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Game 71: Lightning see lead slip away in a 4-3 loss to Dallas

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The Lightning continue to be average as of late, dropping a second consecutive game on the road with a 4-3 loss to the Dallas Stars.

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Lightning failed to gain ground in the Atlantic Division race, dropping a 4-3 decision to the Dallas Stars on Thursday night on the road.

The Bolts, who were looking to bounce back from an embarrassing loss against the Toronto Maple Leafs, came out with fire - sort of fitting on a night in which former Lightning forward Brenden Morrow, a noted tough guy, was honored by his former clubs.

There were some big hits early on in the game, as the Lightning set out to show that they wouldn't be pushed around in their fight to regain the Eastern Conference lead. The first big hit of the game was by Mike Blunden, who plastered Radek Faksa into the boards near the players' benches. A scrum ensued from that, and Blunden was sent off for boarding.

The Bolts would kill off the Stars' only power play opportunity of the evening due to some incredible saves by Ben Bishop, and they carried that momentum all the way to their first goal of the game at 12:15 of the first period. Andrej Sustr flicked the puck toward the net from the side boards, and it bounced off the stick of Alex Killorn, the skate of Nikita Kucherov and into the back of the net behind Kari Lehtonen. This broke a six-game goalless skid for Kucherov.

Dallas almost immediately pushed back, with Antoine Roussel and Ryan Callahan dropping the gloves off the ensuing center ice faceoff.

Less than two minutes later, at 14:09, Jason Spezza scored the Stars' first goal of the contest, converting on a 2-on-1 with Valeri Nichushkin. Andrej Sustr had dropped down low from the blue line to activate into the offense. Brian Boyle shifted up top to take his place, but was beaten at the blue line.

The Stars and Lighting would hold the 1-1 tie going into intermission, but Stars forward Valeri Nichushkin would be called for holding early in the second period. It was a perfect opportunity for the Bolts, who had gone on a 0-for-19 skid on the power play, to turn things around in the special teams department. They succeeded at 3:15 when Steven Stamkos buried a rebound from the left circle - his usual spot on the PP - on a shot by Nikita Kucherov.

Again, however, the lead would be short-lived. At 5:42, Jamie Benn made the Lightning pay, capitalizing on a costly turnover by Andrej Sustr in the defensive zone. Rather than keep the puck along the boards, Sustr attempted a cross-ice pass, which Benn stole. He then shot the puck over Ben Bishop's stick side to tie the score again at 2-2.

The Bolts had some life going into the dying minutes of the second period, capitalizing on a fantastic shift by the Stamkos line. It would eventually lead to the second goal of the night by Stamkos, who tapped in pass by Alex Killorn at 17:19. The secondary assist went to Victor Hedman.

That would not translate into momentum for the third period, however, as the Lightning seemed to chase for the remaining 20 minutes. Shots ended up 17-4 in the final period, heavily favoring the Dallas Stars.

Dallas eventually converted on the shifted momentum, with Stars defenseman Stephen Johns blasting a slapshot past a screened Ben Bishop at 9:42. Cody Eakin and Jamie Benn registered the assists.

Then just over two minutes later at 11:50, Jamie Benn scored his second goal of the evening to give the Dallas Stars a 4-3 lead. The Bolts would attempt to go empty net, but failed to score in the dying seconds.

The Lightning complete their road trip with a visit to Glendale, Ariz. to take on the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday. Puck drop will be at 10 p.m., so be sure to have your coffee ready for that one.

Game notes:

  • Matt Carle and Jonathan Marchessault were healthy scratches for the evening. Valtteri Filppula continued to sit out due to an injury.
  • The Bolts were perfect with special teams, going 1/1 on the power play and the penalty kill.
  • The Lightning delivered 28 hits, and the Stars delivered 29 in this very physical contest.
  • Cedric Paquette and Stars forward Patrick Eaves both delivered five hits on the evening.
  • Victor Hedman had 26:45 of ice time, leading the Bolts.