DALLAS -- The Stars' frustration in overtime actually reached the level of absurdity Saturday at American Airlines Center.
After Dallas was given new life because of a "league challenge' offside call on Florida's first game-winner, the Stars charged up ice and threw two fantastic scoring chances at Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovski. The first by Jamie Benn was deflected aside, and the puck went straight to Miro Heiskanen. The skilled defensemen quickly flicked a shot on net, but Bobrovsky came up with an unbelievable save that started a rush in the opposite direction.
Then, as if written in some dime store novel from Flin Flon, the same guy who had his goal disallowed went up ice and scored again.
[WATCH: All highlights from Stars' loss to Panthers in overtime]
That's right, Florida defenseman Aaron Ekblad had one game-winning goal called back because he was ruled offside on the play with 48 second remaining, and then came back and scored another game-winning goal with 10 seconds left to give the Panthers a huge win that stopped a three-game losing streak and pushed Florida to 21-9-4.
Asked to assess the game, Stars coach Rick Bowness said: "Well, look at the Grade-A's we had, you can't ask for better scoring chances that we had in overtime. They don't get any better than that. Two guys all alone in front of the net, they don't get any better than that. You give their goalie credit. If you didn't have those chances, that's a conversation. Right now, you look at the game against Tampa, we hit the goal post dead on. It was a quarter of an inch from going in. And tonight, we are all alone in front of the net twice and we don't score. That's how I assess it."
It was ludicrous, laughable, preposterous … and yet here we are.
Dallas has not been able to string together two wins since the fourth game of the season, and yet still is in a place where it can realistically compete for a playoff spot. That's right, the Stars have not been able to win consecutive games for two months, but sit 11-11-9 and just six points out of fourth place with four games in hand on Chicago.
Video: FLA@DAL: L'Esperance redirects Hanley's shot for tie
That's very difficult to fathom.
And, to be honest, the team doesn't really have an explanation for why. Dallas on Saturday did get behind early and did make a few key mistakes (like a giveaway by Miro Heiskanen that led to a shorthanded goal in the second period). But the Stars had a 19-11 advantage in shots on goal after the second intermission (including 6-4 in OT) and sported a 36-19 edge in shot attempts. By all accounts, the Stars were the better, hungrier team in the third period and beyond.
Joel L'Esperance scored his first goal of the season in the third period to tie the game off a great assist from defensemen Joel Hanley, who had two helpers in the game. It was a solid shift from the role players, who needed to be contributors with Roope Hintz (lower body) and Alexander Radulov (lower body) both out of the lineup.
"They did their job, for sure," Bowness said when asked about the role players. "Joel Hanley was outstanding. (Andrej) Sekera hadn't skated in a couple days and he played very well. L'Esperance scores a big goal for us. They did their job. They gave us the minutes that we need from them."
That's part of the reason this is all so frustrating. Hintz was spectacular on Thursday and out of the lineup on Saturday. And while that is an enormous challenge and a reason this team is so inconsistent in putting together consecutive wins, a huge part of the solution was on the ice. The role players stepped up, Jamie Benn and Denis Gurianov combined on a goal and looked to be moving out of their respective slumps, and players like John Klingberg and Jason Robertson were creating chances all over the ice.
There was enough there to get the two points.
So when they received the break of the century on the disallowed goal, you would have thought the hockey gods would at least allow the puck to slip past Bobrovsky in the final minutes.
Video: FLA@DAL: Klingberg scores on one-timer for 2-1 lead
But the veteran pushed his career mark against the Stars to 15-1-1 with the win, and Dallas once again fails to get the points it needs to make up serious ground on Chicago, Nashville and Columbus. It's a pretty good bet that Tampa Bay, Carolina and Florida will be making the playoffs, so there's just one more slot in that Central Division bracket. The Stars have to start winning if they want to earn that invitation.
"We're going to have to go on a run here pretty soon," Klingberg said. "It's frustrating, for sure."
Is that frustration starting to get into the Stars' collective head? They say that they can't allow that.
"We just keep pushing hard," Bowness said. "Did we play well enough to win? Yes. We are playing well enough, so it's our lack of finish at the right time. That's all it is. If we weren't playing well, that would be a whole other conversation. We are playing well enough to win games. Play the right way and stay with it, stay consistent the way we are doing, and you have to hope that it eventually goes our way."
Sunday would be a good start. Dallas runs it back against a Panthers team that is missing two of its top scorers in Aleksander Barkov and Patric Hornqvist. It ends a five-game homestand and will have just eight home games remaining in the final 24 after Sunday. So, yeah, its probably a good time to end this absurdity and return to something that's happily unremarkable and maybe even predictable.
"It's close, it's going to be close every game," Klingberg said. "It's a one-goal game every game here. It's frustrating that we can't keep winning and get on a run. We've got games to do it, so it's a new game tomorrow. It's been the same the whole season.
"We're just going to have to move on. It's the only thing we can do is focus on what we can do."
vs. Panthers; Sunday 5 p.m. CT
American Airlines Center
TV: FOX Sports Southwest
Radio: The Ticket 96.7-FM, 1310-AM
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.