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Burnside: Five takeaways from Stars' difficult start to road trip

Dallas sees its four-game win streak come to an end with frustrating loss to Avalanche

by Scott Burnside @OvertimeScottB / DallasStars.com

DENVER -- The Dallas Stars saw their four-game winning streak come to an abrupt end with a desultory 5-3 loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday night. The loss, easily the most disappointing of the season, was hardly the start to a five-game road trip the Stars were looking for.

Here are some thoughts after a Rocky Mountain letdown.

Video: Bishop reacts to being pulled vs Avs

 

1. Bishop takes a seat

After being the team's most consistent player through the first eight games, goaltender Ben Bishop lasted just 26 minutes, 12 seconds on Tuesday before giving way to Kari Lehtonen after allowing three goals on 17 shots.

Just not Bishop's night, as the normally sure-handed netminder got trapped behind his own goal on a play that led directly to the Avs' second goal, and then allowed a third goal off a scramble less than two minutes later after the Stars had tied the game.

That was enough for head coach Ken Hitchcock, who pulled Bishop at the next TV timeout.

The move did not sit well with Bishop, who remained upset at the decision after the game.

"I guess that's the coach's decision, but it's a 3-2 hockey game with more than half the game left, so not very happy with the decision," Bishop said. "There's still a lot of hockey left. It's a 3-2 game. I felt good. Not very happy with the decision."

Hitchcock, however, was unapologetic.

"It was time to make a change. We were slow and dozy across the board. Everybody. The whole team needed a wake-up call, so we got it," Hitchcock said.  

"It has nothing to do with Ben Bishop," he added. "It has to do with, 'Wake up. Let's get playing,' which is exactly what we did. It had nothing to do with Ben. And I'll do the same with any other goaltender, if I think it's going to help the team and change their mindset. I've got to do whatever it takes, so that's what I did."

Lehtonen, who hadn't played since the second game of the season -- a loss in St. Louis -- was fine, stopping 14 of 15 shots -- although he was beaten five-hole on the eventual game-winner with 9.8 seconds left in the second period, as he couldn't get quickly enough across the crease to block Mark Barberio's blast.

Video: Stars can't complete comeback in Denver

 

2. Johns leaves with injury

Defenseman Stephen Johns left the game after a collision with Matt Duchene in which his head hit the glass awkwardly at the 12:09 mark of the first period. Duchene was assessed a minor for boarding on the play and Johns did come back to the bench briefly, but was later ruled out of action for the balance of the game with concussion symptoms.

He will be evaluated Wednesday.

The team flies to Edmonton Wednesday afternoon in preparation for a Thursday night game against the slumping Oilers.

Video: DAL@COL: Benn keeps the puck onside, buries shot

 

3. Scoring woes continue

If Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin aren't in on Dallas goals, basically, there are no Dallas goals.

And that's problematic for a team that looks, on paper, to be a deep, dangerous team.

After a slumbering first period, Hitchcock juggled his lines to try and get some juice going against Colorado, moving Alexander Radulov off the Benn/Seguin line for the first time this season to a line with Mattias Janmark and Devin Shore. Brett Ritchie moved into Radulov's place and scored his first goal of the season (with helpers from Seguin and Benn, of course).

But not getting production from Shore, Janmark, Jason Spezza, Martin Hanzal and Remi Elie is reaching a critical stage.

At one point in the third period, Shore had a glorious chance in alone thwarted by Avs netminder Semyon Varlamov, and then Spezza and Elie had chances go wide or high of the net on the next shift.

The third period was owned by the Stars as they outshot Colorado 14-7, but managed just one goal by John Klingberg, who redirected a hard Benn shot.

"We're being led offensively by a couple of people," Hitchcock said. "We're asking the same people to do everything. And we don't have enough participants. If we want to win on the road, and we want to be a good team, we don't have enough participants. So that's the bottom line. And for us to be effective and win hockey games, especially in this division, we need way more people with way higher level of commitment and competitiveness."

The Stars were once again solid killing penalties, going 3-for-3. But the power play faltered, as well, failing to click especially on a four-minute opportunity after an Alex Kerfoot high-sticking double-minor late in the first period. The Stars registered just two shots on goal during that extended power play.

Video: DAL@COL: Bishop turns aside Comeau's wrist shot

 

4. Unhappy flashback

For the first two periods, certainly, this team looked very much like the Dallas team that gave up a plethora of scoring chances seemingly on a nightly basis last season.

The Avs, who came into the game riding a three-game losing streak, were quicker to the puck from the get-go, and generated quality scoring chances, especially in the second period when they scored three times.

Julius Honka, whose giveaway and lost puck battle ended up in a Gabriel Landeskog goal in the second period, struggled, as he has at times when the physicality gets turned up.

It was the kind of performance that seems to beg for a response, which would mean bringing Jamie Oleksiak back into the lineup and -- pending Johns' health -- maybe an opportunity for Greg Pateryn, who has yet to play in the regular season.

"By no means did we put out the right effort to win a hockey game," said Benn, who was once again the best Stars player (Seguin being a close second) with a goal and two assists.

"These guys came ready to play. They hadn't played in a while. We weren't sharp enough early on," he added.

Video: DAL@COL: Ritchie pots Seguin's incredible feed

 

5. Slow to open

It took a long time for the Stars' locker room to open after the game, as there was some discussion about how things had unfolded and the need for a better start to games, especially on the road.

Let's not overstate the delay - it doesn't warrant the old 'players-only meeting' that slumping teams often resort to. And in the end, Hitchcock said he didn't think they needed a talk, but felt the "reality check" of the humbling loss was maybe more important.

Still, some soul searching definitely going on.

"You do you have to take it serious and understand that we can't afford to let games like this slip by, because it's going to haunt us later on in the season," said veteran defenseman Marc Methot. "You don't want to be in March and regretting all these games that we're letting slip away. We know what kind of group we have on this team, and there's no excuse for that kind of game that we had tonight. I think we're much better than that."

Sounds about right.

This story was not subject to approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. You can follow Scott on Twitter @OvertimeScottB, and listen to his Burnside Chats podcast here.

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