DALLAS -- The Dallas Stars saw their winless streak hit four games with a 2-1 loss to Tampa Bay Friday night at American Airlines Center. And the team’s lethargic start in the game had head coach Glen Gulutzan frustrated.
The Stars, who are playing without centers Jamie Benn and Mike Ribeiro, were coming off strong performances against St. Louis and Detroit, two of the top teams in the league. But the Stars fell flat early against the Lightning, who came into the game in last place in the Eastern Conference.
“The most frustrating part was really the first 30 minutes of getting outworked. That’s always the most frustrating part,” Gulutzan said. “I’ve got no problem if you go in a shootout or you play hard and you just don’t get results. When you only play 30 minutes, some team comes into your building on a Friday night and outplays you for 30 minutes, I have a real big problem with that.
“How do you deal with the problem? You have to make them aware that they are not good enough – with or without Jamie Benn and Mike Ribeiro in the lineup – to not be a hardworking team. That’s the message. They are just not good enough.”
“You have to work 60 minutes. We have to work 60 minutes every night with everyone in our lineup if we want to play in the playoffs. If we don’t, then we won’t play. That needs to be learned.”
The loss dropped the Stars, who have scored just four goals over the last four games, to 24-20-2 on the season and left them in 10th place in the Western Conference. The Stars, who have a few games in hand on the teams they are chasing in the standings, lost a chance to gain ground.
“It’s not just good enough. We had a really poor start,” said Dallas defenseman Stephane Robidas. “They outshot us [13-5] in our building. We need to play desperately. We’re trying to get two points, every point is big in the standings. It just wasn’t good enough.”
The Lightning dominated the first period, outshooting the Stars 13-5. The only thing that kept Tampa Bay from building a big lead was Dallas goaltender Kari Lehtonen, who came up with several great saves to keep it a scoreless game for most of the period.
Tampa Bay finally broke through on Lehtonen late in the first when Martin St. Louis backhanded the puck from the right boards to a wide open Teddy Purcell, who beat Lehtonen from close range with 1:12 left in the period.
During their four-game slide the Stars have given up the first goal in each game.
“Just a bad start by us,” said Stars defenseman Alex Goligoski. “I think in the final two periods we played good enough to win, but we got behind again. We’ve got to stop doing that. The team we’ve got out there right now, we are playing a defensive system and we’ve got to get leads. We’ve got to come out and have better starts.”
The Stars dominated the second period, outshooting the Lightning 12-5, but couldn’t crack Tampa Bay goalie Mathieu Garon. The Stars had two power play chances in the period, but could muster only one shot on goal on each chance.
The Stars finally tied the game 1:22 into third period when Loui Eriksson set up Tom Wandell off the rush and the puck went off Wandell’s skate and eventually went through Garon during a scramble in front of the net.
But a little more than two minutes later the Lightning had the lead again when Purcell scored off a close range backhand off the rush.
That was it for the scoring for the night, and now the Stars move on to Minnesota to take on a struggling Wild team that is one point ahead of them in the standings.
“There better be work ethic (Saturday against Minnesota). I’ll tell you what, Minnesota will be ready for us. They’ll be ready to work,” Gulutzan said. “We’ll go with eight guys if we have to, to work. We need more. We need to be prepared.
“The only reason you prepare against Detroit, Boston, St. Louis is because you’ve got a little fear in your belly that you might get embarrassed. So you work and do the little things. It’s a sign of weakness if you can’t bring that little fear and that adrenaline in your game every night. You just think you’re too good.”
*Dallas has scored four goals over the last four games.
*The Stars were 0-4 on the power play Friday, and are 4-45 (8.9%) on the power play over the last 14 games.
*The Stars are 11-11 on the penalty kill over the last three games.
*The Stars won 35 of 66 (53%) faceoffs Friday night. Steve Ott won 8 of 12 and Adam Burish won 7 of 12.
*Adam Pardy and Philip Larsen were healthy scratches for the Stars.
*Friday’s attendance was 14,836