But it wouldn't have mattered -- or it wouldn't have mattered as much -- had the Stars capitalized on an overtime power play set up by Janmark driving the net and drawing a Marner hooking penalty.

They peppered McElhinney, who came on in relief of an injured Frederik Andersen midway through the second period, with seven shots in the extra session, most on the power play. But just as they couldn't beat Antti Niemi on a late man-advantage situation Tuesday, they couldn't get the winner to go on this night.

It was the only power play of the night for the Stars.

Video: DAL Recap: Stars fall to Maple Leafs in SO, 6-5

 

5. Get up and go again

The persistent narrative when it has come to Lehtonen this season has been of yeoman work in difficult situations.

The difficult situation part of the equation was no different Wednesday as Lehtonen was back between the pipes 24 hours after his teammates allowed three power-play goals in their 4-2 loss to Montreal.

In this one, though, Lehtonen didn't help his own cause with the early misplay on the Kadri goal. And then, he couldn't find a way to make that one final stop as the Leafs scored three times on 15 third-period shots.

He didn't get a lot of help on the goals, but like the rest of the Stars, Lehtonen will have to bounce back as starter Ben Bishop is still not ready for game action as he comes back from a left knee injury.

"This is a lot to ask a goalie who has been a backup all year, and he's got to step in and play all these games," Hitchcock said. "That's pretty obvious. I mean, it's been a tough go for him. He's held us in there. He's like the rest of our team -- we're running on fumes right now.

"We've got to build up his energy because he's going to have to play some more. We don't have any choice right now Ben's not ready to play, and Kari's going to be the guy and he's going to have to get back up just like the rest of our team -- get back up and get back playing well again. He was running fumes today."

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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