TAMPA BAY - The Stars had been able to overcome some loosey-goosey play early on this season, but on Monday it finally caught up to them.
Looking to remain as the only unbeaten team in the NHL after Toronto lost earlier in the evening, the Stars made a late charge before ultimately falling to the Tampa Bay Lightning, 5-4, at St. Pete Times Forum.
Turnovers, penalties, and the inability to control the shot clock doomed Dallas, as it lost for the first time this year (4-1-0).
"(Tampa Bay) was an honest, hard-working team, they deserved the two points, and they got them," Dallas goalie Kari Lehtonen said. "It was a little bump in the road. We have to get up and get going next game."
The Stars, trying to start with five consecutive wins for the first time since the 2006-07 season, surrendered a whopping 44 shots after coming in already allowing an average of 36.5 shots per game. Adding to the downfall was a penalty-killing unit that got victimized for four goals on five chances, and a power play that was mostly powerless in five opportunities.
"You usually win or lose the games with special teams," Lehtonen said. "We have to figure that out. It's still early but it seems like we are not really sharp on the PK. I have to work harder to see the shots and not give bad rebounds like I did at least once today. Just need to clean things up a bit, and I think we're going to be fine."
Dallas has now given up eight power-play goals on 14 opponent opportunities on the road, which translates into an ugly 42.9 percent success rate.
"We couldn't kill a penalty to save our life," head coach Marc Crawford said. "It was very discouraging because we didn't get in the lane. You look at the difference between the two penalty kills, they got in the lane and blocked shots, and we didn't. They either scored on a deflection of a shot getting through, or a rebound of a shot after the initial save. That's such an important factor of both the power play and the penalty kill."
Steven Stamkos had a goal and two assists, Dominic Moore scored twice, and Steve Downie and Sean Bergenheim also scored for the Lightning, who were playing without captain Vincent Lecavalier. Lecavalier is nursing a finger injury sustained in Tampa Bay's loss to Florida on Saturday.
Former Stars netminder Mike Smith turned aside 15 shots for the win.
Moore scored his second of the game on the power play 6:11 into the third to make it 5-2 before Morrow cut the lead with his fifth of the season 13 seconds later.
Neal then made things interesting when he scored his third of the year with 60 seconds left in regulation and Lehtonen on the bench for an extra attacker, whipping home a wrist shot from the left circle off a pass from the left point by Brad Richards.
The Stars were then handed a power play with 56 seconds left after Tampa Bay center Ryan Malone was whistled for tripping on the ensuing faceoff. But the Lightning were able to block four shot attempts during the man advantage to thwart the Stars' visions of sending the game into overtime.
Down 2-1 after 20 minutes, Dallas got the equalizer when Burish scored his first as a Star 6:04 into the second. From the left circle Morrow tapped the puck into the corner, where Ribeiro picked it up and promptly sent a pass to Burish skating into the slot. The gritty winger quickly snapped the puck all in one motion, and it found its way through Smith's legs.
The Lightning went back in front when Bergenheim notched his first of the year with 10:34 left in the second. Skating to the front of the net, Bergenheim easily tapped in Stamkos' perfect feed from the left corner that eluded a sliding Mark Fistric to make it 3-2.
Moore pushed Tampa Bay's lead to 4-2 with yet another power play goal with 1:54 remaining in the middle frame. With Stephane Robidas in the penalty box, Tampa Bay defenseman Pavel Kubina took a shot from the middle of the blue line that ricocheted in off of Moore in the slot.
Following the second period, the Lightning enjoyed a bloated 35-10 shot advantage, and outshot the Stars by a 20-3 margin during the second 20 minutes.
Petersen put the Stars up 1-0 with 4:56 left in the first period with the team's first shorthanded goal of the season. Corralling a loose puck inside the Dallas blue line, Petersen raced up the right wing before snapping a shot past Smith from the inner portion of the right circle.
The lead, though, was short-lived, as Downie tied it on the same power-play opportunity 77 seconds later. From the left point, Martin St. Louis let a slap shot goal that went off of Downie and behind Lehtonen.
Tampa Bay took its first lead of the game, 2-1, with another power-play goal with just 13.2 seconds to go in the opening stanza. Lehtonen was able to spit out Victor Hedman's slap shot from the left point, but Stamkos collected the rebound and flung it home with just two seconds remaining on Fistric's roughing penalty.
The Stars will finish up their tour of the Sunshine State when they play at the Florida Panthers on Thursday night (6:30, FSSW).
-- Left wing Jamie Benn missed his third game because of concussion-like symptoms and continues to be day-to-day. Defenseman Jeff Woywitka and winger Krystofer Barch were also scratched. Center Aaron Gagnon made his season debut after being recalled from the Texas Stars of the AHL on Sunday.
-- Richards has picked up at least one point in all five games, and has 10 points on the season. He entered the game tied with Chicago's Marian Hossa for the league-lead in scoring .
-- Gagnon played in his third career NHL game.
-- Both Tampa Bay goalies are former Stars products. Smith played 44 games for Dallas over two seasons starting in 2006, while Dan Ellis was a second round pick in 2000.
-- The Stars best-ever start to a season was in 1996-97 when they won their first six games.
-- Dallas has now lost two straight in Tampa Bay after winning eight in a row there.
-- The Stars have allowed 40 or more shots in three of the first five games.
-- Lehtonen dropped to 9-2-1 in his last 12 starts against the Lightning.
-- Smith improved to 2-0-1 lifetime against the Stars.