DALLAS - The Stars have had a penchant for rallying in games they fall behind in. They found themselves on the other side against the Western Conference-leaders.
A night after securing a come-from-behind win against Nashville, the Stars frittered away a two-goal, second period lead en route to a 7-3 loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday night at a sold-out and revved-up American Airlines Center.
Patrick Eaves recorded his first career hat trick and added an assist to lead the Red Wings (24-9-4) to only their third win in the last 11 meetings against the Stars.
A victory would have pulled the Stars into a tie with Detroit for the top spot in the West. Instead, the defeat left them scratching their collective heads over what went wrong after Benn gave the Stars a 3-1 lead seven minutes into the middle frame.
From there it was all Detroit, as the Red Wings methodically began to pick apart the Dallas defense and goalie Kari Lehtonen, and ultimately scored the game's final six goals in overwhelming fashion.
"We wanted to come out, play strong, and get the lead," captain Brenden Morrow said. "We worked hard for two periods and put ourselves in position where we were going to win a game if we came out and played like we have over the last few weeks in the third period. It wasn't from lack of confidence or us being tired. I think we just didn't execute and got a little too aggressive and over-pursued some plays, and ended up blowing coverage. It was bad execution."
Lehtonen was victimized for six of the total goals, as Eaves completed his hat trick with a shorthanded empty-net tally with 2:14 to go.
"They scored on all of the chances that they got," coach Marc Crawford said. "We don't have many holes in our defensive coverage, and our defensive coverage has been quite good through most of the year, but we made a few mistakes. We're disappointed with the loss, but we can't lose heart. We had some good excitement in the game, and good energy."
The Stars had all of the momentum when Benn scored, but that's when Eaves and Co. went to work. Nicklas Lidstrom and Eaves scored in the middle frame to send the game into the final period deadlocked at 3-3. Eaves then scored two more times during a four-goal blitz over the final 20 minutes.
Jiri Hudler had a goal and assist, and Brad Stuart and Kris Draper also scored for Detroit. Jimmy Howard finished with 28 saves.
"We need to check it, and move on," Fistric said. "Tomorrow is a new day and we have a lot more games ahead of us. We played a good two first periods, but the third just didn't go our way. We have to learn from it."
Detroit took a 4-3 lead with 14:31 left in regulation when Stuart's shot from the middle of the blue line got past Lehtonen, who was being screened by Detroit forward Justin Abdelkader.
Draper then gave the Red Wings a 5-3 advantage with 6:37 left in the third with a one-timer from the left circle off a pass from Eaves, and Eaves then easily tapped-in his second of the night on the doorstep to make it 6-3 just 44 seconds later.
"It was a good game until the third, and that's obviously not the third that we wanted to have," Richards said. "There were some things that we didn't do right. It probably would have been a huge boost to go into the third with a lead, but we gave them the late goal in the second. The third was one of those periods you have to move by because it's not something that happens everyday. It's unfortunate."
Down by a goal after the first period, the Stars tied it at 1-1 when Richards scored his team-leading 17th of the season 5:39 into the second period. He accepted a nifty neutral zone pass from Loui Eriksson at the Red Wings blue line before skating in on Howard and lifting a shot over the goalie's right shoulder.
The Stars took their first lead of the game, 2-1, at 6:24 of the middle frame when Fistric scored his second of the season -- and second in the last two games. Off the faceoff in the left circle, Fistric ripped a slap shot from the middle of the blue line that went off Detroit forward Todd Bertuzzi's stick before zipping past Howard.
Dallas pushed the lead to 3-1 when Benn potted his ninth of the year 29 seconds later. Mike Ribeiro banked a pass off the side of the Detroit net that went right to Benn in front, and Benn quickly deposited it in.
Lidstrom cut the deficit to 3-2 with his 11th of the year at 8:56 of the second. In the high slot he slightly fanned on his shot, but the mis-hit fooled Lehtonen just enough, and the puck fluttered harmlessly in.
Eaves tied it at 3-3 with just one second remaining in Detroit's power play with 2:22 left in the second. From the left circle, he one-timed Johan Franzen's cross-ice pass past Lehtonen.
The Red Wings struck first when Hudler notched his third of the year at 1:36 of the first while Detroit was on the power play. Lidstrom's shot from the middle of the blue line went off Morrow's stick, but Bertuzzi was able to tap it to Hudler in the right circle. Hudler buried the chance past Lehtonen for a 1-0 lead.
"They're just so skilled, and have such good hockey players," defenseman Trevor Daley said. "You give them power-play time, they're going to make you pay."
The Stars will close out the calendar year against the Vancouver Canucks in their annual New Year's Eve game on Friday night at American Airlines Center (7 p.m., TXA-21). The Canucks entered Wednesday night in second place in the Western Conference, a point behind Detroit and a point ahead of Dallas.
"Going into tonight we all were the three top teams, so they're big games," Morrow said. "You talk about tests during the season, and this is a good one for us. We want to have a good feeling going into January 1."
-- Daley, who signed a six-year contract extension earlier in the day, picked up an assist on Richards' tally.
-- Richards goal snapped the Stars' American Airlines Center scoreless streak at 102 minutes, 58 seconds, a drought dating back to Morrow's goal early in the final frame of a 3-2 shootout loss to Calgary on Dec. 23. They snapped a 101 minute, 58 second overall scoreless string in a 4-2 win over the Nashville Predators on Tuesday.
-- Fistric now has three goals in his career after scoring in back-to-back games.
-- Benn recorded his fifth multi-point game of the season, and second against the Red Wings.
-- Both Richards and Eriksson have points in seven of the last eight games.
-- Detroit converted on both of its power-play opportunities, while the Stars went 0 for 4 with the man advantage.
-- Dallas is winless in its last three home games.