After getting pasted Saturday in their Stanley Cup rematch with the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Dallas Stars returned to Texas and had to take a long, hard look at themselves.
Having an easy night of it in posting his second straight shutout, Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped all 20 shotsthe Stars fired at him in the Cup champions' 5-0 win that got out of hand in a three-goal second period.
Tampa Bay tallied twice on the power play and once short-handed in the rout, leaving the Stars -- 1-5-3 over their last nine games -- to reassess their own accountability on the ice.
"They have to have a day tomorrow to take a look at themselves and figure out how they can help us more," Dallas coach Rick Bowness said after the loss.
The two clubs meet again Tuesday in Dallas in the second rematch from last October's Final, which Tampa Bay claimed in six games.
Saturday's game looked nothing like the best two teams in hockey vying for the sport's most coveted trophy.
In fact, it seemed like two sides trending in opposite directions -- one preparing to defend the trophy it earned in a truly difficult season, the other unsure of when its next victory would come.
Down just 1-0 after 20 minutes of play, the Stars saw it all fall apart in a second frame highlighted by Anthony Cirelli's short-handed goal and Pat Maroon's power-play marker.
The Lightning piled it on with three goals, and Steven Stamkos added his team-leading 10th goal, which he has accomplished in just 17 games.
Vasilevskiy's shutout was the 23rd of his career and came on the heels of his 3-0 blanking of Carolina on Wednesday.
And it wasn't like the Stars didn't have a chance or two: They went 0-for-6 on the man advantage.
In all, not a very good night for the Stars, who have struggled to find any rhythm in a season that has had two major interruptions.
"It's just self-reflection time, really, for an individual, as a professional and as an athlete and as a guy on the team that needs to bring it every night," said forward Andrew Cogliano.
The Lightning are playing some of their best hockey this season, and the club was buoyed by the return of Cirelli, a high-energy forward who missed six games with an upper-body injury suffered against the Florida Panthers on Feb. 11.
At the time, Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said Cirelli, 23, "didn't look good coming off the ice" in the 5-2 loss and ominously added he hoped the injury wasn't long term.
Cirelli showed the Stars he was ready for action with the shorty that gave the Lightning a 2-0 lead and a boost on the penalty kill.
"It was nice," Stamkos said of his linemate's return. "He's such a huge piece to our team. In typical Cirelli fashion, he comes back and has a big goal early, gets us going and makes a nice pass on my goal as well. It's great to see him have great success right away."
Added Cooper of Cirelli: "He makes us deeper. He's a top 200-foot center in this league. I thought he did really well. Getting that shorty, ... it was a good performance."
The NHL announced Monday that Vasilevskiy was named the league's First Star of the Week for the week ending on Feb. 28. He went 3-0-0 by stopping 79 of 81 shots to help move Tampa Bay into first place in the Central Division. He posted two shutouts -- over Carolina and Dallas -- in the three wins.
--Field Level Media