Stars’ Late Season Rally Falls Short of Playoff Berth

Those five regulation losses and one overtime setback in eight games regular season meetings with the 7th seeded Minnesota Wild and 8th seeded Winnipeg Jets finally caught up with the Dallas Stars. Despite dominating host San Jose on Monday night in a 5-1 triumph, the Stars were officially eliminated from 2014-15 Stanley Cup Playoff contention.

The Western Conference’s 8th seed, Winnipeg, completed a 2-0 whitewash of host Minnesota (96 points) during the first period of the Stars’ match in San Jose to reach 94 points. The Stars can max out at only 92 points after beating Anaheim 4-0 on Wednesday and if they defeat visiting Nashville in Saturday’s season finale.

“There’s not much to celebrate anymore,” said team captain and leading scorer Jamie Benn after netting two goals and adding a helper in the victory in San Jose. “We didn’t do our job, and that’s pretty much it. You don’t want to look back and make excuses,”  “You hate looking back on games, but there were just a few early in the year that (we) wish could (have gone the other way). You look at the last month, and we’ve been playing pretty good hockey. That’s what’s frustrating. We know we’re a good team when we play the right way, and we can beat most teams in this league. It’s tough to think back how many leads we’ve blown in the third period, but you’re not going to win in this league if you can’t play defense.”

Benn added three assists against the Ducks, giving the 25-year old captain a career high 83 points that moved him into a three-way tie with the Islanders’ John Tavares and Sidney Crosby of Pittsburgh for the NHL’s regular season scoring title and the Art Ross Trophy.”I’d be lying to say (the Art Ross Trophy) wasn’t on my mind, but it wasn’t really the trophy I was going for this year,” Benn noted. “I think (with) the high expectations our team had this year, we failed (by not making) the playoffs. That was our number one goal.”

Benn, the Stars’ 5th round draft choice in 2007 who is in his sixth season with Dallas, leads the NHL in scoring since the All-Star break with 43 points (including 19 goals) in 35 games. His 19 points in the last 11 games have fueled the Stars’ resurgence, helping them win 13 of their last 18.

For the Stars (40-31-10), the failure to extend their season past the tax deadline is a bitter pill to swallow. Dallas, which has missed the post-season in six of the last seven campaigns, made a late season surge in 2013-14 to earn the franchise’s first playoff berth since 2007-08. They then created a tremendous amount of excitement for this season with a six-game defeat at the skates of top-seeded Anaheim

Despite the acquisition of Jason Spezza and Ales Hemsky, Dallas lost young defenseman Patrik Nemeth and winger Valeri Nichushkin for most of the season to injuries. But they saw four rookies step up and prove they belong in the NHL in defensemen John Klingberg and Jyrki Jokipakka and forwards Curtis McKenzie and Brett Ritchie.

“We’ve played good hockey for a long period, really,” coach Lindy Ruff said. “We had some tough losses on big mistakes. We’ve faced a lot of adversity that should help us (in the future).

“The one thing I like is this team has no quit,” added Ruff, who is completing his second season at the Stars’ helm. “We came out and got a goal (in the first minute by Colton Sceviour) tonight. We’ve had some tough losses and some hard lessons.”

In San Jose, backup goaltender Jhonas Enroth stopped 23 of 24 San Jose shots, and followed that with a 19-save performance in Anaheim to earn his fifth career NHL shutout and help Dallas win eight of its final nine road games. Forwards Patrick Eaves and Ryan Garbutt added goals against the Sharks, with Eaves scoring twice while Vernon Fiddler and Jordie Benn (Jamie’s older brother) adding red lights against the Ducks.

“Personally, I’ve never not made the playoffs or played in these games that don’t mean anything, said second leading scorer Tyler Seguin, who spent his first three NHL seasons with Boston before being traded to Dallas. “It’s frustrating.”