The Dallas Stars will not qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs after reaching the Cup Final last season.
Dallas was eliminated from contention in the Discover Central Division on Saturday when the Nashville Predators defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 3-1 to clinch its final playoff berth.
"There was an awful pit in my stomach at the end of the game, much like the one when we lost in the Cup Final last year, Game 6," Stars coach Rick Bowness said Sunday. "Those things stay with you. The disappointment of not getting in after ... what we went through, you can't put that into words. It's an awful feeling in your stomach, and it'll never go away."
The Stars are the first team to fail to return to the playoffs after reaching the Stanley Cup Final since the Los Angeles Kings in the 2014-15 season.
Dallas lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning in six games in the 2020 Cup Final.
Los Angeles won the 2014 Cup Final in five games against the New York Rangers.
The Stars did not start this season until Jan. 22 after their first four games were postponed by NHL COVID-19 protocol.
Dallas won its first four games and was 5-1-1 before losing 10 of 11. It had four games postponed during that stretch because of weather-related concerns in Texas.
"We know on paper, with a healthy team, we're fighting with those other teams for first place in the division," Bowness said. "There's no question in my mind. So that's a huge disappointment. But those are things you can't control. You can't beat yourself up on that. ... You deal with it the best you can, and that's why I'm proud of the players. They played through it, they played great. ... It's disappointing. The fact that you miss the playoffs is just an awful feeling."
Dallas played all of this season without goalie Ben Bishop and all but three games without center Tyler Seguin, each of whom had offseason surgery. Forward Alexander Radulov played 11 games before having core muscle surgery in April.
The Stars have lost six of their past seven with one game remaining, at the Chicago Blackhawks on Monday.
"We just had a meeting with the players," Bowness said. "This team has played very hard all year. I'm very proud with how these guys have competed with what we've had to face in terms of schedule and injuries and constant shuffling of lines, of the lineup. This team played very hard for each other. We expect to see that tonight and tomorrow night."
NHL.com staff writer Tracey Myers contributed to this report