There was much to like about the Stars' performance Tuesday against Anaheim.
They controlled much of the play, they cycled for what seemed like hours at a time, they had all four lines clicking at times. They really looked like a greatly improved team.
And then they lost 5-2.
That sort of ruined everything.
Of course, it also taught the team a little lesson: It's nice to play well, it's much better to win.
Yes, the Stars have played fantastic hockey the past three games _ quite possibly their best of the season _ but they still are 1-2-0 in that span. Why? Because they have not scored on the power play and they have made significant mistakes at crucial times. Bottom line, they worked hard, they had success, but they failed to finish the job.
And, as such, they did not earn a win.
``We've got to stick together and keep piling on the good things in our game,'' Stars coach Marc Crawford said. ``You've got to will yourself to get better. Sometimes, you've got to drive things down people's throats. That's what we want to be.
``We're not satisfied with our effort, because we know we still need to be better. We were good enough to win, but that doesn't get you anything unless you win,'' he added.
Crawford had one of the big mistakes. He did not put a player in the penalty box after Stephane Robidas took a boarding major and a game misconduct. So when the Stars killed the entire five minute penalty, there was nobody to come out of the box and help out. Anaheim scored six seconds after the penalty expired while they still had a 5-on-4 advantage, and that put the game away at 5-2.
``That was my mistake,'' Crawford said. ``We told the players that nobody was without fault tonight, I made one too. We've all got to stick together and try to eliminate any mistakes.''
And that really is what the team needs right now. Kari Lehtonen was actually pretty solid for allowing five goals, but he could have stopped George Parros on his breakaway. Brad Richards and the power play could have found a way to score on four second period man advantages when they had 11 shots on goal. And Brenden Morrow could have refrained from taking a penalty in the second period that ended one power play and helped lead to Anaheim's second goal.
"I think we made a lot of mistakes, but nothing from a lack of effort," Morrow said. "But, once again, it was special teams that kind of let us down. The power play could have been huge for us early. I think we had the first three or four opportunities, and against a team like this who is aggressive, you have to put them away. We could have done that early."
Richards added about the power play: ``For us, we have to be more realistic. Just because we step onto the ice doesn't mean we're going to score goals. It takes more work than that. We're getting frustrated, but you have to stay with it. It's mental toughness of the team."
He continued: "We got some opportunistic goals at the start of the year, there were some pretty goals, and there were some (opponent) breakdowns. The league will tighten up. When you get off to a 4-0 or 5-1 start, teams are going to realize what you're doing and they are going to bear down. We just have to stick with it and keep battling."
That's a great lesson, but as the six-game homestand moves on, the Stars have to start producing points. They have a huge game against Los Angeles Thursday, and that would be a great start. While they still are 5-3-0 and not in a panic situation, they don't need to go 0-3-0 to start the homestand.
Robidas will miss Thursday's game, and the Stars have to figure out how they will handle that. It's just one of the many things they have to figure out.