The Dallas Stars fell behind 3-0 Saturday afternoon, rallied to get close but could never overcome the deficit, falling 4-2 to the Tampa Bay Lightning at American Airlines Center.
“The thing I like is we hunkered down, went to work and fought our way back,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “At 3-2 we had two or three unbelievable opportunities to tie and we missed those opportunities.”
After falling behind 2-0 in the first period, the Stars outshot the Lightning 33-10 over the final two periods, cut the deficit to 3-2 late in the second period but could never pull even in the game. For the game, the Stars outshot the Lightning 41-21 and had an 83-40 advantage in shots directed toward the net.
“For 40 minutes I thought we were good, but for 20 minutes we weren’t good,” said Stars defenseman Trevor Daley. “It’s a 60 minute game. It’s definitely frustrating.”
Despite the loss, the Stars (28-22-10) remained in the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. They are tied with both Vancouver and Winnipeg at 66 points, but the Stars have played two fewer games and hold the first tiebreaker, which is points percentage.
The Lightning got a 39-save effort from goaltender Ben Bishop and two goals from Martin St. Louis. The Lightning bounced back from Thursday’s loss in Nashville when they squandered a 2-0 lead and lost 3-2.
“It was weird today because I didn’t even think about that, when we gave up that lead. Clearly we were under siege for the second half of that second period, but I thought our goalie stood tall,” said Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper. “Guys committed to blocking shots and kept pucks out. That’s a really good team over there. It’s hard to come back in this league. We obviously showed that it wasn’t that hard the way we played in Nashville, but statistically, it’s hard to come back in this league.”
The Lightning took the early lead with a goal 1:25 into the game. An Eric Brewer shot off the rush bounced off St. Louis and past Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen.
Tampa Bay extended the lead to 2-0 when Nate Thompson deflected a Victor Hedman shot past Lehtonen at 12:09 of the first.
“They got one goal that bounced in off a guy’s pants and another off a deflection. It wasn’t our best start, but those kinds of things happen,” said Stars center Vernon Fiddler. “We can’t let that happen. We’ve got to be in every game. You give them a two-goal lead and it’s tough to come back.”
The Stars’ penalty kill came up big late in the period, killing off a four-minute Tampa Bay power play after Dallas forward Alex Chiasson took a high sticking double minor.
The Stars dominated play in the second period, holding an 11-2 shots advantage through the first 14 minutes of the period. But St. Louis scored on Tampa Bay’s third shot of the period, beating Lehtonen on a breakaway, to put the Lightning up 3-0 with 5:29 remaining in the period.
The Stars answered a little more than a minute later when Kevin Connauton put a shot on net from the left boards and Antoine Roussel’s deflection bounced off a Tampa Bay defender and into the net to make it a 3-1 game with 4:10 left in the second.
The Stars made it a 3-2 game with 1:49 left in the second when Fiddler came out from behind the net and slipped the puck past Bishop from close range.
The Stars went on a power play late in the second and had 1:38 of time remaining on it to start the third, but they couldn’t cash in. The Stars’ power play was 0-3 in the game and is 1-26 over the last seven games.
“We could have used one,” Stars defenseman Alex Goligoski said. “We had a chance in a one-goal game. We’ve got to figure that out.”
The Stars had a 6-0 shots advantage at the first TV timeout of the third period, but the Lightning scored on their first shot of the period when Sami Salo tallied off a blast from just inside the blue line to put Tampa Bay up 4-2 with 12:48 remaining in the third.
The Stars pulled Lehtonen late in the game for an extra attacker, but couldn’t cut into Tampa Bay’s lead and lost in regulation for just the second time in their last 11 games (7-2-2).
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.