Stirring rallies don't come on demand, not even for the Stars. Sometimes, a big hole leads to an equally big loss, not an epic comeback.
The Stars fell behind early on three Montreal power-play goals and never recovered Monday, losing 4-2 at the Bell center.
Their win streak ended at six games, one short of the franchise record. Twice during the streak, the Stars had rallied from three-goal deficits to win against Anaheim and Detroit.
"In order to come back from three goals, first of all you have to play great the rest of the game, almost mistake-free, because you can't afford to give them any more," forward Bill Guerin said.
"It's just too hard. You have to get lucky. There have been a lot of times where we've gotten lucky. That's not the way we can afford to play."
The Stars have allowed the first goal in six of their last seven games, usually a cardinal sin. It caught up to them against Montreal. Mike Ribeiro scored the first of his two power-play goals 65 seconds into the game. Radek Bonk's shot deflected off the end boards, and Ribeiro quickly scooped up the long rebound.
"It started there and continued all night for us," goaltender Marty Turco said. "The hunger wasn't there. We played well and limited their shots and kept the puck, but we were certainly missing some fire and some desperation we need to win hockey games."
Ribeiro scored again at 14:42 on another power play, when Jan Bulis' pass somehow got through Stars defenseman Sergei Zubov.
The underachieving Canadiens, left without alibis by the firing of former coach Claude Julien and the appearance of general manager Bob Gainey and coach-in-waiting Guy Carbonneau behind the bench, won their second straight game.
Alex Kovalev's power-play goal gave them a three-goal lead 2:41 into the second. Michael Ryder added a goal and an assist, while Bonk and Bulis contributed two assists each.
The Stars (30-13-2) lost a chance to move past idle Detroit into first place overall in the Western Conference.
They dominated the even-strength play, outshooting the Canadiens, 37-15, including 17-2 in the third period.
By then, the damage was done.
Ovechkin paces Caps
Rookie Alexander Ovechkin continued his red-hot scoring pace with a pair of goals and an assist in leading the Washington Capitals to a 6-1 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes on Monday.
Ben Clymer, Matt Bradley, Dainus Zubrus and Brian Sutherby also scored for the Capitals, but it was Ovechkin's third period tally that had the crowd at the Glendale Arena buzzing.
Sliding on his back towards the corner, Ovechkin reached above his head and somehow managed to flick the puck past Brian Boucher for his 32nd strike of the season, the most for a rookie.
"That was the best goal I ever scored," Ovechkin told reporters.
In other NHL action: Boston 4, Anaheim 3 (OT); Washington 6, Phoenix 1; Columbus 4, NY Rangers 3; Vancouver 4, Pittsburgh 2; San Jose 3, Tampa Bay 1; Ottawa 6, Minnesota 1; Buffalo 3, Edmonton 1.