DALLAS — Things unraveled — and they unraveled quickly — for the Rangers.
An intimidating start turned into a timid finish as the Rangers wasted a two-goal lead to fall 6-3 to the Stars on Monday night at American Airlines Center.
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The Blueshirts had been woven pretty tightly up until the end of the second period of this battle between the first-place teams in the Metropolitan and Central Divisions. One turnover after another, however, led to the Rangers’ first loss in regulation in over a month.
“You lose the hockey game, you’re disappointed,” head coach Peter Laviolette said after the loss, which ended the Rangers’ point streak at 11 games. “You want to do better — especially when you have a lead. That’s the frustrating part of it.”
Through the first 20 minutes, it looked like just another game in which the Rangers were going to take care of business. Not only did they double the Stars’ shots on goal, 16-7, to emerge with a 1-0 lead, the Rangers frustrated the Stars in transition, held the offensive zone for stretches and broke out of the defensive zone cleanly.
When Kaapo Kakko snapped a 10-game scoreless streak in the second period on a funky play in front of the net, where the puck went off Dallas defenseman Ryan Suter’s stick and in, the Rangers looked well on their way to another victory.
Less than a minute and a half later, however, the Stars found the momentum that had been evading them all game.
Jumping out on a three-on-one rush, Dallas captain Jamie Benn snapped his own eight-game scoreless streak and capitalized for the 2-1 score heading into the second intermission. Promptly at the start of the third period, Joe Pavelski buried a long rebound off the pad of Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin to knot the game at two-all.
The Stars then grabbed their first lead of the night at the 7:06 mark of the final frame, when Mason Marchment pushed the puck in after Shesterkin made the initial save on Wyatt Johnson. Marchment celebrated, but the refs ruled no goal.
Dallas ultimately challenged and won for the 3-2 lead and a quick review showed there was no goalie interference.
“Little plays through the neutral zone, their positioning defensively, our inability to get through them or advance pucks,” Chris Kreider said of how the game got away from the Rangers in the middle frame. “When they got going, they got rolling on their forecheck and got rolling with O-zone positions.”
Tyler Seguin later crashed the net and put the game out of reach during a scramble in front of the Rangers’ net. The Rangers challenged for goalie interference, but the goal was upheld to give the Stars a two-goal cushion with 11:36 left in regulation.
The Rangers have found ways to pull out wins in all different situations this season, but not even two late power plays could wrestle the momentum back from the Stars. In fact, Dallas scored two empty-net goals with Shesterkin pulled to pile it on in their comeback victory.
Shesterkin, who finished with 30 saves on 34 shots, scrambled a bit at times throughout the night.
Part of that was due to some careless plays made at the blue line by his teammates in front of him, but the Stars jammed a couple of pucks past Shesterkin that the Russian netminder usually swallows up.
The Rangers hadn’t had an off-night in a while. This was an outlier in the early days of a season that has started off well.
How they respond Wednesday in Pittsburgh will be telling.