Listless Stars flattened by smoldering Blue Jackets at AAC

BY foxsports • January 7, 2015

DALLAS---In their only home game sandwiched between three road games, the Dallas Stars started flat and despite rallying for a pair of goals in the second period, ended up losing 4-2 to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday night at American Airlines Center.

Not only did former Stars defenseman Kevin Connauton deliver the game-winner for the visitors in his first game back in Big D after the Stars placed him on waivers in November, but the Dallas power play finished 0-for-5 and the Stars were never able to recover from a slow start that saw them trail 2-0 after one period as Dallas spotted the Jackets three goals before they cut it to 3-2 at the second intermission.

"We had a slow start today," Stars left winger Ales Hemsky said. "We took three penalties and that kind of took the momentum from us and all the guys, because a lot of guys didn't play. And then we took time to find a way back, and the next two periods we played the way we should play. We kind of controlled the game, but we didn't get it done."

And honestly, as bad as things could have been with backup goaltender Anders Lindback making his first start since Nov. 29, when he was shelled for five goals in a 5-2 loss at the Colorado Avalanche, Lindback's goaltending was the least of Dallas' worries.

That's because Columbus' first goal, by James Wisniewski 5:21 into the game, came after his shot deflected in off Hemsky's stick.

The Blue Jackets' second tally, which came from Ryan Johansen 2:05 later with the visitors on the power play, came after a total defensive breakdown allowed Johansen to skate with no Dallas player within 20 feet of him up the right side of the ice and Johansen easily beat Lindback top shelf to make it 2-0.

Even Connauton's goal, his sixth of the season, came on a shot that Lindback honestly didn't see. And Columbus' last goal, an insurance tally from Mark Letestu, who was playing his first game since missing the last 28 with a combination groin/abdominal injury with 2:58 remaining in regulation, really wasn't Lindback's fault.

"I think I played pretty well. I don't think it was any bad goals, but obviously when you let in four goals you can't be too happy about it and you lose a game," Lindback said of his performance. "Obviously, I'm disappointed about it."

But the true sticking point in this game has to be the Stars power play, a unit which generated nine total shots with six of those coming on their first two opportunities and just three spread over their final three opportunities.

"The power play had spurts, but not good enough," Stars head coach Lindy Ruff said. "Could have been the difference maker, and just couldn't quite get it going. Too many turnovers, too many giveaways, too many blind plays. We had maybe three opportunities to score on our power play, which with that number on power plays isn't enough."

Besides keeping the Dallas power play off the score sheet, Columbus also kept Dallas' top offensive tandem of captain Jamie Benn and the NHL's leading goal scorer Tyler Seguin off the stat sheet.

Ruff even gave Benn and Seguin a new linemate in standout rookie Brett Ritchie late in the first period and Ritchie responded to being moved up, replacing Colton Sceviour, but in the end, Dallas was just unable to find much of a spark and fell to 9-8-5 on home ice this season.

Now the Stars head back out on the road, where they will first play at the Nashville Predators on Thursday and then at the Avalanche on Saturday.

Ruff knows that starting off the quick two-game trip in the Music City is always a rather tough proposition for any team.

"We know that they're having a heck of a year. Their goaltender has been real good. Their top six have been going pretty well offensively for them," Ruff said of Nashville. "I think they've got a lot of good going there."

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