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Stars road woes continue in Buffalo

Slow start, penalty kill plague Stars in 4-1 loss to Sabres

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

The road woes continue for the Dallas Stars. The Stars lost for the tenth time in their past 13 games away from home (3-8-2), falling 4-1 to the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center Monday afternoon.

Everything that has plagued the Stars on the road reared its ugly head Monday. The Stars penalty kill, which ranks 30th in the league, surrendered two goals. The Stars, who rank 30th in the league in road goals-against per game, gave up four goals or more for the 13th time in 22 road games. And they struggled to score, tallying two goals or fewer for the seventh time in their past 12 games away from home.

And the start to the game didn't help. The Stars, who gave up four goals in the first 13 minutes of Saturday's loss to Minnesota, surrendered a goal 19 seconds into Monday's game and found themselves down 2-0 at 12:34 of the first period.

"It was definitely a slow start," said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. "They jumped on us early, and we turned a couple of pucks over. Their energy as a team was a lot better than ours. That's about as slow as I have seen our team."

Radek Faksa scored the lone goal, and Kari Lehtonen made 25 saves for the Stars, who are 2-5-1 in their past eight games overall and 18-19-8 on the season.

"We want to gather up as many points as we can. They are important any time of year," said Stars forward Patrick Sharp. "We can look at the standings and how well other teams are playing. We've got to put this behind us because we are going into a tough building to play [Tuesday] against a great Rangers team. No one is going to feel sorry for us. We've got to dig ourselves out of this hole and play better hockey."

The Sabres (17-17-9) got a pair of goals from Jack Eichel and a 31-save effort from Robin Lehner in winning their third straight home game.

"We got out to the lead and continued to play well," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. "We handled their speed and the difficulty they present with their offensive game."

Tyler Ennis gave the Sabres a 1-0 lead 19 seconds into the game. After Stars defenseman John Klingberg turned over the puck in the Dallas zone, Ennis roofed a shot from the right circle. Buffalo made it 2-0 by scoring on its second power play. Stars captain Jamie Benn tried to clear the puck from behind the Dallas net, but it ended up on the stick of Sabres defenseman Jake McCabe, who scored from the slot at the 12:34 mark.

"Give them a pretty nice pass in the slot in our own end," said Benn. "Things like that are going to come back to bite you, and it turned out to be the game-winning goal."

The Stars answered less than three minutes later. After Faksa forced a turnover in the Buffalo end, he went to the net, and the rebound of a Jiri Hudler shot went off his leg and into the net.

The first period could have been worse for the Stars. Lehtonen made two great saves on point-blank shots by Eichel, and Sabres forward Ryan O'Reilly hit the post on Buffalo's first power play of the game.

The Stars appeared to tie the game 1:38 into the second period when a Stephen Johns shot deflected into the net off traffic. But Buffalo challenged the goal, saying the Stars were offside entering the zone. Replays showed that Patrick Eaves was offside, the goal was waved off, and it stayed a 2-1 game.

"Our video coach called in immediately and said that it was a no goal," Bylsma said. "It was a breath of fresh air for our team to have that not go in and get back to playing the game which we were playing really well."

Less than four minutes later, the Stars were penalized for too many men on the ice and the Sabres scored their second power-play goal of the night when Eichel banged home the puck during a scramble in front of Lehtonen to put the Sabres up 3-1 at 7:07 of the second period.

The Stars put 12 shots on goal in the third period but couldn't crack Lehner. Eichel sealed the victory with an empty-net goal with 9.3 seconds remaining to make it a 4-1 final.

Jamie Benn struggles

It was a rough day for Stars captain Jamie Benn, whose turnover led to Buffalo's second goal and struggled throughout the afternoon. Benn broke a few of his sticks in frustration during the game. After the game, Benn and Stars coach Lindy Ruff discussed the Dallas captain's struggles.

Jamie Benn on his game right now

"Pretty bad. That's taking it easy on myself, too. I wish I could say how I really feel, but it's probably not good for TV."

Benn on how his play affects the team and his ability to lead

"I think it is contagious and it runs through the team. I have to do a better job with body language and my play on the ice."

Lindy Ruff on if he has concerns about Benn's play

"I do. He has struggled for a period of time. His struggles out there were easy to see. He's fighting through his injury, but he is in the lineup, so you've got to assume he is ready to go. I see the frustration. It's hard. I actually had to bump him down and see if we could get the other guys up a little bit. It's been a tough year for him."

Ruff on if he thinks Benn's struggles are contagious

"No, you are only responsible for your own work. He had nothing to do with the first play of the game. It wasn't him who mishandled on that one."

Notes

*The Stars are 6-12-4 on the road this season.

*The Stars have allowed 27 power-play goals on the road this season, most in the league.

*The Stars are 15-27 (55.6 percent) on the penalty kill in their past eight games overall.

*The Stars outshot the Sabres 32-29 and had a 61-56 edge in shot attempts.

*Patrick Sharp led the Stars with 5 shots on goal.

*The Stars were 0-1 on the power play and 1-3 on the penalty kill.

*Dallas won 26 of 63 faceoffs (41 percent). Buffalo's Jack Eichel won 13 of 19 faceoffs (68 percent).

*John Klingberg led the Stars with 24:56 of ice time.

*What's Next

The Stars continue the road trip Tuesday when they take on the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. This will be the second and final meeting between the Stars and Rangers this season. The Rangers won the first meeting, 2-0, in Dallas on Dec. 15.

Stars Lineup

Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Patrick Eaves
Devin Shore - Jason Spezza - Brett Ritchie
Antoine Roussel - Cody Eakin - Jiri Hudler
Lauri Korpikoski - Radek Faksa - Patrick Sharp

Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Dan Hamhuis - Jordie Benn
Johnny Oduya - Stephen Johns

Kari Lehtonen
Antti Niemi

Scratched: Curtis McKenzie, Adam Cracknell, Patrik Nemeth
Injured: Jamie Oleksiak (hand), Ales Hemsky (hip), 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 DallasStars.com 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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