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Despite losing in overtime, Stars welcome Seguin's return to the lineup

Tyler Seguin caps off a wild rally in the third period with a goal in his long-awaited season debut

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

It was all the emotions of the Stars' season rolled up into one night.

Tyler Seguin fought back from two debilitating surgeries and finally played in his first game of the season, scoring a crucial game-tying goal.

Dallas battled back from a two-goal deficit in the third period and tied a game that seemed lost fairly early on.

And then the Stars lost in overtime - for the 14th time this season - while Nashville prevailed in sudden death and moved four points ahead in the standings.

A 5-4 OTL to Florida Monday didn't quite end the Stars' chances of making the playoffs, but it sure pushed them toward the cliff. It was just too little too late in a season that has been filled with not-good-enoughs.

[WATCH: All highlights from Stars-Panthers on Monday]

It was the third time in the last six overtime games where the Stars took a penalty that helped lead to a loss. Earlier, Jamie Benn and Jason Dickinson took penalties. On Monday, it was Joe Pavelski. It was just another sign that the Stars have to take some responsibility for their 5-14 record in games that have gone past regulation.

"We've got to stop taking these stupid penalties in overtime," coach Rick Bowness said. "They're just stupid penalties, that's all it is. I know the overtime record, I get it, but when you're shooting yourself in the foot like we are, you're not going to win in overtime."

Video: Bowness on undisciplined play in overtime

That's why the season has been so frustrating. Different players have taken turns being the hero, different players have taken turns messing up. The 21-17-14 record truly is a team effort.

Of course, the injuries haven't helped at all. Goalie Ben Bishop hasn't played a game this season and has been shut down after offseason knee surgery. Winger Alexander Radulov played in 11 games, but then was shut down to have surgery for a core injury. Roope Hintz has been in and out of the lineup. Seguin had to work incredibly hard just to get back into the lineup.

His return brought an emotional boost, and his performance was very impressive, and that also is a big part of the story that is the 2020-21 season.

Tweet from @DallasStars: Take the ice 😁@PNCBank | #GoStars pic.twitter.com/RfgZjr9VRw

"He wants to be out there as bad as anyone and he wants to help the team win," said goalie Jake Oettinger, who came on in relief and helped the Stars get to overtime. "He's been working his ass off the last six months to get the point where he is now. I mean, he's Tyler Seguin. It doesn't get much better than that. We need him, and his impact was felt immediately tonight."

Video: Oettinger: 'It's my job to be ready to go'

Seguin was slotted to play 8-10 minutes but logged 17:09. He had three shots on goal, took 11 faceoffs (4-7) and scored the tying goal on a gritty rebound of his own deflection.

"He's been working very hard to get himself back in shape to play and help the team, which he did tonight," Bowness said. "I liked his skating. Seggy was very good tonight. He probably played more than I originally planned."

Seguin said he understood the situation and was excited to try to help the Stars come back from a 4-2 deficit.

Video: DAL@FLA: Seguin scores backhand goal in return game

"I think we had the plan to play 8-to-10 minutes tonight, but Bones got in my ear every two shifts and said: `Are we good?'" Seguin said. "Once you're in that moment with that adrenalin, I definitely wasn't going to say no. So as the game went on, I felt even better. When it got to overtime, I ran out of steam a little bit, but it was as good as it could be for the first one."

Getting that first one was important. Seguin worked hard just to play in his 742nd career regular-season game, so feeling the electricity of being in a playoff-like contest was a great reward.

"It was emotional," he said. "This whole day, trying to make your mind your friend. A lot of excitement, a lot of nerves and frankly a lot of emotion. It was a long journey, and it's been tough watching our team going through everything they have this year and not being able to help, so it was nice to finally get out there."

He added that when he stepped on the bus to drive over for the game, the experience made him really appreciate just playing in one.

"The bus ride over, I don't know why, but this one got to me," he said. "Just to be able to be back in the lineup, that was kind of like scoring a goal for me."

Video: Seguin: 'A lot of excitement, nerves and emotion'

Dallas made some sloppy mistakes in the game and that chased Anton Khudobin from the net after he allowed four goals on 15 shots. Bowness said he didn't blame Khudobin but knew that a change had to be made. Oettinger was fantastic and calmed the Stars down. That allowed the idea of a comeback, and Seguin and Joel Kiviranta helped create that possibility.

Kiviranta made it a one-goal game with a nice shot in transition, and then Seguin tied it 11 seconds later. It was great sign for a team that needed two points if it wanted to catch Nashville for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Central Division.

Video: DAL@FLA: Kiviranta nets Kero cross-ice set-up on rush

And while the eventual OT loss really didn't help much, the Stars know they'll fight to the end.

"I saw a desperate team," Oettinger said. "If we're desperate like we were for a whole game, we'll give ourselves a chance to win going down the stretch. We've got to start the game the way we started the third period."

At the very least, they know they have some help from Seguin. While he was hobbled in the playoffs last season and had an excruciating rehab, he said on Monday he felt optimistic about the future.

"If you had asked me three months ago, four months ago, there were some days where I was honestly questioning if I would ever be back to 100 percent, back to even playing hockey," Seguin said. "Having two surgeries, it was tough. But really in the last month, I realized that with this quad work I've been doing, I really do believe I can get back to 100, 110 percent. I couldn't get back to that this season, but with the progress I've made, the light at the end of the tunnel is definitely there."

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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.

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