Late first-period lapses doom Stars vs. Predators

In the first period of the Dallas Stars’ 6-2 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday night at American Airlines Center, Dallas gave the reigning Stanley Cup champions a two-man advantage for nearly two minutes.

However, the Stars penalty kill kept the vaunted Chicago power play from converting. But that unit wasn’t quite so lucky in Dallas’ 3-1 loss to the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena on Thursday night.

After leading 1-0 for much of the opening period thanks to a goal by Erik Cole, the Stars put the Preds on the power play late in the frame when Shawn Horcoff took a high-sticking penalty at 18:45. And just seven seconds later, Brenden Dillon joined Horcoff in the sin bin after he was whistled for delay of game after shooting the puck over the boards.

Just 10 seconds later, the Stars’ lead was gone as Patric Hornqvist tied it up, and 30 seconds after that equalizer, the Preds went ahead to stay when David Legwand scored his sixth to put the home team ahead 2-1 heading into the first intermission.

Dallas played catch up the rest of the night to start off a three-game Central Division road swing on a very negative note.

“Well, I think we lost the game in that two-minute span. We were playing a good road period, had a lead, we were playing well. For me, that’s a mental mistake that we can’t make as a team,” Stars head coach Lindy Ruff said.

Nashville’s power play finished 2-for-3 in the game while Dallas was again kept off the score sheet, going 0-for-2 with the man advantage.

“We’re getting chances. It’s not like we can’t get the puck in the zone or something. We’re getting in positions where we’re getting good looks. We have to find ways to get pucks around guys and hit the net,” Stars defenseman Alex Goligoski said. “Everyone’s so good at blocking pucks these days we’ve got to find a way to make that extra pass or fake and step around a guy and get pucks at the net. When they’re sitting there, we’ve got to find a way to get them.”

And as they’ve done countless times before, once Barry Trotz’s Predators got the lead late in the first, it was an advantage that would prove tough to wrestle away, especially on home ice, as Nashville played a very tight game over the final 40 minutes to send the Stars to a second straight loss.

“I thought they did a good job defending. They stayed back and made sure they stayed away from the rush chances. They were making it tough,” Ruff said. “We had a lot of zone time but not a lot of great quality. We had some that got through and trickled wide. We had one got redirected and hit a post, but we couldn’t get any to go.”

Besides the discrepancy in special team numbers, one other statistic that stood out in the loss was blocked shots, an area where Nashville had 23 compared to just eight by Dallas.

So, the Stars now head to Winnipeg to prepare for a Saturday game with an early 2 PM faceoff. And not only did Ruff state the obvious after losing to the Preds, about how badly his team needs to bounce back after two straight defeats, but also how the Stars’ big names need to step up.

“Every game’s big. Obviously, now we’ve lost two in a row. We’ve got to take pride in stopping it but I think the main part is we’ve got some guys that have had a tough time putting the puck in the net and (it’s) some of our key players,” Ruff said. “And if we’re going to win, we need to take advantage of some of those opportunities.”