A slow start doomed the Dallas Stars Saturday night. The Stars fell behind 3-0 in the first period and could never recover, losing 3-1 to the Florida Panthers at American Airlines Center.
"We started slow and got behind the eight ball, and we were just chasing it all night from there," said Stars forward Patrick Eaves. "They played well and were above us the rest of the night, which made it tough for us."
The Panthers grabbed a 1-0 lead three minutes into the game and then tacked on two power play goals late in the first to build their 3-0 lead while outshooting the Stars 22-6.
"The slow start killed us," said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. "Collectively from our forwards, defensemen, and goaltender. We lost almost every faceoff and had to chase the puck around. When you do that you end up taking a couple of penalties, which we did, and you get behind - it's hard. We created our own problems and that first 20 minutes was too tough to recover from."
Antti Niemi got the start in goal but was pulled in the first period after allowing three goals on 20 shots. Kari Lehtonen played the rest of the way and stopped all 18 shots he faced.
"I don't think you can just lump this on the goaltender. We hung him out to dry on a couple of the plays. Could he have made the save - yeah - but this isn't on our goaltender," Ruff said. "I threw [Kari Lehtonen] in to see if he could give us a spark."
Eaves scored the lone goal for the Stars who had their winning streak snapped at three games and their points streak end at five. The Stars fell to 16-15-7 on the season.
Obviously, it's a bit of damper," said Stars defenseman Jordie Benn. "We've got to take what we did really well in the last three games and learn from that and take this game and learn from this. We've just got to remember we can't come out flat-footed in the first period. Every team's a strong team. They'll take advantage of it if you come out flat."
James Reimer stopped 35 shots and Jaromir Jagr and Vincent Trocheck both had one goal and one assist for the Panthers who snapped a four-game losing streak and improved to 16-14-8.
"The guys were great," said Florida coach Tom Rowe. "We talked about playing a simple game, chipping pucks out when the plays were not there, and the guys couldn't have done that any better. I am happy for them. As coaches, we are thrilled for the players because they have gone through a lot and stuck with it and they got rewarded tonight."
The first period was ugly for the Stars, who were outshot 22-6 and outscored 3-0. The Panthers struck early in the game to take a 1-0 lead. Trocheck scored off the rebound of a Jagr shot at 3:06 of the first period. The Panthers extended the lead to 2-0 with a power play goal at the 15:32 mark when Jussi Jokinen roofed a shot from the left circle after a Florida faceoff win. The Panthers went on another power play 14 seconds later, and Jagr put a shot through Niemi from the right circle to make it 3-0 at the 16:39 and end Niemi's night.
The Stars got a couple of power play chances in the second period and cashed in on the second one to cut Florida's lead to 3-1. Eaves scored on the rebound of Jamie Benn's tip of a Tyler Seguin shot at the 16:32 mark.
The Stars outshot the Panthers 20-7 in the third, had two more power play chances but couldn't cut into the Florida lead and ended 2016 on a losing note.
"I think it's real important that we have to put [this loss] away real quick," Ruff said. "We know how bad we were. We know the small fundamentals we got beat at. We have to put it behind us. We have been focusing on how we've been playing. We got away with a little bit easier game the previous game, but they came at us hard tonight. You have to give them a lot of credit."
Notes: Jamie Benn "dinged up" in Saturday's game
*Stars captain Jamie Benn came up limping after Patrick Eaves scored on the power play in the second period. Benn didn't miss a shift and finished the game, but he was getting treatment after the game and Stars coach Lindy Ruff said they will monitor him the next few days.
"He got a little dinged up," Ruff said. "We'll have to see where he's at tomorrow and the next couple of days. Wanted to finish the game. I don't know if that was the smartest decision or not. But he did. Hopefully, we didn't create a bigger problem."
*Forward Patrick Sharp returned to the lineup after missing the past 12 games with a concussion. He played 15:46, had no points and three shots on goal.
*The Panthers outshot the Stars 38-36. The Stars had an 89-54 advantage in attempted shots.
*Devin Shore led the Stars with 5 shots on goal. Patrick Sharp led the Stars with 11 shot attempts.
*The Stars had 27 missed shots.
*The Stars were 1-4 on the power play and 0-2 on the penalty kill.
*Dallas won 28 of 62 faceoffs (45 percent). Radek Faksa was 2-11 (18 percent). Florida's Vincent Trocheck won 17 of 27 (63 percent).
*John Klingberg led the Stars with 23:21 of ice time. Esa Lindell was next with 22:42.
The Stars don't play again until Wednesday when they wrap up their three-game homestand against the Montreal Canadiens. This will be the first meeting of the season between the Stars and Canadiens.
Jamie Benn - Jason Spezza - Tyler Seguin
Curtis McKenzie - Radek Faksa - Brett Ritchie
Lauri Korpikoski - Devin Shore - Patrick Eaves
Jiri Hudler - Cody Eakin - Patrick Sharp
Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Dan Hamhuis - Jamie Oleksiak
Johnny Oduya - Jordie Benn
Scratched: Stephen Johns, Patrik Nemeth, Adam Cracknell
Injured: Antoine Roussel (upper body), Mattias Janmark (knee), Ales Hemsky (hip)
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.