Well, that was shocking...and hopefully a little bit embarrassing to the Stars.
This was a hyped up game. Many family and friends of the Stars were in the building. Many of the scouts who work Eastern Canada were in the building, and frankly, there was a lot of focus on this game in Canada.
And the Stars really laid an egg. It's difficult to rank all of the losses (although the Colorado debacle has to be among the worst this season), but what they tossed out at Air Canada Center may have been the most listless game the Stars have played in 2010-11 season. They just didn't have it, and there seemed no excuse. They were well-rested, they seemed excited in the morning, they were playing a Leafs team that has struggled at times this season. Yet, Toronto looked like world-beaters against the Stars.
``It was a little bit of everything,'' Stars coach Marc Crawford said. ``There are no consolations in games like this. You give credit to the opposition. They played well, they played harder than us, they deserved to win. For us, you can't look at anybody on our team that can't feel a little responsible for this, coaches included.''
Crawford said he couldn't explain the lack of energy or drive from the Stars, and said the coaches had to accept their share of the blame for it.
``I am surprised,'' Crawford said. ``I thought we would have a little more energy than we did...but we didn't. We talked about the right things, we thought our preparation was good, but obviously we've got to look again and make sure we get ready for the next game in Ottawa.''
The Stars have now lost four straight on the road and are 3-5-0 away from home. They also have had a disturbing trend of getting behind in games. They fought back and got a win in OT against San Jose. They fought back and took a shootout loss against Colorado. They didn't fight back in this game.
``You're not just going to turn switches on in the NHL and score three or four to get back into games,'' center Brad Richards said. ``We got what we deserved tonight. We weren't really in the game from the start. We have to address it and work on our starts.''
The Stars were out-shot 26-22 and put just seven shots on net while trying to come back in the third period. Krys Barch had a fight, but it was mostly a penalty free game. Dallas went 0-for-2 on the power play and Toronto went 0-for-1. So what went wrong? The Leafs (who moved to 8-9-3) talked about short passes, defensive support and getting the puck deep. The Stars (who fall to 10-8-1) didn't respond well. The defensemen didn't handle the puck well or make good breakout passes. The forwards didn't support the defense, and the Stars did a bad job of backchecking in transition.
Mix in with that the fact they simply lost some key puck battles.
``We talked about they're going to come out hard, and we just kept shoving it up each other's back,'' Richards said of the frustration in handling the puck. ``There wasn't much support.''
Dallas had it close, trailing 2-1 in the second period, and looked to be maybe gaining momentum after a Richards goal, but Toronto came back 86 seconds later and scored on a Tyler Bozak goal.
``When it got to be 2-1, you've got to keep it close,'' Crawford said. ``We made a huge mistake on the backcheck. Those are the ones you can't give up. We backed up on the play and our forward didn't execute well.''
When asked if it looked like goalie Kari Lehtonen was starting to look tired after starting 17 of 19 games, Crawford said no.
``Kari wasn't the fault of our execution in front of him,'' Crawford said. ``Double tip on the first goal, empty-netter and there was no way he could stop the third one.''
Lehtonen said he feels the team is learning.
``It's always harder to play on the road. You don't get the fans,'' he said. ``We just have to learn. It's still early, and we're growing as a group and hopefully we can figure it out.''
_ James Neal got cut on his leg by a skate in the second period, but he returned to play and should be fine for Wednesday's game in Ottawa.
_ Stephane Robidas played 25:25, had six hits and still was minus-4. Mike Ribeiro was minus-3 in 20:12.
_ The Stars won 28-of-61 faceoffs (46 percent). Brad Richards won 9-of-18 (50 percent).