This is a movie the Dallas Stars have seen way too many times this season.
They come out looking like they're firing on all cylinders. They dominate the early shots. Then a goal against the run of play sense them into a brief tailspin from which they ultimately can't recover.
That was the script yet again on Saturday as the Stars dominated the stats sheet against the Buffalo Sabres but gave up three goals in an eight minute span in a 3-2 loss that puts them further in a hole in the Western Conference.
If you believe the Sabres scorekeeper, and I'm not sure I do as he had the Stars with just five shots in the games final eight minutes or so, the Stars outshot the Sabres 40-24 and out-attempted them 86-37. But because of a run of bad hockey from the end of the first through the Stars are left scratching their heads once again.
The Stars dominated the first 10 minutes of the game with Tyler Seguin missing the net on two glorious opportunities and hitting the posts on another. Indeed, they outplayed the Sabres for the majority of the first period.
Tyler Myers walked away from Antoine Roussel at the blue line and Cody Eakin wasn't able to get into his lane. Still, the shot was going about two feet wide before it bounced off John Klingberg, who was tying up Ennis in front of the net, and sailed past Anders Lindback.
Things went from bad to worse when Ryan Garbutt took an inexcusable retaliatory minor after Antoine Roussel went down awkwardly in neutral ice. The power play spilled over into the second period, and after Jamie Benn got stripped of possession trying to create a short-handed chance, the Sabres had a low 2-on-1 that Ennis converted to go up 2-0.
The problems in the second continued for Dallas as a bad line change and lazy backchecking from Vernon Fiddler and Ales Hemsky left the Sabres with a 5-on-3 chance off the rush, and which left extra man Zemgus Girgensons alone in front of the net after pretty passing to tap the puck in for a 3-0 lead.
Dallas got one back late in the period as Seguin finally snapped his goal drought on the power play after nice passing from Jason Spezza and John Klingberg found him open on the left side.
Another great primary assist from Klingberg cut the Sabres lead to 3-2 midway through the third as Cody Eakin snuck a shot through, but they could never get the tying goal despite owning the rest of the third period.
For all the games where goaltending has costs the Stars recently, this was not one of them. A wicked deflection and two odd-man passing plays after poor plays from the forwards gave Liindback virtually no chance at stopping any.
But when you look at the scoresheet, you're left wondering how they heck Dallas lost this game. The Stars dominated this game for 50 minutes and couldn't win. Eight minutes of one tough bounce and a series of bad decisions were enough to erase all the good work.
You don't get points for how you play the game, just what the scoreboard says at the end of it. And once again, the Stars were on the wrong end of a game they needed to win.