Yes, the Stars were already eliminated from the playoffs on Saturday night, and yes, this was an incredibly sloppy game. But the determination the team showed in pushing through to win was a strong reminder of just how difficult this season has been and just how hard the players have worked.
Video: DAL@CHI: Robertson sweeps up rebound for OT winner
"For them to come up with that kind of effort, A - it doesn't surprise me and B - it shows what we're made of," Stars coach Rick Bowness said. "This team has been competitive, it's worked, it's sacrificed, it's exhausted, I can tell you that. And they still found a way."
Dallas finished the season with a 23-19-14 record, good for 60 points. They were four points back of Nashville for the final playoff spot in the Central Division and ended on a 2-4-2 sour note. Still, Bowness says he never questioned the heart and dedication of the team. In overtime, Dallas had to kill a double minor for high sticking to Radek Faksa, and they did that by making some huge blocks and hustling to stop the skilled Blackhawks.
[WATCH: All highlights from Stars-Blackhawks on Monday]
"That's emblematic of our team, the spirit of our team, the chemistry of our team," Bowness said.
Rookie goalie Jake Oettinger had a shaky night at times, allowing four goals on 23 shots. However, he came up with five huge saves in overtime and was assisted by some scrappy play from defensemen Esa Lindell and Andrej Sekera, and forwards Blake Comeau and Jamie Benn. Oettinger says it was inspiring to be a part of that effort.
"It was a crazy game," the even-keeled 22-year-old netminder said. "The guys bailed me out big time and I can't say enough good things about the guys in front of me and the group we had and everyone that was involved [in the overtime penalty kill]. I mean, we had guys that were blocking slapshots in overtime in a game that, really, in the big picture, doesn't mean a whole lot. It just goes to show the character and the pride the guys have in wearing the jersey. I just can't say enough good things about those guys."
Video: Oettinger on the win: 'It was a crazy game'
Dallas dominated the stat sheet with a 50-23 advantage in shots on goal and a stunning 82-45 edge in shot attempts. However, Chicago was opportunistic and jumped on some of the Stars' mistakes. Alex DeBrincat, Pius Suter, Dylan Strome and Vinnie Hinostroza spotted the Blackhawks to a 4-2 lead, and it looked like this might be as disappointing as the Stars' loss Sunday in Chicago.
However, Joel Kiviranta bulled to the net for his sixth goal of the season in the third period, and Jason Dickinson followed with a nice goal off a pass from rookie Jason Robertson, which set the table for a big finish.
Video: DAL@CHI: Kiviranta beats Delia at the doorstep
Video: DAL@CHI: Dickinson buries a wrist shot from the slot
Faksa was hit with four-minute infraction late in regulation, but the Stars killed that off. Then, on a 2-on-1 the other way after the penalty expired, Benn drove up ice and put a shot on net. Robertson crashed the crease and shoveled in the rebound for his 17th goal of the season sending the Stars off on a winning note.
Dallas lost 14 times in shootouts and overtime, the most in the league. It was a huge issue all year, so solving it at the very end was fitting.
"It's a mixed feeling right now," Robertson said, on the emotions of the overtime victory. "It's nice to finish the season off with a win, especially with the 14 losses in overtime and shootouts. It's kind of a neat thing to finally overcome that and win the last game in overtime, but it's kind of a weird feeling coming back to the locker room. You just won the game but the season is over."
Video: 'It's nice to finish the season with a win'
Joe Pavelski, who scored his team-high 25th goal and finished with 51 points in 56 games, says the overtime losses and lack of success in one-goal games (9-6-14) kept the Stars out of the playoffs.
"You compete in a lot of one-goal games, and that says a lot about the league, how close it is and how sharp you have to be," he said. "At the end of the day, the overtimes hurt us. We didn't get enough points. As a player, you look at things and you try to figure things out, and that's an area where we left a lot on the table."
Bowness felt a lot of the reason for that was the lack of energy and practice times created by a condensed schedule. Dallas had eight games postponed earlier in the season because of COVID and a historic winter storm. Because of that, they had to then squeeze those games into the rest of the season. They went 11 weeks playing four games in six nights and had no two-day breaks after February.
"You have no idea what this team has been through for the last 11 weeks," Bowness said. "I know we missed the playoffs and that's so devastating and disappointing, because of the effort and the sacrifices these players have made for such a long time. But again, even this game tonight, it never should've gone to overtime, but they battled right to the end with a big penalty kill. This team has a lot of heart and a lot of character and a lot of chemistry, and there's better days ahead for us, for sure."
Video: 'There are better days ahead of us'
The Stars were without Tyler Seguin, Alexander Radulov and Ben Bishop for much of the season because of injuries. Those players should come back next year healthy and allow Dallas to reload and start over. For a team that made it to the Stanley Cup Final last season, this is a huge punch in the gut, but the overtime win on Monday does remind them how hard they tried.
"It doesn't feel good missing the playoffs, knowing this is your last game," the 36-year-old Pavelski said. "It's disappointing, but the group still wanted to play hard, and there's a lot of pride in that room. There were a few moments when you were tired and beat up and you find a way, and when the puck drops it's amazing how much energy you have. It's a lot of fun to play this game and play with that group in the locker room. That's one of the things that carries you through, playing for the guys."
Bowness admits it was an emotional ending to an emotional season that left everyone exhausted. "I just thanked them," he said. "This team has worked incredibly hard. I'm very proud of them."
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This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.
Mike Heika is a Senior Staff Writer for DallasStars.com and has covered the Stars since 1994. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHeika, and listen to his podcast.