The start tonight was better for the Dallas Stars. An early power play opportunity, and they looked to have their legs under them.
Then they took back-to-back penalties. They weathered the storm. Cody Eakin put them up 1-0 when he shot the puck towards the net and it went in off an Avalanche defensemen.
That might have been the end of the good play tonight, though.
The Stars would allow the Avalanche to score two unanswered goals. Patrick Eaves with an individual effort tied it up to keep the team to needing to win the last 40 minutes.
They didn't win the last 40 minutes, however.
Dallas wasn't able to ever really put up a true offensive punch at any point. Most chances were one-and-done, with no real offensive cycle put up.
The penalties were killer to the rhythm of the game, and didn't allow the lines to really be utilized appropriately with so many forwards spending time on the kill. Jason Spezza, Ales Hemsky, Erik Cole were all limited to low minutes because they don't play on the penalty kill that much. That severely limits secondary scoring from coming up when you really need it to on a night like tonight.
While the penalties called were sometimes head-scratching (especially considering what went uncalled on both sides) the Stars needed to figure out a way to not make that the story. There will be nights like that, and you've got to push through and find a way.
They just couldn't.
Anders Lindback didn't have the best game tonight, but that wasn't completely due to his own play. He did allow three goals short side -- something that isn't exactly expected because the goaltender should have the goal post covered. But he kept the Stars in it through the first two periods, and they were within one going into the third.
The third period was a serious of stupid penalties, turnovers, and one stop that Lindback definitely should have stopped. Within seemingly no time, the game was out of hand. It's something we've seen in third periods by this team this year.
The defense in front of Lindback didn't make his job easy, as the Stars let through over 40 shots on goal. The team play wasn't very good, so you can't place the issue squarely on one position tonight.
But the fact of the matter is that other teams have games where they allow that many power plays and they manage to pull out points and/or wins. Other teams travel to play on a second night on a back-to-back set and manage to pull out points and/or wins.
That can't be the story every time. They've won only the eight times of their last 40 in these situations.
I think it's more mental than anything right now, and it's becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy with their play on ice. If they could eliminate some of the dumb plays (turnovers in your own zone, tossing the puck over the glass when you're already down a man, too many men on the ice are just a few examples from tonight alone) maybe they don't lose as often, or pull out more points.
They have to find the confidence in the system again and rely on that when things don't seem to be working.
It's just not there right now.