Since returning from the All-Star break, the Dallas Stars have shown they can play any game their opponent wants to. Whether it's tight defensively, grabbing a lead and holding onto it, or rallying for a win, the Stars have done it all over the past five games.
But on Thursday night, the Colorado Avalanche burst the Stars five-game winning streak bubble, as Cody McLeod snapped a third-period tie to help Colorado claim a 3-2 come-from-behind win at the Pepsi Center.
Dallas (24-19-7) failed to capitalize on a golden opportunity to move into a tie for the fifth slot in the Western Conference after Anaheim lost to Nashville earlier in the night. Despite the bitter defeat, the Stars are still in a tie with Minnesota for sixth place in the conference standings. Both teams have 55 points, and both have played 50 games.
With seven minutes left in regulation, McLeod netted the winner with his 12th goal of the season, stuffing the puck past Marty Turco after coming up from behind the goal line and around the right post.
"I have to make those saves, bottom line," Turco said.
"That wasn't even close to the standard I know we can play," a distraught coach Dave Tippett added. "We didn't execute very well, and we expect more from this group."
Steve Ott and Loui Eriksson scored for Dallas, which lost for the first time since a 4-2 defeat at Tampa Bay on Jan. 19. Turco, meanwhile, made 18 saves in his 21st consecutive start.
"It's obvious we didn't play as well as we are capable," Turco said. "We didn't think things would be easy, but we needed to bring more energy and be more efficient."
Milan Hejduk and Marek Svatos both had a goal and assist for the Avalanche, who for only their third time in the last 10 games, but second straight overall.
Goalie Peter Budaj, playing in his third consecutive game, finished with 22 saves in the win.
"It’s a good feeling because we beat a hot hockey team," Hejduk said.
With the game tied after 40 minutes, the Avalanche took their first lead of the game thanks to Svatos' 12th of the season just 42 seconds into the third period. With Colorado on the power play, Wojtek Wolski re-collected the puck after fanning on a shot from the slot, then slipped a pass to Svatos, who wristed a shot in from close quarters.
Eriksson got the equalizer with 11:58 left in regulation, notching his team-leading 25th of the season that knotted things up 2-2. After corralling a slick cross-ice pass from Toby Petersen, Eriksson ripped a quick wrist shot past Budaj.
After a brief offensive flurry, the Stars were unable to beat Budaj before McLeod put the game away. Dallas played with the extra attacker for the final 75 seconds after Turco was pulled, but was unable to generate a serious offensive threat. The Stars took just one shot on Budaj during that final minute of play.
"All three periods, across the board, we were flat-footed," Ott said. "We didn't do what made us successful the last five games. We know that standard we have to play. You hate to look behind you, but we have teams right on our tail and we need to continue to play the way we know we can."
With the Stars up by a goal, Hejduk tied the game, 1-1, with his team-leading 20th of the season with less than seven minutes left in the second period. Skating towards the net with the puck from just above the goal line along the right boards, Hejduk lifted a shot over Turco when the Dallas netminder went down after committing on Hejduk's fake attempt.
"We could've gotten some points tonight, so it was a letdown," Turco said. "But we can't feel sorry for ourselves. We have to bounce back quickly."
Ott opened the scoring with his ninth of the season with just 41 seconds left in the first period. Standing to the left of Budaj, Ott neatly redirected Matt Niskanen's pass from the point to give Dallas a 1-0 lead.
The goal was Ott's fourth in the last five games, and extended his career-long points streak to six games.
"They were blocking a lot of shots, so I snuck to the side," Ott said. "Nisky saw me and put it right on my tape."
The Stars return home to face the New York Rangers Friday night at American Airlines Center (7:30, FSN). The Rangers have lost three straight, including Tuesday's home shootout loss to Atlanta on Tuesday.
It'll be the first set of back-to-back games in a month for Dallas, the first of four straight contests at home, and the second game of a three-game in four-night stretch. The Stars host Nashville on Sunday.
"We have a tough team coming in tomorrow, and points are at a premium no matter where they come from," Tippett said. "We couldn't get enough to overcome our mistakes, and allowed three very preventable goals."
--The Stars have scored first in four of their last five games.
--Jere Lehtinen stretched his points streak to six games with an assist on Ott's goal, tying his career-long streak most recently set in Dec. 2005.
--Niskanen had a pair of assists, and has points in three straight games.
--Dallas was 0-for-3 on the power play after coming in having capitalized on 5-of-13 man-advantage opportunities over the last three games.
--The Stars fell to 10-5 against Colorado since the end of the 2003-04 season.
--After not picking up a point in 13 straight games, Petersen now has two points in his last three contests.
--The Stars fell to 11-13-3 on the road.
--Dallas is now 15-4-2 when scoring first.
1 - 0 DAL
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 COL
2 - 2 Tie
3 - 2 COL