Stars coach Lindy Ruff thought his team played Saturday night the way it practiced Saturday morning, and that wasn’t a good thing. The Stars got off to a slow start and it cost them in a 2-1 shootout loss to the Winnipeg Jets at American Airlines Center.
“The first period we resembled the team that practiced this morning. We weren’t crisp this morning and we didn’t’ come out crisp,” Ruff said. “I thought that hurt us.”
It was the fifth loss in the last seven games for the Stars (2-4-1) and it snapped a three game winning streak at home. The Stars are now 4-5-1 on the season.
“Our first period wasn’t very good. We got outshot, we got outworked. It’s tough to win games when you have bad starts,” said Stars forward Vernon Fiddler. “You’re playing catch up hockey, you’re trying to find some momentum and you just can’t find it. We can’t be a team that turns it on in the third period and expects to win. We’ll take the point out of it, but we have to be much better.”
Despite the slow start, the Stars were in a position to make sure this game never got to a shootout, but they couldn’t’ take advantage of a power play opportunity late in regulation that continued for the first 1:34 of overtime. The Stars were 0-4 on the power play in the game. They are 1-20 on the power play over the last five games.
“We’ve got to figure it out because it can make a difference in the game,” said Stars captain Jamie Benn. “When you have a 4-on-3 in overtime or a 5-on-4 late in the third, whatever it is, that’s pretty big. We’re going up against their four hardest working players pretty much and we’ve got to outwork them and figure out a way to get a goal.”
Getting goals on either side wasn’t easy on this night. Both goaltenders were outstanding. Kari Lehtonen stopped 37 of 38 shots in the game and 2 of 3 in the shootout. Winnipeg’s Ondrej Pavelec stopped 35 of 36 shots in the game and was 3-3 in the shootout.
“Our goalie was fantastic,” said Jets coach Claude Noel. “We gave them some opportunities right there at the end there point blank that he had to come up big. He made some really key saves. I thought that Lehtonen made some key saves as well, but there was some point-blank ones that we had to face. It’s getting to the point where we’re starting to expect that from Pavelec. He’s coming through big time for us.”
The Jets dominated the first half of the first period, outshooting the Stars 11-3, and they ended up with a 14-8 advantage after the first 20 minutes.
The Stars had a power play early in the second period – their second of the game – but couldn’t cash in. Just after it expired there was a delayed penalty call on the Stars and the Jets scored when Evander Kane scored off the rebound of a Dustin Byfuglien shot at the 3:18 mark.
The Stars had another power play chance in the second, but couldn’t get a shot on goal.
The Jets came close to extending their lead just seconds into the third period, but a Devin Setoguchi shot off the rush hit the post.
The Stars tied it at 6:36 of the third after Fiddler picked off a Byfuglien pass in the neutral zone. The end result was Stephane Robidas scoring from the right point on a shot where his stick broke.
“It’s a lucky goal,” said Robidas. “I guess he (Pavelec) probably got surprised a little bit.”
The Jets took a too many men on the ice penalty with 26 seconds left in regulation. Pavelec made a big stop on a Jamie Benn redirection with 18 seconds left in the third.
The power play carried over into overtime, but the Stars couldn’t cash in and surrendered a couple of good shorthanded chances for the Jets.
“It was a chance for us to close out that game and if you don’t score at least get a couple scoring chances. They had the better chances,” said Robidas.
Valeri Nichushkin had a great chance all alone in front of the net with 1:50 left in overtime, but Pavelec turned away his backhand attempt.
Lehtonen came up big with 28 seconds left, stopping a redirection by Andrew Ladd.
The game went to the shootout, where Ladd scored the only goal. Pavelec stopped Jamie Benn and Alex Chiasson and Ray Whitney missed the net.
The win snapped a three game losing streak for the Jets, who improved to 5-5-2 on the season.
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.