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Slow Start Costly as Stars Fall to Blue Jackets, 4-2

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

A slow start put the Dallas Stars in a hole they couldn’t climb out of Tuesday night, and the result was a 4-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets that ended their home winning streak at three games.

The Stars found themselves down 2-0 by the 7:26 mark of the first period and the deficit was 3-0 by early in the second.

"I thought we got off to a real poor start,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “We weren't ready to play. Taking three penalties in the first, that hurt us.”

The Stars could have used some help from the power play, but it went 0-5 in the game and was able to generate just three shots on goal over its final three opportunities. Columbus scored on one of its five power play chances.

“Special teams are huge every game,” Stars forward Ales Hemsky said. “We knew they had a good power play too. We had the chances on our power play -- three or four, maybe more -- and we didn't get it done. That's probably the difference in the game.”

"The power play had spurts, but not well enough,” Ruff said. “Could have been the difference maker, and just couldn't quite get it going. Too many turnovers, too many giveaways, too many blind plays.”

Anders Lindback got the start in goal, his first since Nov. 29, and stopped 16 of 20 shots. He fell to 1-6-0 on the season with a 4.26 goals against average and .856 save percentage.

“It’s tough. He’s had a long spell. We probably needed another save out of him,” Ruff said. “I thought he committed a little too early on a couple of them but it’s not easy. He hasn’t started in a long stretch, but we needed him to be a little bit better if we were going to win the game.”

"I don't know, I think I played pretty well,” Lindback said. “I didn't think there were any bad goals, but obviously when you let in four goals you can’t be too happy about it when you lose the game. Obviously I'm disappointed but it is what it is.”

Hemsky and Antoine Roussel scored for the Stars, who lost their second straight game (0-1-1) and fell to 18-15-6 on the season. They are five points out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Sergei Bobrovsky was solid in net for Columbus, stopping 24 of 26 shots. Ryan Johansen had one goal and one assist and defenseman Kevin Connauton tallied the game-winner. The Blue Jackets won for the 12th time in the past 15 games (12-2-1) and are now 18-17-3 on the season.

“It’s awesome. This is a fun time right now. We’re stringing together quite a few wins in the last month or so, making a good push,” Connauton said. “Everyone in here, we’ve got the same goal, we want to make the postseason. We’re just taking it step-by-step, and that was a big win for us tonight.”

The first period was a rough one for the Stars, who took a penalty 55 seconds into the game, were outshot 10-6 and surrendered two goals, including one power play goal on three shorthanded opportunities.

Columbus took the lead 5:21 into the game when a James Wisniewski shot from the point deflected off the stick of Hemsky and past Lindback.

The Blue Jackets extended the lead to 2-0 a little more than two minutes later, cashing in on their second power play of the night. Scott Hartnell set up a wide-open Ryan Johansen, who scored from the right circle off the rush at 7:26 of the first.

“We had a slow start today. We took three penalties, and that took the momentum from us,” Hemsky said.

Columbus extended the lead to 3-0 at the 3:57 mark of the second. After the Stars turned the puck over in their end, Johansen set up Connauton, who scored off a blast from the point against his former team.

“I went in tonight with the mentality it’s just another game,” said Connauton, whom the Blue Jackets claimed off waivers from Dallas in November. “But I think anyone could agree that when you kind of get pushed aside by someone and come in and have some success against them, it’s a good feeling. It was nice and weird at the same time, but like I said, the fact we walked out of here with a win is a good feeling.”

The Stars got on the board about 90 seconds later when Hemsky skated into the right circle at beat Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky with a slap shot.

The Stars cut the lead to 3-2 when Garbutt put a shot on net from the slot that deflected in off the skate of Roussel at 13:14 mark.

The Stars stepped up the pressure in the third period but Bobrovsky came up with some sharp saves to the Stars down one goal. The Stars had a 9-2 shots advantage, but Columbus scored on its third shot when Mark Letestu finished off an odd-man rush to make it a 4-2 game with 2:58 remaining.

“I think we were on it the last 35 minutes but that’s not good enough. We have to be on it the whole 60 minutes to make it count,” said Roussel. “We can’t start two goals down and try to battle from there. If we start every game like we finished tonight we are going to be right there like we have been the last 10 games.”

Ritchie gets a look on top line

With the Stars falling behind, coach Lindy Ruff did a little line juggling Tuesday. He moved Brett Ritchie up the lineup to play right wing on the top line with Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn.

“I thought Ritchie played really well,” Ruff said. “He may have been our best player tonight. He drew three or four penalties, physically dominated. I thought he had a lot good going for him.”

Notes

*The Stars outshot the Blue Jackets 26-20.

*The Stars had a 53-38 advantage in shots directed towards the net, including shots on goal, shots blocked and those that missed the net.

*Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn and Jason Spezza co-led the Stars with four shots each.

*The Stars were 0-5 on the power play and 4-5 on the penalty kill.

*The Stars have allowed a power play goal in seven of their past eight games and are 20-27 (74.1 percent) on the penalty kill during that stretch.

*The Stars won 33 of 59 faceoffs (56 percent).

*Vernon Fiddler won 9 of 13 (69 percent). Jason Spezza won 8 of 12 (67 percent). Cody Eakin won 7 of 15 (47 percent). Jamie Benn won 6 of 14 (43 percent).

*Trevor Daley led the Stars in ice time with 23:43.

The Stars activated forward Shawn Horcoff off injured reserve Tuesday.

Stars lineup

Jamie BennTyler SeguinColton Sceviour/Brett Ritchie
Erik ColeJason SpezzaAles Hemsky
Antoine RousselCody EakinRyan Garbutt
Travis MoenVernon FiddlerBrett Ritchie/Colton Sceviour

Alex GoligoskiJohn Klingberg
Jamie OleksiakTrevor Daley
Jordie BennJason Demers

Anders Lindback
Kari Lehtonen

Scratched: David Schlemko

Injured: Shawn Horcoff (illness), Patrick Eaves (ankle), Valeri Nichushkin (hip), Patrik Nemeth (arm)

This story was not subject to the 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.

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