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Stars fall to Senators

Stars can't overcome early deficit in 5-2 loss to Ottawa

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

Some familiar issues plagued the Dallas Stars Wednesday night at American Airlines Center. There were missed chances, the penalty kill allowed multiple goals and the Stars ended up needing to use both their goaltenders in the game. The end result was a 5-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators.

And Wednesday's loss kept the Stars from hitting three wins in a row, something they have been able to do only once this season.

"We haven't been able to go on a streak, and that's why we are where we are," said Stars center Jason Spezza. "You have to ride the wave when you're winning games, and you have to try to string five or six games together to make up ground in the standings. We haven't been able to do that, and that was something we were able to do last year, and it's been incredibly frustrating."

The loss left the Stars (27-30-10) seven points out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference with 15 games remaining.

"Time is running out," said Stars forward Adam Cracknell. "Some teams just keep winning, and we have to do our part and focus on what we can do, and we have to win."

The Stars came out strong early in the game Wednesday, missed a couple of good scoring chances and the Senators scored two quick goals, including one of the power play to take a 2-0 lead. The Senators scored early in the second to take a 3-0 lead and chase Dallas starter Kari Lehtonen from the net. It was the 11th time this season that a Stars goalie has been pulled from a game.

"Not to be too critical but we got two great games out of Kari where he played fabulous," said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. "We probably would've wanted a couple more saves to try and change momentum and get it going the right way."

After the Stars cut the lead to 3-1, Ottawa scored it's second power-play goal of the night to make it a 4-1 game. It was the 13th time the Stars have allowed two or more power-play goals in a game this season.

Spezza and Tyler Seguin scored goals for the Stars. Lehtonen stopped 15 of 18 shots and Antti Niemi, who took over early in the second, stopped three of five shots.

The Senators (37-22-6) won their fourth straight game. Viktor Stalberg, Cody Ceci, and Fredrik Claesson each had one goal and one assist, and goaltender Craig Anderson stopped 35 of 37 shots.

"We're just taking it one game at a time. We'll let you guys worry about stats and streaks and all that fun stuff that you can talk about," Anderson said. "But for us in the room, we're focused on one game at a time, one period at a time. To break it down even more for me, it's one shot at a time. We're showing that it's fun to win."

The Stars had a couple of good chances early, but couldn't take advantage. Spezza shot wide with a chance at an open net 50 seconds into the game. Brett Ritchie rang a shot off the post at the 4:51 mark. The Stars got the game's first power play at the 6:52 mark, but couldn't take advantage.

The Senators then struck for two goals later in the period with the first one coming on their first power play of the night. Stalberg set up Chris Wideman, who scored from the right circle to put Ottawa up 1-0 at the 13:41 mark. Less than two minutes later, Zack Smith won an offensive zone draw, and Claesson scored from the left point to make it 2-0 at 15:21 of the first. It was the first goal of Claesson's NHL career.

"It feels really good. I kind of waited for this moment for a long time," Claesson said. "I just hammered and an old knuckle puck there."

Ottawa extended its lead to 3-0 at the 3:21 mark of the second when Jean-Gabriel Pageau scored off a scramble in front of the Dallas net. That ended the night for Lehtonen, who was replaced by Niemi.

A little more than a minute after the goalie change, the Stars cut the lead to two. Spezza sent a pass from behind the Ottawa net to Seguin, who scored from the bottom of the right circle to make it a 3-1 game at the 4:30 mark. Stars forward Remi Elie picked up an assist on the goal for his first NHL point.

"It was nice," Elie said. "It was a nice play. Spezza made a nice pass and Seguin was able to put it in."

The Senators made it 4-1 with 1:51 left in the second when Stalberg tipped in a Dion Phaneuf shot with Ottawa on the power play.

Spezza scored on the power play at 8:04 of the third to cut the Ottawa lead to 4-2, putting a shot on net from a sharp angle and having the puck bounce in the net off Senators defenseman Mark Borowiecki. The Senators answered 57 seconds later when Ceci put a shot on net, and the rebound went off Stars defenseman Stephen Johns' stick and past Niemi, giving Ottawa a 5-2 lead that would stick until the end of the game.

Notes: Cracknell gets extension

*The Stars announced Wednesday that they signed forward Adam Cracknell to a one-year, $675,000 contract extension. Cracknell, who was expected to play in the AHL, has been with Dallas all season, registering ten points (seven goals, three assists) and a plus-12 rating in 54 games.

"This is the spot where I want to be," Cracknell said. "It's a great team, a great organization. It was a battle off the start, and I am going to keep working to earn my place here. That's what got me this extension, and it's a great reward, but I am focused on our team right now and to keep making a push."

"He has played well in that fourth line role for us," said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. "He has a career high in goals and has done a good job managing the puck on the penalty kill for us. So, he's been a surprise for us, and I think his extension is well deserved."

*The Stars outshot the Senators 37-23 and had an 86-42 advantage in shot attempts.

*Jason Spezza led the Stars with seven shots on goal and 12 shot attempts.

*The Stars were 1-4 on the power play and 1-3 on the penalty kill.

*Dallas won 31 of 67 faceoffs (46 percent). Ottawa's Jean-Gabriel Pageau won 13 of 15 draws (87 percent).

*John Klingberg led the Stars with 26:56 of ice time.

What's Next

The Stars head out for another road trip that begins Sunday in San Jose. The Stars also play at Edmonton, Vancouver, and Calgary during the four-game trip.

Stars Lineup

Jamie Benn - Jason Spezza - Tyler Seguin
Devin Shore - Radek Faksa - Patrick Sharp
Remi Elie - Cody Eakin - Ales Hemsky
Curtis McKenzie - Adam Cracknell - Brett Ritchie

Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Dan Hamhuis - Stephen Johns
Patrik Nemeth - Jamie Oleksiak

Kari Lehtonen
Antti Niemi

Scratched: Jiri Hudler, Greg Pateryn
Injured: Antoine Roussel (hand), Mattias Janmark (knee)

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 reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.

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