“Always talk about coming back home after a road trip and having a sloppy game. It seems to prove itself more often than not,” said Stars defenseman Alex Goligoski. “I don’t know if it is a mental thing or what, but we’ve got to figure it out.”
“It’s just an excuse for teams to lose that first game at home after a road trip,” said Stars captain Jamie Benn. “There was no excuse tonight. They played a better game than us. They deserved to win more than we did.”
It was a sloppy game for the Stars, who were credited with 20 giveaways on their way to the loss, which snapped a five-game winning streak and dropped their record to 6-2-0.
“We didn’t have our ‘A’ game,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “Our execution wasn’t sharp. It starts with your puck management, and it wasn’t good. We made some big mistakes and the small details killed us.”
“It just shows you, there are no nights off in this league,” said Stars center Jason Spezza. “Every team is good, and it just shows you that every team can embarrass you and make you look bad. Hopefully, that is just a blip for us, and we get back at it next game and get moving in the right direction again.”
Benn scored both goals for Dallas and Tyler Seguin had two assists. Kari Lehtonen started in goal and was pulled early in the second period after allowing three goals on eleven shots. Antti Niemi played the rest of the way and allowed three goals on 19 shots.
“Our goalies have given us some great goaltending. Put that behind us,” Ruff said. “They are part of our team, and if it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t be 6-1 coming in. It was a tough night all the way around, and we are moving on.”
The Panthers (4-3-1), who snapped a three-game winless streak, got an outstanding 33-save effort from backup goaltender Al Montoya and one goal and one assist from both Jaromir Jagr and Nick Bjugstad.
“They came off a long road trip and you want to put pressure on their D and I thought we caused some turnovers tonight,” said Panthers coach Gerard Gallant. “The biggest key was for us tonight to put some pressure on them, knowing they come back off a successful road trip and it’s always tough when you come back from a long road trip.”
The Stars got off to a good start, scoring on the power play 1:59 into the game when a Seguin shot deflected in the net off Benn.
But the Panthers rattled off four straight goals to take control of the game. Jagr scored from the left circle off the rush at the 11:03 mark of the first period to tie the game 1-1. The Stars came close to taking the lead a short time later, but Montoya stopped a Patrick Sharp bid, and then Sharp rang a shot off the post. Moments later, Benn turned over the puck at the Dallas blue line and Bjugstad scored from the slot to put the Panthers up 2-1 at 13:18 of the first.
Florida made it a 3-1 game early in the second when Jagr and Bjugstad set up defenseman Aaron Ekblad, who scored from the slot at the 1:22 mark. That ended the night for Lehtonen, who was replaced by Niemi.
“I was just trying to get some momentum,” Ruff said of the goaltending change. “The second goal he might like to have back, but on the Ekblad goal we get beat up ice, we have no backchecking. I don’t know if he was screened, but that was a good shot. For me, that wasn’t a bad goal, I was just going to see if I could turn the tide a little bit.”
The Panthers made it 4-1 at 14:59 of the second after putting some good pressure on the Stars. Dave Bolland tipped a Dmitry Kulikov shot past Niemi. The Stars got it to 4-2 when Benn scored off the rush 4:01 into the third, but just 1:31 later Jussi Jokinen poked the puck away from Spezza near the Dallas net and Reilly Smith scored to make it 5-2. Quinton Howden scored late in the third to round out the scoring and send the Stars to their first defeat since the 6-3 loss at Colorado on Oct. 10.
The Stars bounced back from that loss at Colorado and will now look to shake off Saturday’s loss to Florida.
“I think the maturity of a good team is to follow up a bad game with a strong one,” Spezza said. “So this is a test for us, we did it earlier in the year in Colorado when we lost. Now we have got a tough game coming up (Tuesday vs. Anaheim) that we’re going to have to show some urgency and show that we are making strides as a team by responding to a bad loss.”
Nemeth, Oleksiak get in first game
Defensemen Patrik Nemeth and Jamie Oleksiak played for the first time this season after sitting out the first seven games as healthy scratches. They played together as the third defensive pair.
Nemeth played 16:54, had two shots on goal, two hits, one giveaway, one blocked shot and a minus-two rating.
Oleksiak played 16:30, had three shots on goal, six hits, one giveaway, one blocked shot and a minus-two rating.
"I thought they handled the game fine,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. “I'll take a closer look at it tomorrow, but for not playing for that period of time, I thought they were fine. They weren't the guys that were on the ice for all the goals against.”
*Jamie Benn’s two goals give him a league-high eight for the season.
*The Stars outshot the Panthers 35-30.
*Tyler Seguin and Jason Spezza led the Stars with five shots each.
*The Stars were 1-4 on the power play and 2-2 on the penalty kill.
*The Stars have not allowed a power-play goal in six straight games and are 15-15 on the penalty kill during that stretch.
*The Stars won 32 of 64 faceoffs (50 percent).
*Tyler Seguin won 11 of 15 faceoffs (73 percent). Jason Spezza won 8 of 16 (50 percent). Mattias Janmark won 5 of 7 (71 percent). Jamie Benn won 3 of 9 (33 percent). Cody Eakin won 1 of 7 (14 percent).
*Alex Goligoski led the Stars with 24:32 of ice time. John Klingberg was next with 24:16.
*The Stars are 5-1-0 vs. the Eastern Conference.
*Saturday’s attendance was 18,532, a sellout.
Jamie Benn – Tyler Seguin – Patrick Sharp
Mattias Janmark – Jason Spezza – Valeri Nichushkin
Antoine Roussel – Cody Eakin – Ales Hemsky
Vernon Fiddler – Radek Faksa – Colton Sceviour
Alex Goligoski – John Klingberg
Johnny Oduya – Jordie Benn
Patrik Nemeth – Jamie Oleksiak
Suspended: Jason Demers
Scratched: Jyrki Jokipakka
Injured: Travis Moen (upper body), Patrick Eaves (lower body), Curtis McKenzie (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.