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Stars hope shootout loss to Canucks can be seen as 'good point'

Instead of no points in two consecutive games, Dallas can concentrate on owning a 6-2-1 record in its past nine

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

Ah, the old Good Point? Bad Point? Conundrum.

Did the Stars tally a good point in the standings Sunday in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Vancouver Canucks because they battled back from an early 2-0 deficit? Or did they simply waste a point against a Canucks team that scored early, played rope-a-dope, and lifted their record to 3-4-2 in their past 10 games with a win in the shootout?

It's a debate that is as old as the shootout, and one that challenges coaches and players, especially at this time of year.

On one hand, the Stars battled back, outshot the Canucks 46-27, and tied the game with 3:50 remaining. On the other hand, Dallas controlled play for much of the game, with a 87-58 advantage in shot attempts, and probably should have won in regulation.

"I think every point is a good point," Stars coach Jim Montgomery said. "I thought overall we played a good hockey game. Intensity in the first five minutes wasn't there, but we found it. Loved our effort, a lot of our execution was good, made a lot of plays -- just wish we had two points."

Minnesota got a single point Sunday. Same with St. Louis, so little changes in the standings there. Colorado won, so it crawls one point closer.

Video: VAN@DAL: Fedun pots Radulov's feed to tie game

So what does it all mean? Well, the Stars are going to take it as a valuable learning experience, a needed point in the standings, and a chance for some key players to show they can be better this season.

Val Nichushkin had an assist -- his first point since Jan. 2 -- and played maybe his best game of the year. Defenseman Miro Heiskanen led the Stars in time on ice at 28:29, had five shots on goal and four blocked shots. Defenseman Roman Polak played 20:42, had five hits and four blocked shots. And goalie Anton Khudobin bounced back from a shaky start to help get the game into overtime, and then the shootout.

It was a crucible -- a test. And for the most part, the Stars are better off having gone through it. They kind of did the same thing Friday, but ended up losing 2-1 to Vegas. The Golden Knights are a better team, so maybe that game wasn't good

Say what you will about Nichushkin. He does not have a goal in 51 games, and that's what sticks out most when you look at his stat sheet. But he also has become one of the team's better puck-possession players and better defenders. He drew his eighth penalty of the year Sunday and still has yet to take a penalty. That's helpful.

"I thought Val was excellent," Montgomery said, adding that he thinks Nichushkin could score his first goal of the season at any point in time. "He is real close. He keeps putting himself in the blue paint and close to the net with those opportunities and with his big body.

"He's going to score."

Video: Montgomery wants more intensity early on

Taylor Fedun scored his fourth goal of the season, and came up big when nobody else could. This clearly is a hard-scoring team, so the fact that players like Fedun can add important goals is huge. Instead of no points in two consecutive games, the Stars can concentrate on 6-2-1 in their past nine.

It's a small victory, but it's a victory.

They also can try to fix their scoring problems with a semi-positive vibe surrounding them.

"It seems like it's always difficult to put the puck in," Fedun said. "Not only are there five very good hockey players on the ice, but goaltenders at this level are elite, and down the stretch you see guys really wanting to sacrifice their body. It makes it hard just to get the puck on net, and then you still have to beat a very good goaltender over there.

"It's certainly tough, and maybe even more so this time of year when they are that much more important.

Look, this isn't going to be easy.

Video: VAN@DAL: Khudobin makes incredible glove save in OT

The Stars are battling for one of the two wild-card playoff spots in the West, and every point is going to count. You could poo-poo this point and say there should be more, but you also could say that the Stars were challenged and responded. They were the better team in the second half of the game, they were the team that had a ton of scoring chances.

Again, you can look at those chances two ways. On the good side, they got them -- and almost scored on several of them. On the bad side, they once again showed that they have a really hard time finishing off great plays. Can you credit Jacob Markstrom for his work in the Vancouver net? Sure, just like you can credit Marc-Andre Fleury for stopping 40 shots on Friday.

But at some point, the Stars have to find a way to score more than 2.52 goals per game (29th in the league), they need to find a way to cash in on these hard chances, so they can make these games a little easier on themselves.

The Stars are 0-1-1 on this five-game homestand so far. They have games against the Panthers, Avalanche and Penguins coming up. It would be nice to get a few "good" points going forward.

"It's the grind part of the year -- a place we've been many times," said center Tyler Seguin. "We've got to refocus, do whatever we're doing tomorrow and get ready for another big game.

"Keep grinding."

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.

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