For one night, the Stars tried to rewind the clock two seasons.
They tried to go back to a time when they were a healthy team, as they welcomed Jason Robertson and Blake Comeau back to the American Airlines Center ice. They tried to go back to when they were beating the Golden Knights, as they did in the Western Conference Final.
But they couldn’t bend time, as Vegas handed the Stars a 3-2 overtime loss in a game that Dallas outplayed its opponent.
During the seventh game of the season, the Stars nearly put together a complete game in dominance of the wounded Golden Knights, an effort that more closely bordered on a 60-minute effort than their previous incomplete submissions in the season’s first fortnight.
But it wasn’t complete enough.
“It was one of those nights that the puck just didn’t go in,” Stars coach Rick Bowness said. “At least we put a lot more shots on the net and we had a lot more scoring opportunities. So that’s the good news. It’s disappointing to lose that point, but we certainly did a lot of good things. We deserve better than that.”
The Stars outshot Vegas 34-21. They controlled the pace — and the net-front, too. The team that Bowness has been asking to emerge (most recently during a loss in Columbus on Monday) finally did. It was the best the Stars played all season, and it ended in a frustrating defeat.
“We had chances to make it 3-1 and make it a different game, but we didn’t,” Stars forward Alexander Radulov said. “Obviously, their goalie made huge saves. That’s hockey.”
Dallas looked poised to claim its first regulation win of the season, until Jonathan Marchessault tied the score with 1:02 left in the third period and Evgenii Dadonov won it 1:59 into overtime. Nicolas Roy stripped John Klingberg of the puck behind the net and fed Dadonov for the game-winner.
Luke Glendening and Radulov both scored on deflections. Anton Khudobin made 18 saves.
Glendening also had a chance to win the game for Dallas in the final minute of regulation, but was stoned by the right pad of Vegas goaltender Laurent Brossoit, who finished with 32 saves. Robertson hit the crossbar in overtime.
The Stars outshot the Golden Knights 15-5 in the first period, pouncing on a Vegas team playing the second night of a back-to-back (and without Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty, Alex Tuch, Mattias Janmark and Nolan Patrick). It was something the Stars had failed to do this season and part of the reason why the uneven record has drawn concern.
The Stars are now one of three teams without a regulation win. Arizona and Chicago are a combined 0-10-3.
Before the game, Bowness reflected on the season’s first six games, when the Stars had not won a game in regulation and had instead suffered through frequent bouts of inconsistency and ineffectiveness.
“Are we underachieving a little bit?” Bowness said. “Yeah, but I’m not even referring to the record. I’m not even talking about the 3-3 record with that underachieving. The underachieving is that 60 minutes that we need to play, or 65 if necessary.”
A healthy team should have made a difference for the Stars.
Robertson missed the season’s first six games with a shoulder injury suffered in his final preseason game against Colorado. He took a hit late in the game, said he felt fine during the postgame press conference, but his condition later worsened, forcing him out for three weeks.
Comeau returned his position on the fourth line after an elbow infection kept him out. Comeau said he fell on his elbow during a training camp practice, opening up a small cut that later got infected. Comeau said he went to the emergency room and had a procedure done to drain his elbow.
Robertson and Comeau’s returns came one game after John Klingberg came back to the Stars lineup (he missed four games with a left leg injury). It made Dallas whole, save for injured goalie Ben Bishop.
The Stars were never complete last year, juggling injuries to Radulov, Hintz, Bishop and Tyler Seguin. During the Stanley Cup Final in 2020, they were without Hintz and Comeau and Radek Faksa.
But Dallas failed to finish a game it dominated, settling for one point instead of two in a game that can be called both the team’s most frustrating loss of the season and its most encouraging.
The Stars finally controlled the game, dominating possession. That’s the good.
But the years-long problem of not finishing chances still persisted. That’s the bad. Even worse, that’s the familiar.
“Of course, it could be better and it could be different,” Stars defenseman Miro Heiskanen said. “I think we played well tonight and could have won that game. I think we’ve got to score more. We had a lot of good chances and just have to score on those.”