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Stars 4, Bruins 2

Flat Bruins leveled

Lackluster start sets tone in Dallas

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By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / January 1, 2012
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DALLAS - As Tim Thomas returned to the ice to start last night’s third period at the American Airlines Center, the Boston netminder tripped and fell face-first.

It was that kind of night for Thomas and the Bruins.

Thomas saw a puck hop off his chest, over his body, and into the net. Coach Claude Julien saw his team put only 20 shots on Kari Lehtonen, including a mere 11 through 40 minutes. The Bruins saw their seven-game winning streak come to an end.

Before 18,532 fans, the Stars submitted a 4-2 win that wasn’t as close as the final score.

“We weren’t a very good team tonight,’’ said Julien. “We didn’t get any help. There’s no doubt about that. But we weren’t a very good team. They were. They played extremely well. They were physical. They were on top of us. They were skating well. They were, without a doubt, the better team.’’

The only consistent signs of life the Bruins showed came in the third period. Sixty-eight seconds into the final frame, Milan Lucic one-timed a shot past Lehtonen to close Dallas’s lead to two goals. It was one of nine shots the Bruins landed in the third.

But the Bruins were in too deep of a hole to do further damage.

“Not a full 60 minutes,’’ Zdeno Chara said. “Maybe 20-30 minutes. The first half, we just didn’t play our game.’’

The faceoff chart indicated how much the Bruins had to chase the game through 40 minutes. David Krejci lost eight of nine draws. Not surprisingly, linemates Lucic and Nathan Horton combined for only one shot through two periods.

Gregory Campbell lost three of five faceoffs. The fourth line, which usually produces scoring chances despite limited minutes, combined for zero shots.

“When we don’t start with the puck, that’s a big reason why we’re chasing it,’’ Lucic said. “That’s a big area and part of our game. That’s an area where we’ve been really good at this year. It felt like our neutral zone, once again, was a little sloppy. We tightened it up in the third and were able to create more turnovers. We usually win most of the battles and have heavier sticks. But tonight, it seemed like they were more willing to win those battles.’’

The Stars, ahead 3-1 after the first period, tacked on a late goal in the second period. As the Bruins were in the middle of a line change, the Stars scurried away for an odd-man rush. Adam Burish carried the puck down the right-side wing. At the same time, Tom Wandell tucked his head and sprinted for the net. Burish connected with Wandell, who tipped the puck past Thomas at 19:00 to give the Stars a 4-1 lead.

The Bruins didn’t get any decent looks on Lehtonen in the second period. The only heat the Bruins applied came when Benoit Pouliot had several short-range sniffs early. Lehtonen, quick and sharp, didn’t give the Bruins anything.

The Stars jumped out to a 3-1 lead after 20 minutes. Dallas opened the scoring with a five-on-three goal. First, Chris Kelly was sent off for hooking at 2:08. Seven seconds later, Dennis Seidenberg was nabbed for a delay of game penalty when he winged the puck into the stands.

During the two-man advantage, point man Trevor Daley dished the puck to Loui Eriksson at the right circle. Before Thomas could scoot left, Eriksson sniped a shot over the netminder at 3:21 of the first, giving the Stars a 1-0 lead.

The Bruins tied the game during four-on-four play. As Tyler Seguin battled with Nicklas Grossman to gain net-front position, David Krejci snapped a shot on goal. Seguin tipped Krejci’s shot past Lehtonen at 11:39 to make it a 1-1 game.

But the Stars rallied for two straight goals. Daley entered the offensive zone with speed and put the puck on goal. Thomas stopped Daley’s shot, but the puck hopped over the netminder and rolled over the goal line at 16:59.

“Just went up in the air, then hit me in the back,’’ said Thomas (23 saves). “Just one of those bounces.’’

The Stars netted their second power-play goal of the period to claim a 3-1 lead. Brenden Morrow baited Zdeno Chara into an interference penalty in front of the Boston net. With Chara in the box, the Stars grabbed a two-goal advantage when Michael Ryder scored on his old club. Ryder faked a forehand shot, pulling Thomas out of the crease. Ryder pulled the puck to his backhand and beat Thomas at 19:20.

“It was us,’’ Julien said. “We didn’t play a very good game from the get-go. They got some early goals. Before we settled down a little bit and came out better in the third, the damage was done. From the first guy to the last guy tonight, I don’t think we had a very strong game. It’s unfortunate. Again, those are things that will maybe help us get better in the upcoming games. We understand we have to bounce back.’’

Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at fshinzawa@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeFluto.

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