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Burnside: Five takeaways from Stars' 4-1 loss to Vancouver

Dallas again struggles to find its rhythm as the team's winless skid stretches to eight games

by Scott Burnside @OvertimeScottB / DallasStars.com

The Dallas Stars continued their late-season swoon with another disheartening loss, this one by a 4-1 count to the struggling Vancouver Canucks on Sunday night at American Airlines Center.

Here is a sobering recounting of another forgettable night against an inferior foe at a critical juncture in the campaign.

Video: Methot on loss to Canucks

 

1. Tough slide now historic

This loss brought the Stars' current winless streak to eight games (0-6-2) and is the franchise's longest stretch without a win since it moved to Texas prior to the 1993-94 season.

While the Stars are technically still alive in the quest for a postseason berth, it seems clear they have completely run aground -- both in terms of the standings and having the wherewithal to change their current course.

"Oh, man, it's hard," said veteran defenseman Marc Methot. "Certainly not the -- I don't want to say response, but result that we wanted, obviously, and I think it's a tough position for everybody right now.

"We have to just continue to be professionals and come to work at the rink and worry about the next game."

Where or how did things come unraveled so quickly for Dallas?

"I don't know at what point or what exact problem we're having right now," Methot said. "We're doing and saying all the right things prior to games and in meetings, and the coaches are giving us all the information we need to succeed and win these games. And, I mean, it comes down to just being on us as players. We're not doing the job right now and it couldn't come at a worse time."

The Stars came off a disappointing six-game road trip 0-4-2 and then followed it up with a 3-2 loss at home to Boston on Friday when they gave up three third-period goals, including the winner with 11.1 seconds left.

Sunday should have been an opportunity against a team long out the playoff race to get back into a positive frame of mind. It didn't happen.

Video: Stars drop 8th straight game

 

2. Right now, there's a disconnect

For long stretches of this season, the Stars were a team that prided itself on being resilient -- able to compartmentalize disappointing performances, whether those disappointments were in-game or from game to game.

Now, every hint of adversity seems to send the Stars off the rails.

This game was a perfect example of that. The Stars took a lead late in the first period after an opening frame that featured a handful of quality chances, thanks to a smart play by Mattias Janmark on a shorthanded breakaway. But the Stars gave that goal back 30 seconds later on the same power play.

Then, they gave up a power-play goal on a double-minor assessed Tyler Seguin (more on that later) with one second left in the four-minute Vancouver power play. Adding to that was a weak goal midway through the third by Jake Virtanen from the right side that netminder Kari Lehtonen absolutely had to stop, plus an empty-netter, and that accounted for all of the scoring.  

"We don't deserve to win right now," said Dallas defenseman John Klingberg. "Like (Marc Methot) said, we're doing all the right things before games. Coaches give us all the information. We just don't execute enough. We don't have any confidence at all the way we're playing right now in (the defensive) zone, neutral zone (and offensive)  zone.

"We don't do anything right, and you can tell there's no confidence right now and it's tough to play then."

Video: VAN@DAL: Janmark beats Markstrom on breakaway for SHG

 

3. A snapshot of where this team has ended up

The Stars' play against Vancouver helps on some levels to explain how the team has ended up where they are.

The Canucks are a bottom feeder. That's not being mean, that's looking at the facts. Vancouver entered Sunday's game on a 1-8-0 stretch in its last nine. It had been outscored 29-13 and shut out three times over that time with a grisly minus-53 goal differential that ranked 28th in the NHL.

And still, like so many other lesser teams, the Canucks seemed to play with incredible confidence and poise against the Stars.

In three games this season, the Canucks out-scored Dallas 11-3, including out-scoring the Stars 10-1 in two wins in Dallas. The other game was a 2-1 overtime victory by Dallas back in late October.

Overall, the Stars scored one overtime goal (3-on-3), one power-play goal and one shorthanded goal against a team that shouldn't be that difficult to score on.

On Sunday, the Stars enjoyed quality chances by Jamie Benn, Alexander Radulov and Seguin, yet still, they came out of the first period tied at one goal apiece.

From that point on, the Canucks were the better team. Not by a wide margin, but a wide enough margin.

Reid Boucher scored his third goal of the season -- all three have been against Dallas. Nic Dowd added his third on the power play. Virtanen sealed the deal with just his ninth.

Not exactly murder's row.

"I think when your scoring chances are all in the first half of the game and not in the second half, that's kind of telling," Stars head coach Ken Hitchcock said. "I think losing does that; you do lose confidence.

"I don't think there is one part of our game right now that's exceptional, I think we're getting scored on on the power play pretty much every game. We're not scoring on our quality chances. We had so many in the first period -- some great, quality chances -- we're not scoring so we're not extending any lead. (We get a) really emotional goal shorthanded, then give it back right on the same power play.

"So, those are the same things that come back to bite you. It erodes at your confidence level."

Video: VAN@DAL: Lehtonen denies Edler on the power play

 

4. Several chances, several bouts of bad luck

On this night, Hitchcock reunited the big line of Benn, Seguin and Radulov, and the trio were dynamic, especially in the first half of the game, although they could not, at the end of the day, find the back of the net, which is the final arbiter on success and failure.

Still, they combined for 21 shot attempts on the night, one-third of all the shot attempts generated by the Stars as a whole.

Then, on a shift just past the midpoint of the second period, the trio generated several chances -- as per usual -- but ended being trapped in their own zone for an extended period of time. As the shift dragged on and the Stars failed to clear, Seguin got his stick up on Boucher and was assessed a double-minor for high sticking.

The Stars dutifully killed all but the final second of the four-minute power play. But Dowd's shot from the slot hit the post to Lehtonen's left and bounced into the net off Lehtonen's left skate.

That's the kind of night it was -- and, really, it's been the kind of stretch run it's been for the Stars.

"It's tough to find words. There wasn't much said after, obviously," veteran Stars defenseman Dan Hamhuis said. "We're all disappointed, probably individually and certainly as a team. It is because we have a good team and good players. Good system. It's worked for us for most of the year, and these last eight games now ... there's plays we can be better at and things aren't really going our way right now. (We are) losing games at the end of periods and giving up power-play goals, and it's just little things all over the place are finding their way into our net.

"Guys care, guys are working hard. But we're not executing in key areas and getting the job done."

Video: Stars can't solve Canucks at home

 

5. What lies ahead for the final six games?

Well, the Dallas fans expressed their opinion on the recent level of play throughout the night, booing lustily as a Dallas power-play opportunity shortly after the Canucks had made it 3-1 went off the rails.

They booed the players as they left the ice at the end of the game as well.

"I can relate to their frustration," Hamhuis said. "We've got great fans here in Dallas, I think they see the potential that this team has, and we've been able to play and win games this year. I think they're frustrated. They know what's on the line, as do we. And I think we felt kind of the same way the crowd did tonight."

As for the final six games, two of which are at home this week against Philadelphia on Tuesday and Minnesota on Saturday, Hitchcock admitted he will look at lineup changes. He's got options with youngsters Gemel Smith, Dillon Heatherington and Julius Honka all possibilities in terms of shaking it up.

"I think we've got to look at everything. I think we've got to look at the energy, we've got to look at everything," Hitchcock said.

But when asked if journeyman backup Mike McKenna, called up from the American Hockey League with Ben Bishop sidelined indefinitely, might get a look, Hitchcock was noncommittal.

"I don't want to go that far, I don't want to get into that," the coach said.

At this stage, could it really hurt?

This story was not subject to the 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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