Interim coach Rick Bowness says Stars ‘softened up’ too much in late collapse against Las Vegas – The Dallas Morning News


Everything unraveled quickly for the Stars on Monday night.

After building a two-goal lead in a five-minute span in the second period of an eventual 5-3 loss to Vegas, the Stars coughed it up in a similar five-minute span in the third period. Just as the Stars had tilted the ice in the second period — berating the Golden Knights on the forecheck, getting their defensemen involved on the rush and possessing the puck in the offensive zone — Dallas succumbed to Vegas’ best punch in the third.

“Whether you’re trying to protect a lead or not, there’s a certain way we want to play,” Stars forward Joe Pavelski said. “We didn’t execute. We didn’t stay on the forecheck. We softened up a little bit too much. What gave us success early in the game was going at them and coming at them in waves. For whatever reason, we turned too many pucks over, didn’t get a few deep at times.”

The crux of the third-period disaster could be found in the Stars’ defensive zone. Their exits from their own zone were a mess, a kaleidoscope of bad giveaways and lost physical battles.

The Stars couldn’t connect passes over the blue line, and Vegas did its best to place sticks in the passing lanes.

Stars interim coach Rick Bowness said the team’s forwards and defensemen were too disjointed, leaving Vegas with plenty of time and space to make plays on the rush and in the offensive zone.

“Some of that is the turnovers,” Bowness said. “Some of that is our forwards not working hard enough to get back and get above the Vegas attackers, which causes our D to back up too much. That was addressed.”

Stars defenseman Andrej Sekera struggled in the third period in his own zone, leading to clumsy exits and turnovers beneath his own goal line. On one possession, Sekera lost the puck three times. On another, he was part of three failed exits by the Stars. Vegas’ game-winning goal scored by William Carrier was scored with Sekera close by.

Jonathan Marchessault beat Esa Lindell and John Klingberg to loose pucks. Lindell was muscled off a puck by Mark Stone. Denis Gurianov and Mattias Janmark were guilty of turnovers. Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn’s impact was largely absent.

The lack of connection between forwards and defensemen, plus the inability to break the force field keeping the Stars in their own zone sunk any chance of playing offensive hockey.

The Stars couldn’t get their defensemen involved in the rush like they did the first two periods because they couldn’t possess the puck long enough to rush up the ice. The Stars couldn’t forecheck (like Andrew Cogliano, Radek Faksa and Blake Comeau did so effectively in the first period) or cycle (like Janmark, Pavelski and Alexander Radulov did in the second) because they couldn’t get into the offensive zone.

The Stars simply could not unlock any offensive weapons because they were stuck on tilted ice.

“The things that they did to us in the third, we were doing to them in the second,” Pavelski said.

“You understand there’s waves, there’s waves of momentum, they go both ways. You’ve got to handle it when it’s against you, and you’ve got to find your way out of it.”

Luck told the story for both teams. Pavelski scored when he banked a pass off Vegas defenseman Alec Martinez. Nate Schmidt scored after Lindell’s broken stick sprung the Golden Knights on the rush, and then the puck fortuitously ricocheted to him in the slot.

But Pavelski’s goal came after extended pressure in the offensive zone, and Schmidt’s came amid Vegas’ counterpunch.

“Those are breaks that they get because we, for the most part, just made it too easy for them to play,” Bowness said. “You’re turning the puck over like we did at the lines, it’s soft plays. Something we didn’t do for 40 minutes, so we’ll learn from that.”

Line tweaking: The Stars are trying to spark their two highest-paid players: Benn and Seguin.

Bowness said the team tweaked its forward lines during practice Tuesday, putting Roope Hintz between Benn and Seguin, and moving Gurianov with Jason Dickinson and Corey Perry.

“We’re trying to get Jamie and Tyler going a little bit,” Bowness said. “Roope was having a really good game [Monday]. He missed a couple shifts in the first period because of the penalty kill. But we’ve got to try something different. We’re willing to try that.”

Dallas Stars goalie Ben Bishop (30) makes the save on Vegas Golden Knights' William Carrier (28) during the third period of an NHL hockey playoff game Monday, Aug. 3, 2020 in Edmonton, Alberta.
Dallas Stars' Jason Dickinson (18), Tyler Seguin (91) and Vegas Golden Knights' Ryan Reaves (75) and goalie Robin Lehner (90) take a knee for Black Lives Matter during the national anthem prior to an NHL hockey playoff game Monday, Aug. 3, 2020 in Edmonton, Alberta.

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