WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- The Upside Down returned for the Stars on Tuesday night.
You kind of forgot it even existed, things were going so well.
But it was always there, just waiting for a moment to show itself, a moment to infect the Stars players and turn them into something they believe they are not.
Tuesday was everything this team doesn't want to be. They were disorganized, individualistic and maybe even a little scared. They flopped and floundered and basically chased the Winnipeg Jets around the ice in a 5-1 loss at Bell MTS Place. It was a horror show, and that's saying something when you consider some of the games during the 1-7-1 opening slump.
[PHOTOS: Heiskanen's goal not enough in Stars' 5-1 loss to Jets]
"That was our worst game of the year. We never responded throughout the game," said Stars coach Jim Montgomery. "I thought the Jets were ready to go. I thought they were really good, and they were better than us in every facet of the game."
Video: DAL@WPG: Montgomery speaks following loss to Jets
As tough as it was earlier in the year to accept losses in Detroit and Buffalo, Tuesday was a special kind of hell for the Stars. Had it not been for a goal that was disallowed because of an offside challenge 13 seconds into the game, this could have been even worse. Had it not been for Anton Khudobin stealing four or five goals with acrobatic saves, this could have been worse.
It probably should have been.
"I apologized to Dobby after the second for the effort in front of him," Montgomery said.
While Miro Heiskanen, who scored the game's only goal added: "It was a tough game. They were better in everything tonight. Dobby was great tonight, but everyone else was bad."
The entire first period was an intriguing study in game preparation and responding to both adversity and good fortune. Dallas was roasted on the first shift, as Winnipeg cut through the Stars like butter and scored 13 seconds into the game on a pretty shot by Patrik Laine.
Video: DAL@WPG: Stars continue search for consistency
Dallas noticed Winnipeg fumbled the puck on the entry and challenged for offside. Replays showed the Jets were indeed in violation of the rule, and the opening goal was disallowed.
That should have motivated the Stars, but it didn't.
The Jets kept pushing and winning battles, and basically making a statement that they are back in the fight for placement in the Central Division. The Jets are 7-2-0 in their past nine. They have surged ahead of the Stars, who are 0-3-1 in their past four.
"We knew what was at stake," said Perry.
"I just don't think we were ready to play," he added. "We were slow executing, we were slow moving the puck. If you play slow in this league, teams jump all over you. Our game is playing quick and jumping on other teams and making them chase us. We didn't have that tonight."
Video: DAL@WPG: Heiskanen tallies after outstanding effort
Not after Khudobin made some unbelievable saves. Not after Heiskanen cut the deficit to 3-1 with an unbelievable goal. Not at any moment in the game did the Stars really seem to embrace the mindset that this was a game they really needed to win.
"I think the game was right there, Dobby made some big saves and we were kind of right there in it," Tyler Seguin said. "And then we had a couple of plays where they were getting in behind us. I'm not sure why or how, but that happened, and you can't do that."
Seguin didn't have a great night and saw his time on ice diminish in the third period. He finished with 14:21 -- a season low for him. Alexander Radulov also saw diminished time as the game went on and finished with 14:03. Jamie Benn played 14:27 as Montgomery was searching for any kind of momentum and leaned more heavily on his role players later in the game.
Joe Pavelski's scoring slump hit nine games, same with Denis Gurianov. Benn has one assist in six games.
In the series "Stranger Things," the lads of Hawkins, Indiana used their friend "Eleven" to battle The Upside Down. The Stars are likely going to need a lot more help from people like "91," "14," "47," "16," "10" and "3."
Video: DAL@WPG: Stars 'weren't good enough' in loss to Jets
On the good side, that is a lot of potential for help -- and we have seen in previous episodes that they have a history of overcoming these problems and allowing the citizens of Starsland to at least breathe free for a month or so.
But The Upside Down is out there, we know it is. We know how powerful it can be for this team, and we know how destructive it can be to watch. What's worse, we know how much we don't know about when it might come back.
"I don't know why we were so bad today," said Heiskanen, and there was no language barrier on that statement.
These two teams will hop on two planes Wednesday and travel to Dallas for a rematch Thursday at American Airlines Center. In a lot of ways, that's the best thing for the Stars. After all, you don't want to wait too long to watch the next episode.
Just realize that, right now, things can go very well or very bad with this team because it still is trying to figure out some very strange energy that boils beneath.
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.