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Stars measure up to Blues in shootout loss, but get no help in standings

Dallas puts together another furious rally to steal a point in the final seconds against first-place St. Louis

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

ST. LOUIS -- There is a certain feeling to the playoffs.

You win a game, and you never think you're going to lose again. You lose a game, and you never think you're going to win again. So dealing with that kind of mental stress is a big factor in succeeding.

The Stars in the past two games have played in an atmosphere that has been rich in postseason pressure. Falling 4-3 in Boston to a physical Bruins team Thursday, and losing 4-3 in a shootout Saturday at St. Louis to the defending Stanley Cup champions -- those were revved-up environments that could have forced Dallas to crumble.

But in both situations, the Stars rallied, kept punching and went down in a furious effort.

Video: DAL@STL: Klingberg snipes home game-tying goal in 3rd

Now, that doesn't help in the standings, where the Stars move to 37-21-7 (81 points), while St. Louis jumps to 39-17-10 (88 points). But it does help in the mindset of a team that still hopes to chase down the Blues for first place in the Central Division.

"I think it's a good measuring point. We're absolutely up there. We can battle with these guys," said defenseman John Klingberg, who had a goal and an assist. "You can really tell that these are two veteran teams, they know how to play the game, and that's something we're going to learn from. On the road, being behind and coming back in games, that's huge for us. We know we can do that, we've been doing that all season."

The Blues beat Boston in seven games in the Stanley Cup Final last season, and both teams are leading their respective conferences right now. Dallas rallied from a two-goal deficit to lose, 4-3, on Thursday. Against the Blues, the Stars got down 3-1 early in the second period and then fought back with goals by Denis Gurianov and Klingberg to tie things up. Both goals were creative, poised, offensive plays -- the kind that have been challenging for this team all season.

Gurianov broke in alone late in the second period and used his speed to push home his team-leading 20th goal of the season. Klingberg floated a nice shot from the point through a crowd with the goalie pulled and the final seconds ticking down. It was the third such Klingberg shot to beat a goalie in the past two games (the other two were tipped).

Video: DAL@STL: Gurianov forces turnover and beats Allen

Dallas finished with a 31-29 advantage in shots on goal, had 27 hits and were credited with just five giveaways. They did that in a revved-up barn against a team that is on a seven-game winning streak.

"We went into Boston and could have won that one," said Stars interim coach Rick Bowness. "Could we have won this one? Absolutely. So, hey, I like where we are."

Now, that said, St. Louis and Colorado keep winning, so the battle for first place in the Central Division is going to be tough. If the playoffs started tomorrow, the Blues would be in first place and would play a wild-card team, while the Stars and Avalanche would play in the first round with Colorado having home ice.

That's sobering, but the Stars believe they have the ability to make up ground in the final 17 games.

Video: DAL@STL: Bowness breaks down Stars' loss in shootout

"You watch the standings a little bit more now," said Tyler Seguin, who scored his 17th goal. "Colorado is a good team, St. Louis is taking off. We're just trying to stay in the mix and hunt down first place."

Despite these two losses, the team feels a lot better about that task now. Against St. Louis, the two teams were tied in goals and shots on goal after one period. Then, 29 seconds into the second period, Roope Hintz was called for interference on a penalty that could have been heavily debated.

Dallas killed that power play. However, the Stars started swimming in their own end and took two more penalties in the next five minutes. St. Louis scored on the second power play and added an even-strength goal at the 13:06 mark before Dallas could get back on its feet.

"The three penalties really took the steam out of our team for quite a while. We had too many guys sitting," Bowness said. "But after we survived that, I thought we played very well."

Video: DAL@STL: Klingberg's late goal helps Stars earn point

Bowness started shuffling his lines a little and got more minutes for his offensive players. That led to more scoring chances, and Gurianov was able to break free at the 15:06 mark of the second period. Dallas then had an 8-4 advantage in shots on goal in the third period against a very strong Blues team, and Klingberg finally tied things up with a smart shot through traffic.

"I think we have a really good system 6-on-5 and we stuck with it," Klingberg said. "We held onto pucks and we had some opportunities there. Credit to the guys down low, they won back the pucks."

That pushed the game to overtime, and both teams exchanged some great chances. Stars goalie Anton Khudobin made a swiping stick check and also played the puck behind the net to help create control. While the Blues put four shots on goal and challenged Khudobin.

The overtime ended with no score, and the game went to a shootout. Jake Allen stopped Seguin, Joe Pavelski and Alexander Radulov, while the Blues got a goal from Ryan O'Reilly and took the win.

Video: DAL@STL: Seguin on Stars' road trip, shootout loss

"I always look at these shootout losses as you don't lose the game, because you don't lose the game, you tie the game, you lose the shootout," Bowness said. "We played with them, it was great to see us come back."

And while St. Louis exits with a 4-0-1 record in the season series and Dallas is 0-3-2, the Stars still found some confidence in this game.

"I don't know if we learned a lot," Seguin said when asked what he learned from the games against Boston and St. Louis. "We understood what we already knew, that we're a good hockey team. We just needed to find one more goal tonight and two more last game."

Can the Stars do that going forward? Well, they feel pretty good about where they stand right now.

Video: DAL Recap: Stars rally in 3rd, earn point in SO loss

"It's just a matter of getting the goal at the right time," Bowness said. "We didn't get a power play tonight. Our three penalties took the wind out of our sails for a little bit. Give the guys credit, they battled back against the Stanley Cup champions and got a big point."

Don't miss your chance to see the Stars battle the Edmonton Oilers when they return home to American Airlines Center on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. The first 5,000 fans receive a limited-edition poster presented by Dr Pepper. 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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