The third period woes continued for the Dallas Stars Friday night. The Stars squandered a two-goal lead in the third period and ended up falling, 5-4, in a shootout to the Colorado Avalanche at American Airlines Center.
“Same story, different day,” said Stars center Jason Spezza. “We're not doing ourselves any good when we get leads, give them up; get leads, give them up. It's a frustrating thing.”
The Stars lost 3-1 and 4-3 leads in the third Friday night. This after squandering two-goal leads twice in a 7-6 overtime loss to Detroit last Saturday and then taking a 1-0 lead into the third period against Minnesota on Sunday and giving up six goals.
“There's still no excuse to lose two-goal leads. The good teams don't lose two-goal leads,” said Spezza. “You look around the league, the teams that are in the playoffs aren't giving those up. And that's why we're out of the playoffs because we haven't been able to close out games that we have leads in. If you can't close out games when you have a two-goal lead, it's going to be tough."
The Stars were almost flawless through the first 40 minutes, outshooting Colorado 24-7 and taking a 2-1 lead into the second intermission. But once again, the final 20 minutes was a nightmare for the Stars, who have given up 17 third-period goals over their past five games, all losses.
"We played 40 minutes of hockey pretty good so many times this year, and then we just stop playing in the third period and we let teams come back in the game,” said Stars captain Jamie Benn. “We've got to learn to win in this league. It's not easy, and teams aren't going to give up just because you've got the lead after two periods. Maybe it lands on me a bit, just being a leader. We've got to learn how to win on this team, and you can put that on the leadership of myself."
For the second time this month, Stars coach Lindy Ruff called out goaltender Kari Lehtonen after a loss. Lehtonen allowed four goals on 23 shots in regulation and overtime.
“The goaltending doesn’t match the effort of the team right now. You need goaltending. It’s as simple as that,” Ruff said. “I know that is hard, and it might be harsh from me, but when you are giving up only seven shots and you’re team hasn’t given up any chances and the first shot goes in and it’s not a goal you like, you are not going to win games.
"There are nights that he has to steal games; there are nights where he has to out-perform the other guy. Our goaltending has been tough on our team, and I think that's where the frustration is.”
It was the third straight loss for Lehtonen, who has had an up and down season. His 2.97 goals-against average and .905 save percentage are subpar.
“It's a team game,” said Lehtonen. “I think the first one was a goal that I would like to have back. Some tips and things like that. It's just more frustrating when we're up and end up losing, so every goal hurts more.”
The loss pushed the Stars winless streak to five games (0-3-2) and dropped them to 12th place in the Western Conference. They are seven points out of a playoff spot with 20 games remaining.
Colorado won for the fifth time in the last seven games and moved one point ahead of the Stars. They are six points out of a playoff spot and take on eighth-place Minnesota Saturday night.
It’s nice to be Mr. Positive but sometimes you need to win hockey games, and that’s what we did tonight without being perfect after 40 minutes,” said Colorado coach Patrick Roy. “That’s the reason why we play 60 minutes. We had 20 to redeem ourselves, and that’s what the guys did. Now we want to see how we’re going to bounce back tomorrow night. We seem to play well against these guys and find ways to win hockey games, and that was good.”
The Stars outshot the Avalanche 8-4 and killed off two Colorado power plays in a scoreless first period. The Stars dominated the second period, outshooting the Avalanche 16-3. The Stars took a 1-0 lead early in the period. The rebound of a Ryan Garbutt wrap-around attempt bounced out to the slot, and Cody Eakin blasted the puck past Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov at the 2:45 mark.
The Avalanche drew even at 9:55 of the second when Matt Duchene sent a cross-ice pass to Tyson Barrie off the rush and Barrie scored off a blast from the right circle to make it a 1-1 game. The Stars answered 29 seconds later when Spezza put home the rebound of an Erik Cole shot to put the Stars up 2-1.
The Stars extended their lead to 3-1 at 3:05 of the third period when Eakin roofed a shot over Varlamov from the left circle. But Colorado answered a little more than two minutes later when Jarome Iginla tipped in a Nate Guenin point shot to make it a 3-2 game at the 5:43 mark of the third. Colorado tied it at the 6:58 mark when Gabriel Landeskog set up Guenin, who scored from the left circle to make it a 3-3 game.
The Stars got the lead back after Eakin set up Antoine Roussel, who scored on a breakaway to put the Stars up 4-3 at the 11:02 mark. But Colorado bounced back again. Landeskog tipped a Barrie point shot past Lehtonen to tie the game 4-4 at 13:17 of the third.
After a scoreless overtime, Colorado’s Ryan O’Reilly scored the only goal of the shootout. Varlamov stopped Spezza, Benn and Vernon Fiddler to help secure the extra point for the Avalanche.
*Colorado swept the season series against the Stars, going 5-0-0. The Stars were 0-3-2 in the series.
*The Stars are 5-13-6 vs. the Central Division.
*The Stars are 3-10 in games that have been settled beyond regulation. They are 2-3 in shootouts and 1-7 in four-on-four overtime.
*The Stars outshot Colorado 36-23.
*The Stars are now 7-17-4 when outshooting the opposition.
*Alex Goligoski led the Stars with six shots on goal.
*The Stars were 0-3 on the power play and 3-3 on the penalty kill.
*The Stars won 24 of 63 faceoffs (38 percent).
*Shawn Horcoff won 5 of 12 draws (42 percent). Jason Spezza won 6 of 15 (40 percent). Cody Eakin won 7 of 18 (39 percent). Vernon Fiddler won 5 of 14 (36 percent).
*Goligoski led the Stars with 25:40 of ice time.
Jamie Benn – Cody Eakin – Brett Ritchie
Erik Cole – Jason Spezza – Ales Hemsky
Antoine Roussel – Vernon Fiddler – Ryan Garbutt
Curtis McKenzie – Shawn Horcoff – Colton Sceviour
Alex Goligoski – John Klingberg
Jyrki Jokipakka – Trevor Daley
Jordie Benn – Jason Demers
Scratched: David Schlemko
Injured: Patrick Eaves (concussion), Tyler Seguin (knee), Travis Moen (upper body), Valeri Nichushkin (hip)
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.