The Dallas Stars got off to a slow start Tuesday night in Columbus, and it proved costly. The Stars fell behind 3-0 in the first period and despite a valiant rally, fell 4-2 to the Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena.
“That’s not the start we want in any game, especially this time of the year when every game’s going to be tight,” said Stars captain Jamie Benn. “There’s not going to be too many blowouts from now on, so you’ve got to come out with a strong start and be ready to go every game here.”
It was a rough game for backup goaltender Dan Ellis, who was making his first start since Feb. 1, a stretch of not playing that included the downtime of the Olympic break. Ellis gave up a goal on the first shot on the game and three goals on Columbus’ first nine shots.
“It was tough to track the puck and to get a feel for the flow of the game,” said Ellis. ”When you have that much time off, it’s tough to replicate anything like that in practice and I think things came a lot quicker than you would anticipate and I didn’t make the saves I needed to.”
Said Stars coach Lindy Ruff: “It’s not easy. I kind of felt for him, the first shot got by him and I think that rattled him maybe a little bit, but we know how well he’s played for us. I think after a break and not playing for that period of time, it’s not an easy spot.”
The Stars did make a game of hit, taking control of the game from about the 15 minute mark of the first period and pulling to within one goal early in the third period.
“I think that’s a positive, but we don’t want to be having too many starts like that again,” said Benn. “It’s unacceptable and it cost us tonight.”
The Blue Jackets, who won their third straight game and improved to 6-2-1 over their last nine, moved into the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.
"It’s a good thing we played well in the first period because we weren’t good the rest of the game,” said Blue Jackets forward R.J. Umberger. “We wanted to get off to a fast start tonight, and the first period is definitely why we won.”
The Blue Jackets struck 1:14 into the game when Boone Jenner beat Dan Ellis with a shot from the top of the left circle off the rush on the first shot of the game.
Columbus made it 2-0 at the 11:29 mark, capitalizing on a Stars turnover. The end result was Umberger working his way into slot, where he beat Ellis to make it a 2-0 game.
Columbus went on the power play a little more than two minutes later and cashed in to make it a 3-0 game. After the Stars couldn’t control a rebound in front of their net, Artem Anisimov scored from close range to make it a 3-0 game.
The Stars dominated play in the second period, outshooting the Blue Jackets 12-1 but they could not cut into the Columbus lead.
“We stopped doing the things that brought us success in the first,” said Columbus coach Todd Richards. “Some of it was based on what Dallas was doing, but I think we were retreating and they started attacking. It’s a different mentality up 3-0 and down 3-0, but that’s one thing we have to learn as a group.”
The Stars went on their third power play of the night 30 seconds into the third and scored to make it a 3-1 game when Alex Goligoski banged home the rebound of a Ray Whitney shot with 18:21 remaining.
Less than two minutes later, Trevor Daley tipped in a Sergei Gonchar shot and it was a 3-2 game with 16:38 left in the third period.
The Stars had some good chances to tie, but couldn’t get the equalizer. Anisimov gave the Blue Jackets some breathing room when he came out from behind the net and scored on a backhand shot to make it a 4-2 game with 4:07 remaining.
The Stars pulled Ellis for the extra attacker with just under two minutes remaining, had some great pressure but couldn’t pull any closer in the game.
“Sometimes you’re going to get hit with some adversity. We had things going pretty good, we got hit with a little tonight,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “I thought we were knocking on the door. We had a couple good opportunities, but we probably needed a big save here or there, unfortunately it wasn’t Dan’s night.”
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.