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Burnside: Five takeaways from Stars' 4-2 loss to Winnipeg

Dallas loses Bishop to a lower-body injury, plus the game as the Jets sweep the season series

by Scott Burnside @OvertimeScottB / DallasStars.com

WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- The Dallas Stars continued to struggle on their current road trip Sunday, dropping a 4-2 decision to the Winnipeg Jets, one that saw starting netminder Ben Bishop lost for most of the rest of the regular season to injury.

Here are some thoughts on a night that saw the Stars fall outside the playoff bracket in the Western Conference.

 

[WATCH: All Stars vs. Jets highlights]

 

1. Bishop injured, will be re-evaluated in two weeks

The Stars lost Bishop just past the midpoint of the first period as he stretched from right to left to make an outstanding glove save on Bryan Little. Bishop immediately fell forward and it looked as though he may have jammed his left leg against the goal post in making the stop.

Bishop had just returned from a left knee injury that saw him miss five starts in a row. The game against Winnipeg was his second start since the injury, and he said Sunday morning he was feeling fine and felt no repercussions from his first game back on Friday against Ottawa.

But Dallas head coach Ken Hitchcock said Bishop won't be evaluated for about two weeks, which would take the team to April 1. At that point, they will have three games left on their schedule -- all on the road in San Jose, Anaheim and Los Angeles.

"Right now, I would say we'll re-evaluate him in two weeks," Hitchcock said. "So then, we'll see where we go from there."

The Stars will recall Mike McKenna from the Texas Stars of the AHL to back up Kari Lehtonen "for the foreseeable future," Hitchcock said.

Video: Stars can't bounce back against Winnipeg

 

2. Lehtonen's turn to do the heavy lifting

The Stars' playoff hopes now appear to rest squarely on the shoulders of veteran netminder Kari Lehtonen.

He allowed three goals on the first seven shots he faced coming on in relief of Bishop on Sunday. One was a power-play marker by the NHL's leading goal scorer, Patrik Laine (he's tied with Alexander Ovechkin at 43 goals), late in the first period, and he then allowed a point shot from Ben Chiarot to beat him glove side just 1:14 after the Stars had tied the game 1-1 early in the second.

Laine then beat Lehtonen five-hole, breaking in on the right side after the Stars failed to make a simple play and get the puck deep in the Winnipeg zone.

In all, Lehtonen allowed three goals on 20 shots. He made several key saves in the third when the Stars were trailing 3-2, including a diving stop on a Dustin Byfuglien chance on a 2-on-1, and later, when the Stars were killing two third-period minors.

"I'm sure it can't be easy to step in cold like that," captain Jamie Benn said after the loss, which dropped the Stars to 0-3-2 on this six-game trip that ends Tuesday in Washington.

"Once again, he's been having a great year for us and playing great. He stepped in and did a pretty good job tonight."

If the Stars are going to claw their way back into a postseason berth, it appears that Lehtonen will be doing all of the heavy lifting as they have nine games remaining in their schedule.

It's not exactly how management drew up their plan for the season when they acquired Bishop and signed him to a six-year deal in the offseason, but it is now the reality that faces the team.

Video: Benn frustrated following loss to Jets

 

3. So much to like, so little to show for it

Apart from a five-minute stretch in the second period and a late first-period meltdown, the Stars were the better team.

They got chances from all four lines. They got a nice goal from Mattias Janmark just 1:13 into the second period to off-set the late power-play goal by Laine that marred an otherwise terrific first for Dallas. They held the powerful Jets to fewer than 10 shots in all three periods. Jamie Benn scored on a power-play late in the second with a rocket of a shot that closed the gap to 3-2. Tyler Pitlick and Radek Faksa, who set up the Janmark goal with a terrific pass, were stellar.

But it wasn't enough, and that's the harsh reality of where the Stars are at right now.

"The way we played was the way you have to play to beat them. We thought we did a lot of those things that you need to do and we weren't rewarded," Hitchcock said. "You know, they got a heck of a team over there. They make you pay for the few mistakes that you make. I thought we did a lot of things -- players played their hearts out. And they did a lot of things that we wanted them to, and at this time of year, all you can ask for is the ultimate effort, and we got it.

"We got a lot of guys that really busted today and played hard. Winnipeg's got a good team. They make you pay for errors that you make in your own zone. We made a couple of them and they made us pay for it."

One of those errors was a careless penalty by Benn, who upended Blake Wheeler with 16.3 seconds left in the first. Wheeler then somehow made a pass from his belly to Laine, who was open and found the back of the net with 0.9 seconds left in the first.

It was a crushing goal because the team had played so well for so much of the first.

"Probably a stupid one," a terse Benn said when asked about the penalty. "You know what? I think we can clean up little parts of our game. But I thought, for the most part, we played an alright game. Stupid penalty at first by myself and Laine did Laine things again against us.

"I thought our goalie stepped in and played a great game, actually. We couldn't get one late for him."

Video: Stars leave two points on the board in Winnipeg

 

4. What now?

There's no question this road trip has rocked the Stars.

They have two points of a possible 10 and head to Washington, where they'll face the top team in the Metropolitan Division without their starting netminder. They are still tied for the second wild-card spot, but are technically in ninth place as of Monday morning because they've played one more game than the Los Angeles Kings.

Bleak? Sure. But not hopeless, and these are also moments where a team's character and identity will be revealed.

As noted, they played as well as they have on this road trip against a Jets team that is as good as any they've played this season.

"We know we got to win games,vand we lost our game today," Janmark said. "We know there is going to be movement (in the standings). We're still right there -- there is teams that are going to win and lose, and we got to pick up points.

"We didn't do ours today, so we got to do ours against Washington. We're right there, we just got to stay alive here when we're going through this tough stretch, and then I think once we can turn the page here, we can make a push because teams might forget about us because we're struggling here.

"We've got to stay alive and then make a run for it."

Moving past this game will be difficult, but that's the challenge now with every game, said defenseman John Klingberg, who logged 24:15 in ice time Sunday and added an assist on the Benn power-play goal.

"It's disappointing for sure, but we've just got to move on," Klingberg said. "It's emotional if you lose, it's emotional if you win. You've just got to stay neutral there, and we got out chances, (but) we didn't finish, and that's how it is sometimes.

"I think we took a step in the right direction here. We played a better game 5-on-5, got one on the power play as well. Tough break getting PK there in the first. That's how hockey is and we've just got to move on."

Video: DAL Recap: Janmark, Benn score in road loss to Jets

 

5. Let's say this about that

Apart from the Benn penalty, on which the Jets scored their lone power-play goal, the Stars' penalty killers were exceptional.

But once again, the timing of the penalties they took was unfortunate.

Twice in the third period, when they were trailing by a goal, the Stars took careless-stick penalties with both Esa Lindell and Alexander Radulov assessed tripping penalties in the first half of the third. That's four minutes of time spent on your heels that needed to be spent hunting down a tying goal.

Conversely, the Stars were once again the team with the fewer power-play opportunities in the game. That comes from not having the puck enough and not doing enough with it in the offensive zone to force opposing teams to take penalties.

"I think we should keep the puck more in the (offensive) zone. That's when we're going to draw penalties down low -- that is going to be huge for us if we want to win more games," Klingberg said.

Sunday marked the sixth straight game in which the Stars had fewer or equal the number of power plays as their opponents.

"We've got to find a way to stay out of the box, and on the opposite side, find a way to create more," Benn acknowledged. "We got to draw some more penalties, and that's probably on the forwards on doing a better job in the offensive zone. And we got to hold on pucks and make them take penalties on us."

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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