SAN JOSE, Calif. -- The Stars lost a 2-1 game to the San Jose Sharks on Saturday.
It was a good game, but the Sharks were just a bit better. There are definitely lessons that can be learned from the performance, and there will be plenty of discussion on improvements that can be made before Dallas plays a big divisional game at Colorado Tuesday.
But the big message from the past two days here comes in simply observing the love this city and organization has for Joe Pavelski, and how that shows the human side of professional sports.
Pro sports are funny. We are asked to love a team and follow its players as if they are heroes to be placed on pedestals. We choose our favorites because of the way they play, or the way they look, or the way they are perceived to treat people. We watch them grow, we feel their pain and glory, and then we see them go away.
That's what happened with Pavelski in San Jose. He was a seventh-round draft pick who came out of nowhere to become one of the franchise's best players. He ranks third in games played, third in points and second in goals scored. He wore teal for 13 seasons and played in 965 regular season games and another 134 in the playoffs.
[WATCH: All highlights from Stars at Sharks]
Pavelski's playoff games are more than any other players on the Stars other than Corey Perry (who also has 134) -- and each played those postseason tilts with one team. Perry returned to Anaheim Thursday, and while he didn't play, he received much warmth from the Ducks fans. Pavelski did the same on Saturday with Sharks fans.
The Sharks put together a wonderful pre-game video "Thank You" to Pavelski, and the crowd gave him a long and rousing standing ovation. Pavelski said he was ready to get moving toward the National Anthem, but the crowd wouldn't stop cheering. They simply wanted to tell him how much he means to them.
"It was awesome," Pavelski said. "This is a special place to myself and my family. To be out there when the building is filled like this … I've always had a special bond with these fans and those guys over there. It was a tremendous night. They did it right."
The Sharks are a unique franchise. They are relatively new, having started in 1991. They are the main sports draw for the city of San Jose (although the area still has pro football, basketball and baseball teams). And their top three players have been together for quite some time. Patrick Marleau arrived in 1997 and stayed until 2017 before moving to Toronto. He's back this season, so that was good. Joe Thornton arrived in 2005 and Pavelski showed up in 2006. That's a lot of years sharing the same ice, the same dressing room, the same town.
Video: DAL@SJS: Pavelski honored for 13 seasons in San Jose
Mix in Logan Couture, who has been in San Jose since 2009, and Brent Burns, who has been with the Sharks since 2011, and you have a pretty special group there.
And all of those feelings oozed out on the ice Saturday.
Pavelski said when he came out of the visitor's tunnel, it was odd. He said when he saw another team wearing those familiar Shark sweaters, it was a bit shocking. He said when he heard them call familiar names, it just seemed strange.
"It was weird a few times when you heard 88 (Burns) or Joe Thornton; when I heard that, my mind kind of went back and you were waiting for your name to be called," Pavelski said. "All of the noises, all of the sounds, all of the smells brought back good memories."
It was just last spring that this group made it to the Western Conference final before losing to the Blues. It was just last spring, Pavelski suffered a concussion in the first round of the playoffs and then had to battle back to help his team win Game 7 in the second round against Colorado. It was just last summer, the Sharks decided they couldn't afford a three-year contract extension for Pavelski and told him to pursue a new team in free agency.
That's a lot to digest, but it's part of pro sports. Players make a lot of money, they get to choose where they play -- generally speaking -- and that's a pretty good job to have. But as the Stars try to turn their franchise into one that can win in the playoffs, having reminders of the human side of the sport can be helpful.
Stars coach Rick Bowness said he was touched by the ovation for Pavelski.
"You could feel it," Bowness said. "You could feel it in warm-up. I've never seen so many people excited for warm-up, there were so many people on the glass, so you knew it was going to be special."
And then when the actual tribute came, the arena was shaking with appreciation.
Video: DAL@SJS: Pavelski on 'tremendous' return to San Jose
"When you play that long for an organization and you bring as much as you did to the franchise over the years, the leadership he provided, it was very well deserved and I was happy for him," Bowness said.
Forward Jason Dickinson said he could sense the feelings that Pavelski was going through.
"You could see the emotion in his face and the emotion in the fans. That was a long standing ovation they gave him," Dickinson said. "It would have been nice to win it for Pavs. It was a huge homecoming, everybody was excited for him to be back.
"It would have been nice, but it wasn't in our favor tonight."
The Stars came up short in a few places. They played their typically strong defensive game, they even scored first (a power-play goal) and got another solid night from goalie Anton Khudobin. That's frustrating, because they were on a six-game winning streak and they wanted to tie the franchise record for consecutive wins at seven.
They also wanted to leave Pavelski with a great memory.
But it's a long season and they will have another chance to get back on the winning side Tuesday. As for that seven-game winning streak, they already matched that earlier this season, so it's not as big a deal as one might think.
What is a big deal is understanding how all of this fits together, understanding who your teammate is, what he has been through, what's helped make him who he is today.
The Stars got a glimpse into Joe Pavelski on Saturday, and that seems like a pretty good night overall.
Don't miss your chance to see the Stars take on the Buffalo Sabres when they return home to American Airlines Center on Thursday, Jan. 16 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.