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Overtime loss pushes Stars into first-place tie atop West

Dallas rallies again to wrestle a point from the struggling Senators, setting up a huge homestand ahead

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

OTTAWA, Ontario -- Former Stars winger Jere Lehtinen used to have a great saying at times like this -- "What you can do?"

It was the perfect mix of reality and optimism from a Finnish standpoint when things weren't going perfect.

The Stars on Sunday lost a 4-3 overtime game to the struggling Ottawa Senators, allowing 46 shots against in a game that was not what the coaching staff would draw up as a game plan. But Dallas came back twice with huge goals, squeezed a point in the standings out of the game, and now sits tied with St. Louis at 74 points atop the Western Conference.

That's not something anything was thinking at the beginning of February.

"It is exciting," Stars coach Rick Bowness said. "We have a chance to finish first in our division, and we've got to keep pushing for it."

Bowness was philosophical after the OT loss.

Video: DAL@OTT: Bowness on Stars finding way to earn a point

"There are no bad points in this league," he said. "We knew to start the month that we had seven of nine on the road, and we haven't lost one in regulation, so we'll take it. But we're never satisfied. We're always pushing for more points."

Sunday's game was an interesting challenge.

It was the fourth game in six days with travel between each game. The Stars found a way to gut out an emotional win in Montreal Saturday, and simply looked tired at the end of the road trip. Dallas was outshot 19-13 in the first period, and that set a pace that was not ideal for this team.

"I don't think anyone is happy tonight," said Tyler Seguin, who had two assists. "Finding a different way to win is one thing, but giving up 20 shots in the first … we don't want that."

Seguin said he understands there are excuses, but that the team needs to be able to fight through challenges. That said, they got behind on two occasions and could have easily lost in regulation -- and they didn't do that.

Video: DAL@OTT: Seguin hitting stride after Stars' road trip

Anton Khudobin was spectacular in stopping 42 shots, and three different players found ways to score. John Klingberg had a shot go in off a skate, Stephen Johns blasted in a huge slap shot, and Seguin found Joe Pavelski for the game-tying goal. It was the seventh straight game in which Pavelski has tallied a point.

On the good side, that's a lot of different areas where the Stars have improved.

Seguin was in a career-long 17-game goal drought, and has since broke out with three goals and four assists in the past five games. Bowness was double-shifting Seguin in the third period, and that led to the odd combination that put he and Pavekski on the ice at the same time.

"He was flying," Bowness said of Seguin. "When he's playing like that, you've got to get him out there as much as you can. Get him out there when he's hot like that and let him go."

Pavelski, too, has looked good. He missed two games with an upper-body injury, but he continues to log 15-18 minutes a night and find a way to scratch the scoresheet most nights.

Video: DAL Recap: Stars earn a point in OT loss

Johns missed 22 months of hockey with post-traumatic headaches, but he logged a season-high 23:25 in ice time Sunday. He unleashed a huge shot and also played physical and smart. He and Miro Heiskanen were the team's most trusted defensive pairing Sunday.

"Missing two years, it's not going to happen overnight, but I feel a lot better," John said. "Obviously, it helps a lot to have a partner like Miro, so just keep going here."

In goal, Khudobin continues to be a key reason the Stars are so good in back-to-backs. He stood up strong for a tired team and gave Dallas every reason to stay with the game.

"You need your goalie to stand on his head, which he did, and he earned us that point," Bowness said. "But he's been giving us quality starts all year, so we've come to expect it from him."

It's one of the reasons why the Stars have been able to go 7-2-1 since the All-Star break, while St. Louis and Colorado have stumbled at times. It's one of the reasons this team has been able to be the best team in the league since starting the season 1-7-1.

Video: DAL@OTT: Johns on scoring his second goal of season

It's one of the reasons these next two months should be pretty charged up.

"Every team is going to go through a 10-game segment like we did," Bowness said. "We just had our's early. But we put it behind us pretty quickly."

And now? Well, now the race begins.

"It's a tough loss and the boys are hurting a little bit right now, but if you told us we'd get five of six on the road, we'd all pretty happy about that," Johns said. "There's a lot of positives to take away from the road trip, so we'll go back home and regroup and get back at it."

What you can do?

Exactly what the Stars are doing right now.

Join the Stars for Hockey Is For Everyone Night when they return home to take on the Arizona Coyotes at American Airlines Center on Wednesday, Feb. 19 at 7:30 p.m. Get your tickets now!

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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