|Dallas Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen makes a pad save while playing against the Toronto Maple Leafs during second period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Monday, Nov. 22, 2010. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Nathan Denette) |
"Our guys know we weren't good enough," coach Marc Crawford said on Tuesday following the Stars practice in suburban Toronto. "Toronto played well. They didn't give us a lot of space, and maybe we were guilty of trying to look for somewhat of an easier game. You play 82 games that come fast and furious, so if you dwell on it you're going to suck energy out of yourself. I anticipate we will be better."
After playing two consecutive games in which they fell behind, the Stars made it three straight on Monday when Toronto's Nikolai Kulemin deposited a pair of goals past goalie Kari Lehtonen
during the first 34 minutes of the game.
Brad Richards cut the deficit in half on a pretty goal started by Steve Ott
's nifty pass after circling behind the net, and the Stars looked poised to mount yet another stirring comeback that helped them garner points in their two previous contests against San Jose and Colorado.
But Richards' tally actually ended up being a turning point for the Maple Leafs, who responded with a goal of their own just 96 seconds later to regain their two-goal cushion.
"That was a real nice goal," Crawford said. "We executed a good breakout, chipped the puck behind, Ott got the puck, they had a miscue with a backcheck not being executed, and we took advantage of it. The following two shifts you have to try and keep your momentum going, because momentum will give you life, but we had a turnover and we didn't have a backcheck. Those things are correctable."
Ott knows that having the comeback quality and ability the Stars possess is proof they're a resilient bunch, but he admits that playing from behind is not necessarily the recipe for continued success.
"In a couple of games we kind of shot ourselves in the foot," he said. "You don't want to start in any kind of hole, and if we can start heavy and score the first goal, that will settle things down. That definetely makes things easier come the third period rather than needing third period heroics."
The Stars, though, lacked some urgency at the start of the crucial third against the Maple Leafs, and needed almost eight minutes to register their first shot on goal, a slap shot from captain Brenden Morrow
that was turned aside by Toronto goalie Jonas Gustavsson.
"We have to start playing to our strengths and take hesitation out of our game," Morrow said. "We have to work hard, and move our feet. We know mistakes are going to happen, we just have to work hard to make up for them. Against Toronto we were guilty of standing still and not wanting to be the guy that was going to make a mistake. We were a step behind."
Crawford acknowledged that mounting a consistent and dominant attack for the entire 60 minutes of a hockey game is easier said than done, but did say that doing the little things on a consistent basis adds up as a game moves along.
"If we eliminate three or four chances in a game, you may not have to score two goals to get back into the game, you may only have to score one," he said.
In all, the Stars expect a better showing Wednesday night in Ottawa.
"You still have that bad feeling and are still upset over the game, but we'll get right back in it, get ourselves righted and get on a streak," Morrow said.STARGAZING
-- Backup Andrew Raycroft is expected to be in goal against the Senators, giving workhorse Lehtonen a breather. It will be Raycroft's third start of the season -- and fourth appearance -- and first start since a 5-0 loss to the Colorado Avalanche earlier in the month. The 10-year veteran is 1-1-0 with a 2.22 goals-against average and .943 save percentage this season. In his Dallas Stars debut he blanked the Buffalo Sabres on Oct. 30, 4-0, for his eighth career NHL shutout.
-- Defenseman Mark Fistric
left practice early after colliding hard into the boards in the right corner with forward Toby Petersen
. Crawford said Fistric hurt his groin on the play, and wasn't sure about the blueliner's availability for the Senators game.
-- Forward James Neal took the day off after sustaining a gash on his leg midway through the second period of Monday's game. He is expected to play against Ottawa.
-- Despite the loss Monday, the Stars remain in 12th place in the Western Conference with 21 points, two behind eighth-place Vancouver with one game in hand.
-- The Stars are 10-8-1 this season after 19 games. They were 8-5-6 at this point last year.