DALLAS – The Dallas Stars have played four games at American Airlines Center so far this season and in three of those, games where they are 0-0-3, the Stars have either coughed up a lead when leading after two periods or given it up when leading in the final 20 minutes.
That scenario played out yet again on Tuesday night against the St. Louis Blues, a true back-and-forth game. Every time the Stars would find the back of the net and seemingly gain some breathing room over the Ken Hitchcock-coached Blues, St. Louis would answer, twice doing so in less than a minute in what ended up being a 4-3 overtime win for the visitors.
This game was tied 1-1 after one and 2-2 after two periods, but the Stars took a 3-2 lead early in the third thanks to a power-play goal by Trevor Daley. But in a formula that has already been seen way too much in the early stages of the season at the AAC, Dallas seemed to take their foot off the gas, took a couple of penalties and ended up losing.
To their credit, the Stars didn’t take any penalties in the third period, but they did to start the overtime when Tyler Seguin, who had another strong offensive game with a goal and an assist, was called for high-sticking right off a faceoff 14 seconds into the extra frame.
St. Louis capitalized and ended it 1:14 later when Russian forward Vladimir Tarasenko capped his first career hat trick with a whistling wrister from the right circle that beat Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen for the game-winner.
And that is a trend that one Stars veteran has already had his fill of.
"Enough is enough in here," Daley said postgame. "I think we’ve had three of them at home where we’ve had leads in the third period. In order to be a good team, an elite team like the team we just played, you’ve got find ways to get the job done. Maybe the penalty at the end was a tough one, but I don’t think we should have even been in that situation to start."
Dallas had put themselves in a similar situation in their Oct. 9 season opener against the Chicago Blackhawks. The Stars led the Hawks 2-1 after two periods but thanks to a costly penalty in the final frame, Chicago ended up tying the game, forcing overtime and then winning 3-2 in the shootout.
And it was a similar scenario on Oct. 18 against the Philadelphia Flyers. Dallas appeared to hold a commanding two-goal lead after 40 minutes at 4-2. However, again several costly penalties allowed the Flyers to hang around, tie the game and force overtime, which the visitors prevailed in when captain Claude Giroux ended it from the left faceoff circle to seal a 6-5 overtime win for Philly.
Naturally, Daley isn’t the only one in the Stars room who wants to see this trend reverse itself and in rather quick fashion.
"It was pedal to the metal for 50 minutes," Stars head coach Lindy Ruff said. "We made a couple of mistakes that ended up beating ourselves again, and that hurts."
But it wasn’t just the fact that Dallas blew another late lead on home ice that turned the stomachs of Stars fans, Ruff and his assistants as well as the entire roster, it was also how quickly the Blues were able to answer two of the three Stars goals.
St. Louis tied it 35 seconds after Jamie Oleksiak’s first NHL goal at 13:10 of the first period. And the Blues took just two seconds longer to answer Seguin’s tally early in the second.
The visitors did take over eight minutes to answer Daley’s power-play goal early in the third, when Tarasenko scored his second, but the point is they were able to answer every time the Stars lit the lamp and do so in a foreign barn.
And it’s that point the Stars left on the table, the third such point they’ve let slip away at home already, that really sticks in Daley’s craw.
"That’s even more of a shot to the leg. Let’s do the right things and make the right plays. We’re headed in the right direction. That’s for sure. But remember there is still a point out there for us," Daley said. "Down the stretch – you know how the Western Conference is – we’ll probably need that point."
Dallas returns to the ice Friday against the Anaheim Ducks, the first meeting of the former Pacific Division rivals since the Ducks eliminated the Stars in six games in their Western Conference First-Round Playoff Series.