The Stars lost to Calgary for the second time in three games Sunday afternoon, giving up a two-goal third-period lead to the Flames in their return to the American Airlines Center.
The Flames took advantage of a few shaky moments from Richard Bachman and some scrambly defense in the third for their comeback victory, and the Stars will have to go into a three-day break on a sour note.
Here's what happened at the American Airlines Center.
After an exciting comeback against the Vancouver Canucks, the hope was that the Stars would come out with some momentum to start the three-game homestand. But whether it was heavy legs or the early start time, the Stars were sluggish out of the gate.
The Flames took advantage by drawing three first period penalties and opened the scoring just after a brief session of 5-on-3 play. With Brenden Dillon just out of the box, Michael Cammalleri grabbed the puck down on the goal line and caught Richard Bachman cheating to the middle, wristing a shot off the far corner. It was no surprise the goal came from Cammalleri, who has owned the Stars for the past two seasons.
The Stars earned a pair of power plays themselves but couldn't do much with them, and they headed to the locker room with questions about if they were going to have a repeat of the carnage in Alberta.
It didn't take long for the Stars to come up with an answer, as Michael Ryder found Cody Eakin all alone in the slot to even the game just two minutes into the second. It was Eakin's second of the season and a nice setup from Ryder to help him create time and space. Antoine Roussel also played a big part as he set a key screen. (Edited to add: The goal was changed to Roussel's after the game).
Less than a minute later, Reilly Smith gave the Stars their first lead of the game when the third of several whacks at the puck finally popped up over Joey MacDonald and into the net. It was Smith's second goal in as many games.
Ryan Garbutt completed the second-period scoring with his rebound goal with four minutes left. Stephane Robidas manged to drive the puck through traffic to create a transition chance with Garbutt, and Garbutt found a rebound off the Robidas shot.
Unfortunately for the Stars, the momentum swung dramatically back to the Flames in the start of the third. With Treor Daley lost for the game to an undisclosed upper-body injury, the defensive pairs were shuffled, and certainly looked like they were out of sorts on the Flames first goal. A shot deflected off of Aaron Rome, and he couldn't find a rebound before Roman Horak snuck it past Bachman.
The Flames evened the score less than a minute later when Philil Larsen and Alex Goligoski each chased one forward behind the net, creating an odd-man situation in front. The puck popped out to Matt Stajan, who scored his first of the season.
With both teams backing off to play for a point midway through the period, the Flames took advantage of another scramble around the Dallas net and a swimming Bachman to take the lead behind Steve Begin's rebound goal. Bachman lost the puck off the initial shot and fell forward, giving Begin the entire upper half of the net to look at. It was Begin's first goal since the 2010 playoffs.
Jaromir Jagr and Loui Eriksson both had great looks in the final minute and a half, but neither could get their look through to MacDonald, Eriksson's getting blocked and Jagr's going high and wide.
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
- Let's start with the good, and that's the emergence of depth scoring. After the big guns carried the team for much of the start of the season, the lower-lines (and players who would generally be considered bottom six like Reilly Smith) have really kicked into gear recently.
- The players who aren't scoring on those lower lines are also much improved. Antoine Roussel does toe a line that will send him to the box more than occasionally, but the man knows how to set a good screen and forecheck. And while Vernon Fiddler and Eric Nystrom still get trapped in their own zone occasionally, they are a much more effective offensive trio with the addition of Garbutt.
- Stephane Robidas and Brenden Dillon are both playing very well. They finished plus-2 and plus-3 respectively and had solid games on both ends of the ice. If the injury to Daley is significant, and I didn't notice when he left so I'm really not sure what it might be, they will need to continue to maintain that level of play.
- I was going to say the pairing of Alex Goligoski and Philip Larsen was looking better, but I just can't. Goligoski was on the ice for the first and second goals of the third period (though the first one wasn't his fault), They also both tried to get the same player behind the net on the Flames third goal, leading to the odd-man situation the Flames capitalized on in front of the net. And in the first period, there were a handful of odd-man rushes against that pairing. I still think they bring out the worst in each other.
- I really don't want to pick on Richard Bachman, because the man is in a bit of an impossible situation. The Stars are a team that can give up above-average scoring chances throughout a game because they've come to rely on Kari Lehtonen's ability to bail them out. So while I might make a face at the rebound that led to the second Flames goal (the first of the third period), I'm not going to blame him for that one. But the first goal, and to a lesser extent the fourth, are just life-force sappers. The first goal is a severe, severe angle from the goal like where Bachman was cheating to the pass, and the fourth he never got a bead on after it got lost in the bodies. He had plenty of help, but when you score three goals and only allow 26 shots, you really should win the game...
- Speaking of, the loss snapped the Stars streak of 71-0-8 when leading after two periods. I guess I can say I'm happy it's taken them this long, but that would be a lie.
- Stop me if you've heard this before, but the Stars commit too many stick-oriented fouls. Even Robidas' holding call was because he reached with his stick-hand and Jarome Iginla clamped on and fell down. Regardless of what you think of the call quality, the fact that these are all stick-related calls has to say something about how the team reacts when beaten one-on-one.
- All in all, it was a bit of a roller coaster of a game. The Stars were pretty poor for 30 minutes (first period and first 10 minutes of the third), great for 20 minutes and desperate but unable to come up with the key plays in the final 10. It wasn't the worst game they've played this season by far, but with Lehtonen out for at least one more game and possibly more, it does show them just how much they need to tighten up when trying to hold leads.