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Despite shootout loss, Stars still have time to catch Predators

Dallas, now 2-11 in games that end beyond regulation this season, faces an important final home stretch ahead

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

The Stars are six points behind the Nashville Predators in the race for the final playoff spot in the Central Division.

The Stars have gone 2-11 in games that have gone past regulation this season, including 0-4 against the Predators.

Nashville, meanwhile, has gone 8-1 in games that have passed regulation, including a 3-2 shootout win over the Stars on Sunday.

So the difference between these two teams was laid out pretty clearly on one key night.

"It's frustrating in the sense that there's a lot of points out there that we've left," Pavelski said. "If we could grab a couple of them, it would help out right now."

Video: Bowness: Stars 'played their hearts out' in loss

It was a microcosm of where the Stars are in the season. But, the key point is, that these are simply the facts at this place in time. Dallas is six points back of Nashville with three games in hand and one more head-to-head meeting with the Predators. If they can start winning games -- and they are 2-0-1 in their past three contests -- then they definitely have a chance to take this race to the wire.

"We played our butts off, everyone did," Stars coach Rick Bowness said. "For our fourth game in six nights and to dominate the third period like we did, everyone on that team played a really, really solid game. What did they have, two shots in the third until the last minute? We obviously didn't get the third goal, but in terms of the effort, it speaks volumes to the commitment of our players."

The Stars showed a lot of the good things they have been doing in recent games on Sunday. Just like they did on Thursday against Chicago and Saturday against Florida, they scored first. Roope Hintz picked up his 13th goal of the season with a pretty one-timer off a slick pass from John Klingberg. It was the kind of bang-bang goal the team has been scoring of late, and it showed the chemistry and skill of the top players.

Nashville battled back and took a 2-1 lead with a couple of goals that eluded the eyes of Anton Khudobin, but then Jamie Oleksiak came up with one of the most entertaining goals of the season. The 6-foot-7 defenseman loped up ice, dipping in and out of defenders and put a puck past Juuse Saros with 1:04 left in the second period to tie the game and set up a huge third period.

"That exemplifies the effort from our players tonight," Bowness said. "You need second-efforts and you need guys to step up and make big plays, and Jamie certainly did that. It was awesome to see the whole bench erupt. That's grabbing the game and going for it, and you've got to love that."

Video: DAL@NSH: Oleksiak puts on show to tie game 2-2 in 2nd

Dallas responded with several good scoring chances while holding the Predators to one shot on goal for much of the third period. Still, Saros made some big saves and the Stars couldn't cash in on a great power-play chance, and the game headed to overtime.

"The power play needed to come up big, that's one sore point," Bowness said.

The extra period proved fruitless, and the Stars headed to the shootout. Saros stopped Jason Robertson and Roope Hintz, and Joe Pavelski hit the post on his attempt to drop the Stars (15-14-11) to 5-for-23 on the season, a 21.7 percent success rate that ranks 21st in the league. Meanwhile, Ryan Johansen scored for Nashville, and that was the difference in the game.

Nashville (23-19-1) is hitting on 50 percent of its shootout shots, which ranks second in the NHL, and has a shootout save percentage of .875, which ranks third.

While some call the tiebreaker a "skills competition," it's making a huge difference in the standings for the Predators -- and also in the momentum department. Nashville is 10-2-0 in its past 12 games with four of the wins coming past regulation. On the season, they have an extra eight points because they have been able to navigate the skills competition of 3-on-3 hockey and the shootout.

Video: Pavelski on 'frustrating' struggles past regulation

Dallas does get one more game with the Predators May 1, but in the meantime, the Stars will play five games at home, including four against the Blue Jackets and Red Wings, who are expected to miss the playoffs. As much as Sunday was a huge game in the playoff race, Dallas still has the ability to make a run and catch the Predators.

Jason Dickinson and Joel Hanley returned to play from recent injuries on Sunday, and Alexander Radulov, Tyler Seguin and Ben Bishop are skating in Frisco in hopes of getting back for some games before the end of the season. Dallas may have lost Andrej Sekera to a foot injury Sunday, but Miro Heiskanen played 32:01, and the rest of the defensemen took on more responsibility, as well.

"It's been the story of the season -- the 'next-man-up' mentality," said Oleksiak. "I think we can be proud of the way we battled tonight. As a group, we left it all on the ice and fought hard for that point."

Now, they have to start gathering two points to make that one point matter in the standings.

"I think we have all the pieces here," Oleksiak said. "We're kind of figuring out our game now, and a couple bounces go our way in the OTs and the shootouts, it's a whole different outlook on the season. I think we've just got to stick with it and look at the positives -- guys hopefully getting healthy, getting back, will hopefully help us out a lot. I think we've just got to keep chipping away at it. We've turning this thing around, slowly but surely, and I think it's going to be a good character test for us."


Up next

vs. Panthers; Tuesday 7:30 p.m. CT

American Airlines Center

TV: Bally Sports Southwest Plus

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 and has covered the Stars since 1994. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHeika, and listen to his podcast.

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