In some of the previous games where the Stars had the shots advantage and lost, they struggled to score. On this night, keeping pucks out of their net was a major issue.
“I thought we worked as hard as we could work and battled as hard as we could battle,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “Their only two opportunities in the first period went into the net while I think we had eight or nine. They’re a good team; we had them frustrated. Just too many went in.”
The Lightning scored on their first two shots of the game to take a 2-0 lead. The Stars bounced back to tie on second-period goals by John Klingberg and Alex Goligoski. The Lightning controlled the third period, gaining some momentum from five minutes of power play time. They took a 3-2 lead with a power-play goal, only to have the Stars tie it again on a Trevor Daley goal. But Tampa Bay scored again and then added another goal to seal the victory.
“They got some momentum off the calls obviously,” Ruff said. “We didn’t like that power-play goal but I liked our answer. We fought back again, but we put a lot of work into a game we ended up losing. We’ve got to get a save.”
Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen allowed four goals on 28 shots and Ruff was blunt in his assessment of the goaltender’s play following the game.
“Kari wasn’t good enough for us tonight,” Ruff said. “To beat a team like that, playing that well and you battle back, he’s got to be better for us. That power play-goal, for me, is a goal that he misread…it should have been a save.”
The loss dropped the Stars to 23-20-8 on the season. They remain five points out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
“It’s going to be difficult to gain ground if we’re not collecting points,” said Stars forward Erik Cole. “Obviously we got one (point) the other night (in a shootout loss to Colorado), but it didn’t leave a very good taste in anyone’s mouth.”
Tyler Johnson scored two goals, Steven Stamkos had one goal and one assist and 20-year-old goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 33 shots for the Lightning, who improved to 6-1-1 over their past eight games.
“Well, what can you say about that kid?” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said about Vasilevskiy. “Your goalie’s got to give you a chance to win the game. He can’t go out there and score goals for you, but he can keep them out. When Dallas was buzzing, he was the calm in the storm. He gave us a chance to be tied going into the third. If we don’t have him, we don’t win that game.”
The Lightning scored on their first two shots to take 2-0 lead just under seven minutes into the game. Mark Barberio’s shot from the left point was blocked, but it ended up on the stick of Steven Stamkos, who scored from close range at the 3:11 mark to put Tampa Bay up 1-0. Cody Eakin blocked Victor Hedman's intitial shot from the point, but Hedman got the puck back and scored off a blast to make it 2-0 at the 6:42 mark.
Tampa Bay came close to making a 3-0 game just under six minutes into the second, but Lehtonen stopped Valtteri Filppula on a breakaway to keep it a 2-0 game.
The Stars, who outshot the Lightning 17-6 in the second, then struck for two goals 15 seconds apart later in the period to tie. Tyler Seguin set up Klingberg, who avoided a sliding Brenden Morrow and then scored off a wrist shot from the slot at the 15:21 mark to make it a 2-1 game. The Stars then tied it when Vernon Fiddler backhanded the puck on net off the rush, and Goligoski tipped it in to tie the game 2-2.
“It was a good play by [Shawn] Horcoff on the wall and Fiddler laid one in there,” Goligoski said. “I got a piece of it and then it just went in.”
Tampa Bay regained the lead at 12:27 of the third, cashing in on their third power play of the game and second full one of the period. Johnson’s shot from the right circle went by Lehtonen’s glove and into the net to make it a 3-2 game.
The Stars answered 1:14 later when Jamie Benn set up Daley, who scored from the left circle off the rush to make it a 3-3 game.
But Tampa Bay took the lead for good with 3:37 remaining when Johnson tipped in a Brian Boyle shot.
“It hit me in the blade. I just tipped it and it went five-hole,” Johnson said. “I knew it went in and I was pretty pumped.”
Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov sealed the win with an empty net goal with 1:17 remaining.
“In the third period tonight we weren’t very good,” said Goligoski. “We really only played a good game during the second period and we were really good. We were just a little flat in the first. And in the third is where it went wrong. You have to put them behind us. There is no time to sit around and sulk. You have to put it behind you.”
*Stars captain Jamie Benn cut with a high stick in the first period but there was no call on the play.
“They said they didn’t see it,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “I can scream and yell as much as I want, but they said they didn’t see it. If they don’t see it, they can’t call it.”
*Trevor Daley’s goal was his 13th of the season. He ranks second among all NHL defensemen.
*John Klingberg’s goal was his tenth of the season. He leads all rookie defensemen in goal scoring and is tied for 12th among all NHL defensemen.
*The Stars outshot the Tampa Bay 36-29.
*The Stars are 7-13-4 when outshooting their opponent.
*Jason Spezza led the Stars with six shots on goal.
*The Stars were 0-4 on the power play and 2-3 on the penalty kill.
*The Stars won 33 of 64 faceoffs (52 percent).
*Cody Eakin won 10 of 17 draws (59 percent). Jamie Benn won 5 of 9 (55 percent). Vernon Fiddler won 6 of 13 (46 percent). Jason Spezza won 8 of 18 (44 percent).
*John Klingberg led the Stars in ice time at 23:56.
*The Stars recalled RW Brett Ritchie from the AHL Thursday and placed LW Travis Moen (lower body) on injured reserve. Ritchie was a scratch for the game against Tampa Bay.
Jamie Benn – Tyler Seguin – Patrick Eaves
Erik Cole – Jason Spezza – Ales Hemsky
Antoine Roussel – Cody Eakin – Ryan Garbutt
Shawn Horcoff – Vernon Fiddler – Colton Sceviour
Alex Goligoski – John Klingberg
Jyrki Jokipakka – Trevor Daley
Jordie Benn – Jason Demers
Scratched: Brett Ritchie, David Schlemko
Conditioning assignment: Anders Lindback
Injured: Travis Moen (lower body), 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.