DALLAS -- Note to the Edmonton Oilers: the opening faceoff isn't a suggestion.
That's kind of when you're supposed to start playing.
It's a concept that appears lost on the Oilers, who, for the umpteenth time this season, dragged out their tortoise and hare routine, giving the Dallas Stars an early head start before trying to launch a comeback.
It worked a night earlier in St. Louis, when they turned a 2-0 deficit into a 4-2 win, but it blew up in their faces yesterday in Dallas.
"The game was there for us, the air was ripe with opportunity and we mangled the puck a little bit," head coach Craig MacTavish sighed after the 4-3 defeat.
"It's just not being sharp early. The league is too tough to try to feel your way into the game like that.
"It looked like the perfect game plan again -- follow the plan from the other night -- but we squandered a really good second and a pretty good third with a couple of boneheaded mistakes."
As rough as the start was, the finish was worse.
Kyle Brodziak scored two goals in the third period to tie the game twice (at 2-2 and 3-3), but the Oilers caved each time, allowing Sean Avery (at 14:51) and Mike Modano (at 17:39) to put the Stars back in the front.
Modano's winner, with Sheldon Souray in the box for hooking, was the 1,300th point of his NHL career.
"Another half-full, half-empty scenario again," said MacTavish.
"It's going to be a real momentum-building game for us to come back again, tie the game twice in the third, and just mis-execution on our part results in their third and fourth goals.
"They're plays that we go over, and over, and over and over."
The win improved the Stars' record against Edmonton to 43-9-5 overall since moving to Dallas, and a ridiculous 23-4-2 at home.
"From the second period on, we really played well," said Brodziak.
"We tie it up and there's a defensive breakdown, we tie it up again and there's a penalty. It's tough.
"We got off to a bad start again, but we regrouped and came back, then two errors at the end of the game cost us.
"It felt good at the time to contribute, but at the end of the day we didn't get the job done."
It was 1-0 Dallas 7:20 into the first period on one of the weirdest goals you'll see.
Modano's point shot hit goalie Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers, deflected about 25 feet in the air, hit Deslauriers on the back of the head and rolled down his arm, where Mike Ribeiro whacked it in to put the Stars ahead.
"I lost the puck in the air, I didn't know where it was," said Deslauriers.
"I figured I needed to back up in my net. There was a big scrum there ... it was just a bad bounce.
"Sometimes you get lucky and the puck lands on the top of the net."
The Oilers fell behind 2-0 on a deflection by ex-Oiler Toby Petersen.
The early deficit marked the fifth time in six games Edmonton's opponent scored first.
The Oilers have only led after the first period five times in 23 games.
"We're just beating ourselves with penalties and (poor) execution," said Deslauriers.
"They had a two good breaks to go ahead 2-zip and the guys came back pretty good."
Not good enough.