DALLAS — In that classic Eagles song, "Take it Easy," Glenn Fry sings that he’s got a peaceful, easy feeling, but when the Dallas Stars led the New York Islanders 2-0 after one period on Sunday at American Airlines Center that most definitely wasn’t the case.
Sure, the Stars played well in the first period, well enough to lead the Isles, who had won six straight on the road heading into Sunday, and to have everyone of the 13,765 fans in attendance at the AAC thinking they just might see the end of Dallas’ current five-game losing streak.
But the Stars wouldn’t score again and after the Isles cut it to 2-1 midway through the second with Kyle Okposo scored his first of two goals on the night, that easy feeling turned quite the other direction into full-on anxiety.
And much like the Stars did on Monday on the Isles’ home ice, a game where they also led 2-0 after 20 minutes of play they coughed up the lead and eventually the game. Dallas led the game for 37:32 before Okposo’s second of the night with 4:16 remaining in regulation made it a 2-2 game.
The Isles then took their first lead at 3-2 with 1:44 left when John Tavares, who had assisted on Okposo’s first goal, scored his 21st of the season. New York then added an empty-netter from Brock Nelson with 52 seconds remaining to make the outcome completely academic as Dallas fell 4-2 in truly heartbreaking fashion, extending their losing streak to six.
Stars head coach Lindy Ruff went to a familiar place after the loss, not to his happy place, but to talking about turnovers, because just like there has been in every other loss during this streak, Dallas had plenty of miscues for him to discuss.
"I thought we played a real good first period. We started turning the puck over in the second period," Ruff said. "Our top guys turned it over on the entries. The guys that are getting anything done are the guys that are getting it low and making smarter plays. We turned too many over. You’re inviting a lot of danger."
This marks Dallas’ first time to lose six in a row in regulation since the 1995-96 season, Ken Hitchcock’s first behind the Stars bench and a year where the Stars went 26-42-14 to finish last in Central Division
"When you’re struggling as a group, instead of finding ways to win you find ways to lose," Stars veteran forward Ray Whitney, who scored his fifth goal of the season in the first period, said."That’s kind of where we’re at right now."
During this streak and during the latest addition to this run of bad form, there has been plenty for Ruff and his staff to address. However, the game-tying goal by Okposo, one where Stars goaltender Dan Ellis was screened and looked like he didn’t see Okposo’s blistering long-range shot from the right point, was a play he seemed to bristle about.
"I thought we got scared," Ruff said. "We backed off. We would have played the man right away and stayed inside. Screened our goaltender and it was just a perfect shot. We weren’t on our toes. We were back on our heels and hoping for a better result."
Dallas finished their run of six straight against Eastern Conference teams with an 0-6-0 record and remains winless in 2014. However, there might be some light at the end of the tunnel as the Edmonton Oilers, who currently hold the NHL’s second-worst record at 15-28-5 and who currently occupy the basement in the Western Conference, are next up for the Stars on Tuesday.
"We’re right on the tail end of it," Ellis said. "We’re going to come out of it. It happens. We have to learn from it. Once we get through this one, we want to learn how to end it so it never gets to this point again."