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Dallas Stars Not Content After 6-3 Win Over Vancouver Canucks

The Dallas Stars may have won a big game on the scoreboard, but the underlying facts of the win over Vancouver are concerning in the long run.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

After Saturday's 6-5 overtime loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, it's interesting to think that jumping out to a 5-0 lead just two minutes into the second period against the Vancouver Canucks is the last thing the Dallas Stars needed -- but that's almost exactly what occurred.

The Stars and Canucks played a fairly even back-and-forth contest through the first 25 minutes of the game, with the Stars scoring two late goals in the first period to take a rather surprising 3-0 lead into the intermission. Shots were fairly even but if you had ignored the score, it seemed that Dallas still was struggling to get their transition game really going and Vancouver had actually been the overall better team -- yet it was still even overall.

The two quick goals in the second period rocked the Canucks, especially when you consider the expectation that coach Willie Desjardins would have his team come out like gangbusters to start the middle frame. It's odd that he waited for another two goals before pulling Ryan Miller but the Stars are lucky he did; this was a game that Dallas could easily -- and disastrously -- have blown a five-goal lead.

"We started the game and did a lot of great things but I thought defensively we really struggled," said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. "I thought the defense really had a tough time down low. We made some poor decisions that led to some pretty big chances. On some of our coverage, we were above the puck on the offensive zone and they got inside us but when the game was right there, I thought we were the better team."

What was most noticeable, and something that Ruff called out a few times after the game, was how the entire team tried to follow in the style of the top line. Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Jason Spezza again had a big night and when those three get moving, they can score in bunches. The problem is that the team lost their structure, both in the offensive zone and defensively; once the score seemed to be out of hand and the Stars in control, Ruff noted that the rest of the lines thought this might be an easy 9-1 win.

"When it got out of hand we had too many guys leaning on the offensive side and not willing to pay a big enough price to keep it fairly comfortable and I thought [Lehtonen] made some big saves," said Ruff. "He was our best player by far."

After the Stars went up 5-0 just over four minutes into the second period, shots and chances overall were fairly even. The Canucks held a slim margin in overall shot differential, but it was still a fairly even game despite the score. After that fifth goal, however, the Stars almost completely unraveled.

"They kind of got a little bit of a push and took some risks and things like that, but we got ourselves into penalty trouble and gave them some momentum," said Erik Cole, who had two goals in the game. "We sat back a little too much and we just weren't playing a real sound defensive game as a five-man unit. In the D-zone we were giving up just too much. There was one play where (Kari Lehtonen) had to make three or four great saves right at the top of his crease and we need to work at it and get better at it."

The Canucks, in the final 35 minutes of the game, outshot the Stars 36-13. In just over a period and a half. That's an absurd amount of rubber to allow to get to your goaltender and luckily, Kari Lehtonen was primed for his best performance of the year.

"We had a good start, but there was a lot of things in the game we can improve on," said Cole. "It's not too often it's a 6-3 win and your goalie has to stop over 40 shots for you. We've got some areas we can definitely clean up, but obviously it's a big two points for us."

It's tough for fans to peek behind the curtain and see this, but the Stars were not a team that reacted like they had just won by three goals over a good Canucks team. The atmosphere was one of being happy with the win, but completely unsatisfied with their performance -- if you didn't know the score, you'd have thought the Stars had lost the game.

It's a good sign; too many times in the past the Star might have had performances like these but the victory would cloud the shortcomings of the team. "Score effects" would be cited, or "the other team is bound to make a push after going down by that many."

Yet expectations are very high for the Stars this season and Ruff and his team understand that these types of games are entirely unacceptable and no matter the score, allowing a team to control the game like that after getting a big lead won't work for very long.

Ryan Garbutt, who opened the scoring in the game, stated that the Stars have to expect that with the offensive potential of their team -- protecting leads is something they have to learn how to do, and fast. It's something the Stars have certainly struggled with in the young season.

"We sat back on them a little bit," said Garbutt. "Consequently, we gave up a lot of shots and that's something we're going to have to clean up if we have high-scoring guys like the top three that we have. We're going to have big leads. We're going to have to defend them."