Before the Dallas Stars headed into the All-Star break, coach Lindy Ruff said the team needed to start winning games they dominate. They dominated another one Tuesday and the result, again, was a loss. Despite a 42-26 shots advantage, the Stars fell 3-2 to the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre.
Montreal goaltender Carey Price turned in a sparkling performance in goal, making 40 saves including several great ones.
“I think you saw it. Most of the play was in the Montreal end. Five-on-five we dominated play,” Ruff said. “Price made some unbelievable stops. They got lucky on a couple around the net, but I thought Price was fabulous.”
The Stars’ last three losses have come in games in which they’ve had the better of play. They lost 2-1 to Winnipeg on Jan. 15 despite a 47-22 shots advantage. Ondrej Pavelec stood tall in net for the Jets. They outshot Boston, 37-27, on Jan. 20 in a 3-1 loss. Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask came up big that night. And on Tuesday night it was a 42-26 advantage over the Canadiens. This time it was the Carey Price show.
“It was similar to the last game against Boston,” said Stars center Tyler Seguin. “We had a lot of shots. The opportunities were there to bear down and steal a game or change the game, but Carey made some great saves.”
Jamie Benn and Patrick Eaves scored goals, and Kari Lehtonen stopped 23 of 26 shots for the Stars, who fell to 21-19-7 on the season.
“It's tough," Lehtonen said. “The last two games have gone the same way, the other goalie has stolen the show, and it's frustrating. I have to do a better job, and our guys have to score when they have that many opportunities. It's as simple as that. I have to be a better goalie than the other goalie; then we have a better chance to win.”
The power play was an issue again for the Stars. The Stars did score a power play goal in the game, but they missed on two lengthy five-on-three opportunities, one for 1:40 and then another for 1:03 late in the game.
“I thought at the end our power play didn’t get it done, and that was the biggest difference,” Ruff said.
The Canadiens (30-13-3) won their third straight game. Price improved to 11-2-1 over his past 14 starts with a 1.64 goals against average and .946 save percentage. He has allowed two goals or fewer in 13 of those 14 starts.
“Our best player has been Carey,” said Montreal defenseman Tom Gilbert. “He made some great saves down the stretch and kept us in the game.”
The Stars had a 16-9 shots advantage in the first period, but Montreal had a 2-1 lead after the first 20 minutes. Montreal opened the scoring 6:07 into the game when Alexei Emelin sent the puck into the corner from the point, it bounced out of the corner and past Lehtonen to give Montreal a 1-0 lead. Alex Galchenyuk made it a 2-0 game at the 9:53 mark, driving the net from the left wing and scoring off a backhand shot.
The Stars cut the lead to 2-1 with just one second left in the first. After an intentional offside call on Montreal defenseman P.K. Subban, the Stars got a draw in the Canadiens zone with 2.7 left in the period. With Lehtonen out of the net for an extra attacker, Jason Spezza won the draw back to Benn, who blasted the puck past Price.
“It was a call that was made. There’s not much you can do about it,” Subban said. “I’m just glad we won.”
Montreal extended the lead to 3-1 by cashing in on the first power play of the night. After P.K. Subban put a shot on net, Brendan Gallagher went after the rebound and scored on his third shot attempt at 4:37 of the second.
The Stars cut the lead to 3-2 by taking advantage of some lengthy power play time. With the Stars already on the power play, Emelin was given a major penalty and a game misconduct for hitting Spezza into the end boards and leaving the Stars center with a broken nose.
“He hit me from behind, and I hit the dasher,” Spezza said. “I broke my nose but I knew I was going to be back.”
The penalty on Emelin gave the Stars 1:40 of five-on-three power play time. They failed to score on with the two-man advantage but scored with 16 seconds remaining in the major penalty. Seguin picked up a loose puck, drove the net and then backhanded it to Eaves, who scored from close range to make it a 3-2 game at the 10:05 mark.
Both teams had back-to-back power play chances in the third. Montreal couldn’t extend the lead. And the Stars couldn’t cash in on a 1:03 five-on-three with four minutes left to tie the game.
“We’ve got to find a way to win these games,” said Spezza. “We need to get points this time of year. It was a frustrating one, especially with the five-on-three at the end.”
*Stars defenseman Vernon Fiddler hobbled to the bench after blocking a shot in the third period. He did play the last eight minutes of the game. There was no update after the game.
*The Stars are 6-12-3 when outshooting the opposition this season.
*Montreal is 15-8-2 when outshot by the opposition.
*The Stars had a 79-46 advantage in attempted shots, which includes those on goal and those blocked and missed.
*Ryan Garbutt led the Stars with seven shots on goal. Patrick Eaves had six shots.
*The Stars were 1-5 on the power play and 4-5 on the penalty kill.
*The Stars won 30 of 65 faceoffs (46 percent).
*Jason Spezza won 11 of 18 (61 percent). Vernon Fiddler won 6 of 11 (55 percent). Jamie Benn won 5 of 13 (38 percent). Cody Eakin won 4 of 12 (33 percent). Tyler Seguin won 3 of 9 (33 percent).
*Trevor Daley led the Stars with 23:13 of ice time.
Jamie Benn – Tyler Seguin – Patrick Eaves
Shawn Horcoff – Jason Spezza – Ales Hemsky
Antoine Roussel – Cody Eakin – Ryan Garbutt
Travis Moen – Vernon Fiddler – Colton Sceviour
Alex Goligoski – John Klingberg
David Schlemko – Trevor Daley
Jordie Benn – Jason Demers
Scratched: Jyrki Jokipakka, Jamie Oleksiak
Injured: Erik Cole (upper body), Brett Ritchie (undisclosed), 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.