Three-on-three overtime has not been the friend of the Dallas Stars so far this season. And the rocky relationship continued Tuesday night at American Airlines Center. New Jersey's Adam Henrique scored 44 seconds into the extra period to lift the Devils to a 2-1 victory over the Stars, who are now 0-5 in overtime this season and have lost nine straight OT games dating back to last season.
"For sure, [it's frustrating]," said Stars goaltender Antti Niemi. "You play 60 minutes, good game and we've got to be happy having a 1-1 tie. It just gives it all away."
The Stars had possession to start the overtime, but a Jamie Benn to Tyler Seguin pass misfired, creating a two-on-one rush the other way and Kyle Palmieri set up Henrique, who put the puck into the open side of the net.
"That's the best possession we've had in [overtime] in a long time, but we made an ill-advised decision to put a puck in the middle," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. "We had good possession, and we should have been changing by that time. The result was we made a bad pass and we let guys get by us."
The loss spoiled an outstanding performance by Niemi, who stopped 31 of 33 shots in his first start since Nov. 5. Both goals against Niemi came off turnovers by the Stars that resulted in odd-man rushes.
"He was excellent," Ruff said of Niemi. "I thought he was excellent."
Patrick Eaves scored the lone goal for the Stars, who are now 6-6-5 on the season. The Stars, who were coming off a five-game road trip, were outshot 33-24 in the game.
New Jersey (9-3-3) won its fifth straight game and improved to 8-1-2 over its past eleven.
"We just stuck with it. We had a game plan going in. They're a highly-skilled team that can strike at any moment no matter how the game's going. We had to stick with it," said Henrique. "Our D did a great job just keeping pucks alive in the offensive zone, establishing that zone time. Sometimes playing against an offensive team like that, the best defense is playing in their end. It's a good start to the road trip, and we have to find a way to keep that going."
The Devils took a 1-0 lead 7:40 into the game when John Klingberg fanned on a shot at the New Jersey blue line, creating an odd-man rush that defenseman Damon Severson finished off. The Stars answered less than three minutes later when Antoine Roussel picked off a John Moore pass at the Dallas blue line and set up Eaves, who scored from the right circle off the rush at 10:33 of the first.
"[Roussel] made a great play turning over the puck," Eaves said. "I just tried to follow him up the ice, and he saw me and I got a good shot off. Fortunately, it went in. That's pretty much the play. [Roussel] did it all."
The Devils outshot the Stars 16-7 in the second period, but there was no scoring. Niemi was sharp in goal for the Stars and Devils goaltender Cory Schneider came up with a big save on a point-blank bid by Adam Cracknell to keep Dallas from taking the lead. New Jersey's Beau Bennett came close in the final minute, putting a backhand shot off the post.
The third period was evenly played. The Stars had a chance on the power play with 4:47 remaining, but could not take advantage. And the game went to overtime, where the Stars came up short for the fifth straight time this season.
"We just have to take the first 60 minutes and then the next," said Stars defenseman Jordie Benn. "We played pretty hard. We'll do a little work on our three-on-three, and we'll get back to it."
Spezza returns; Eakin, Sharp close
*Stars forward Jason Spezza returned to the lineup Tuesday after missing five games with a lower-body injury. He played 16:07 and had one shot on goal and three shot attempts.
"It was good to get him back in," said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. "I just don't think he's up to speed yet. He's close, probably. We're going to get some guys coming back in, and I think long-term it's going to be a good thing for us."
*Stars forwards Cody Eakin (knee) and Patrick Sharp (concussion) are both getting closer to returning to the lineup. Both players took part in the team's morning skate Tuesday. Eakin has been out since early in training camp and has yet to play this season.
"I am guessing [Eakin] could be ready by Thursday or Saturday. Saturday at the latest," Ruff said. "He's done really well, skated the day before, and we'll get him a couple of practices."
Sharp has missed 13 games due to the concussion.
"Sharp is based on how he is feeling," Ruff said. "We're moving him along and if he progresses he'd have an opportunity later in the week. That would probably be a Saturday."
Still no timetable on forward Jiri Hudler, who remains out due to illness. Ruff said Hudler is still undergoing tests.
*The Stars ran a video tribute for Devils center Vernon Fiddler during the first TV timeout Tuesday night. Fiddler signed with the Devils in the offseason after playing five years for the Stars. After the video tribute, Fiddler received a standing ovation from Dallas fans.
"It was special," Fiddler said. "I have been through a lot over my five years here, and the fans have always stuck behind our team. It was special not only for me, but my family was up there. I'm proud of them too because it's a group effort when you're a professional athlete and they have stuck by me the whole way."
*The Stars assigned C Justin Dowling to Texas Tuesday afternoon.
*Stars forward Antoine Roussel extended his points streak to seven games (3 goals, 6 assists). Roussel's seven-game run is the longest active points streak in the NHL.
*The Devils outshot the Stars 33-24 and had a 72-57 advantage in shot attempts.
*Jamie Benn led the Stars with 5 shots on goal and 8 shot attempts.
*The Stars blocked 27 shots in the game. Stephen Johns was tops with 4.
*The Stars were 0-2 on the power play and 1-1 on the penalty kill.
*The Stars won 28 of 53 faceoffs (53 percent).
*Tyler Seguin won 10 of 15 faceoffs (67 percent). Radek Faksa won 9 of 16 (56 percent). Adam Cracknell and Jason Spezza both won 3 of 7 faceoffs (43 percent).
*John Klingberg led the Stars with 21:18 of ice time.
The Stars continue their homestand Thursday when they take on the Colorado Avalanche at American Airlines Center. This will be the second meeting of the season between the Stars and Avalanche. Colorado won, 6-5, in Denver on Oct. 15.
Jamie Benn - Radek Faksa - Lauri Korpikoski
Antoine Roussel - Tyler Seguin - Patrick Eaves
Gemel Smith - Devin Shore - Jason Spezza
Curtis McKenzie - Adam Cracknell - Brett Ritchie
Dan Hamhuis - John Klingberg
Johnny Oduya - Stephen Johns
Patrik Nemeth - Jordie Benn
Scratched: Esa Lindell, Jamie Oleksiak
Injured: Cody Eakin (knee), Patrick Sharp (concussion), Jiri Hudler (illness), Mattias Janmark (knee), Ales Hemsky (hip)
Watch: Postgame Quotes
Jordie Benn: "Jason [Spezza] is a calming aspect on the power play and he's just a veteran guy that comes in and does his job. He's obviously a big presence for us."
Lindy Ruff: "We're going to get some guys coming back in and I think long-term it's going to be a good thing for us."
This story was not subject to approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.