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Sloppiness comes back to bite Stars in loss to Maple Leafs

Bowness says Dallas' attention to detail 'was nowhere near where it has to be' against Toronto

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

DALLAS -- The Stars were sloppy Wednesday.

Sloppy with the puck, sloppy with their defensive details, sloppy with their focus. The result was a 5-3 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs. It was an interesting lesson in how this team wins and why the coaching staff is so intense in hammering the details needed to play to the team's identity.

 

[WATCH: All highlights from Stars vs. Maple Leafs]

 

"Our attention to detail was nowhere near where it has to be," said Stars interim coach Rick Bowness, referencing a 3-2 win over the Lightning Monday. "It was the complete opposite of what we did against Tampa, another high-scoring team. It shows you that if we don't think about our net first, and we don't pay attention to details, then we're going to be giving up goals that we shouldn't give up."

Forward Andrew Cogliano, who came back from a leg injury and played 13:54, said this was not the way the Stars typically play.

"Ultimately, I didn't think we played detailed enough," Cogliano said. "We knew what type of team they were. They play a puck-possession game. They want to play offense. Teams like that, when you cheat a little bit and you get into their style of game, you lose. That's what happened tonight."

Video: TOR@DAL: Bowness wants better details from Stars

It makes sense.

On Auston Matthews' goal at the 12:18 mark of the first period, Dallas started exiting the zone, and then got burnt when Mitch Marner made a great pass to a wide-open Matthews. The Leafs' leading scorer made the Stars pay with a perfectly placed shot for goal No. 36, and that's one of the reasons Dallas needed to be focused on the minutiae of details.

"Finishing checks, proper sticks, staying with your guy, just the details of the game," Bowness said. "If you cheat on those things, it's going to come back and bite you against a very good hockey team."

Dallas tied it up late in the first period when Denis Gurianov showed another fantastic burst of speed. The rookie winger shot past the Leafs' defense and then converted his 13th goal of the season on a beautiful play that helped him earn his second-highest time-on-ice total of the season at 17:48.

Of course, as the game went on, the Stars continued to slip up.

Video: TOR@DAL: Gurianov splits defenders for pretty goal

Zach Hyman got behind Joe Pavelski and scored off a slippery pass from Marner to make the score 2-1 in the second period, and then Tyson Barrie was the recipient of much good fortune on a bad shift from Jamie Oleksiak and his teammates. Oleksiak, who was credited with five giveaways in the game, turned a puck over behind the net that caused the Stars to get into a bit of chaos. That led to a Barrie shot, and as Ben Bishop tried to slide over to stop it, his skate hit Oleksiak's skate, and the Leafs had a 3-1 lead.

Bishop wanted to claim interference until he realized it was his own teammate interfering.

Alexander Radulov scored twice sandwiched around a William Nylander goal to bring the deficit to one goal on two separate occasions, but the Stars couldn't mount a comeback the way they have so many times before this season. Dallas had several opportunities in the offensive end late in the third period, but Toronto won three of four faceoffs, and then on the fifth, when Tyler Seguin got a win, the Leafs' jumped the route, took the puck and scored into an empty net.

Details.

It was a really nice performance by a Toronto team that now has more points than the Stars (61 to 60), but is fighting for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. It was a display of just how much speed and talent the Maple Leafs possess. It was also a lesson in allowing a game to slip away.

Video: TOR@DAL: Cogliano says Stars weren't detailed in loss

The Stars did a lot of good things again. Shots on goal were 34-34, shot attempts were 71-54 in favor of Dallas, hits favored the Stars 31-20. Faceoffs were officially 26-26 and Dallas had three more giveaways, but this statistically was the kind of game that fans want to see.

The offensive opportunities were there.

But if we're learning about the defensive details of the game, it's probably just as fair to point out the offensive details. Gurianov's sprint was created because of a nice pass from John Klingberg. Radulov's second goal came from a heady play by Mattias Janmark and a quick shot from Miro Heiskanen. And his first goal was almost solely created by Radek Faksa.

With time running down in the second period, Faksa fought off a check, stayed with the play, tracked down a loose puck, and fired a pass to Radulov across the ice. It was a mix of focus, effort and skill, and it really should be appreciated for its beauty. Because as much as we talk about defensive focus and defensive details and defensive effort, the same can be said for goal-scoring.

The Stars have been a good team in creating offensive chances coming out of the break. It was talked about a great deal in video sessions, and a lot of the talk is spilling out on the ice in these first two games.

Video: TOR@DAL: Radulov fires wrist shot by Andersen

Dallas has been in the 20s in scoring chances the past two games, and that's a great thing. If the Stars start focusing on the details that will allow them to cash in on those chances, the goals might start coming. And if they can start completing plays that will result in a power-play goal or two, who knows where this can go.

The Stars need to be better in their details, and Wednesday's loss was a great example of that. But they need to be better in all sections of the ice.

Don't miss your chance to see the Stars take on the Minnesota Wild when they return home to American Airlines Center on Friday, Feb. 7 at 7:30 p.m. 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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