The good news for the Dallas Stars is that their 4-3 loss to open their Stanley Cup Playoffs Western Conference First Round series on Wednesday night at the Anaheim Ducks is just one game.
And as is the case in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, a shot at redemption is usually only a day or two around the corner and the Stars will get their chance on Friday when they and their former Pacific Division rivals hit the pond at the Honda Center for Game Two.
But this series-opening loss boiled down to something that was an issue for Dallas at different points in the regular season, poor starts. Anaheim led 3-0 after one period thanks to goals from Kyle Palmieri, Ryan Getzlaf and Mathieu Perrault, who scored with the Ducks on the power play with just 30 seconds remaining before the first intermission.
"We had a tough start," Stars captain Jamie Benn said postgame. "They came out hot in their building. They are really good in this rink. I thought we battled back pretty good there, but it just wasn’t enough."
Anaheim then went ahead 4-0 at almost the midway point of the middle frame when Matt Beleskey added the Ducks’ second power-play goal of the game. However, the Stars pulled a pair back to finish the period trailing 4-2. Dallas’ first goal came fittingly from Benn at 16:36 as the Stars were on a five-on-three power play.
Then, rookie Colton Sceviour followed by scoring in his NHL playoff debut, blistering a slapshot that beat Ducks rookie goaltender Frederik Andersen through the five-hole just over two minutes after Benn’s goal to make it a two-goal game heading to the second intermission.
Dallas then pulled within one late in the third when Tyler Seguin scored after redirecting a shot from Trevor Daley to make it 4-3.
The Stars pulled goaltender Kari Lehtonen with just over a minute and a half remaining in regulation, but Dallas was unable to find the equalizer and the Stars now find themselves trailing 1-0 in the best-of-seven series.
"I thought at times we had them on their heels and we gave them a good push," Stars first-year head coach Lindy Ruff said of the series opener.
However, there was a development to keep an eye on going forward as in the final minute of regulation, Getzlaf took a puck to the face, a high, rising shot by Seguin with 16.3 seconds remaining and had to leave the ice.
"I just know he’s getting stitched up right now," was the update Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau offered on Getzlaf postgame. "That’s the only thing I’ve heard. I think he’s going to be ok, but he’ll probably have a nasty cut on the side of his mouth. I’ll know more tomorrow or later tonight."
Anaheim also lost Beleskey, who scored their final goal of the evening, to a lower-body injury about midway through the third and he did not return.
Lehtonen stopped just seven of 10 shots in the opening period, but the talented Finn would turn away 24 of the next 25 Anaheim attempts he faced to give Dallas the chance to force the extra frame.
No. 32 was happy to make his Stars playoff debut with his only previous postseason experience coming in 2007 with the now-defunct Atlanta Thrashers, but Dallas’ No. 1 netminder also knows the bottom line after this loss is simple.
"They have one win and we don’t have any. It was good that we were able to score goals and play well but it still sucks to lose," Lehtonen said.
Seguin is of course no stranger to hockey’s biggest stage, having appeared in the Stanley Cup Finals twice during his time with the Boston Bruins. But the Stars’ key offensive cog knows that if he and his teammates are to pull this series even before returning to Big D this weekend, they need to turn in a full 60-minute effort, not play well for 45 or 50 minutes.
"Yeah, the way we finished was how we want to play the full game. I thought the first 10-12 minutes we played pretty good and didn’t capitalize on some opportunities," Seguin said. "They did. I liked our no-quit attitude out there."
Dallas was without young defenseman Brenden Dillon, who continues to be sidelined with a lower-body injury he picked up late in the regular season. There is no word about whether or not No. 4 will be able to return to the ice by Friday, but his status is sure to be a hot topic of conversation over the next 48 hours or so.
But despite spotting the Ducks a 4-0 lead, the Stars showed great heart, determination and resiliency in chipping away at the Anaheim lead and eventually making this a one-goal game. And in the process, Dallas likely made believers out of some who might have doubted if they could actually hang with the high-scoring Ducks.
Now, the Stars are in a familiar position, of needing to respond after a disappointing result, something Ruff and Company did quite well all season. In fact, Dallas’ ability to park a bad result as Ruff calls it is one big reason why they’re in the playoffs to begin with. Now they get to display that ability when they need it the most.
And even though the Stars fell by one goal in SoCal on Wednesday night, Dallas also served notice not just to the Ducks but maybe even to the rest of the NHL that they won’t be an easy out in the league’s second season, not by any stretch, another great example of how far this team and franchise has come in year one under Ruff.