July 14, 2024

When it came to what the Dallas Stars did in Game 6, captain Jamie Benn said it was likely his team’s best performance of the Western Conference finals.Cheap defenseman targets for the Dallas Stars to target before the trade deadline

It was also the one that saw the Stars get eliminated in Game 6 of a West finals for the second year in a row.

Despite taking three times the shots and owning the puck 75% of the time, the Stars fell short in a 2-1 loss Sunday to the Edmonton Oilers, who reached the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2006.

“You could probably argue that was our best game of the series,” Benn said. “It just didn’t go our way.”

Entering Game 6, the goal for the Stars was to echo the comeback they mounted in the first round of the playoffs, when after falling to a two-game deficit against the defending Stanley Cup champion Vegas Golden Knights, Dallas ended up winning the series in seven games.

This time, the Stars grabbed a 2-1 series lead before the Oilers scored a combined eight goals in their Games 4 and 5 wins, giving them a chance to clinch in six. A Stars’ victory Sunday would have forced a deciding game in Dallas, giving coach Peter DeBoer a chance to extend his record to 8-0 in Game 7s.

Instead, the Stars’ flight back to Dallas will start an offseason powered by the reality that they’re still in a championship window.

“We went through a gauntlet and beat some really good teams and knew we had something special,” Stars forward Tyler Seguin said. “We lost to a team that we thought we could beat and sometimes, that’s playoffs. Sometimes, it’s that one bounce, that one goal, that one save. That’s why we all love it. That’s why it’s the hardest damn trophy in the world to win.”

Edmonton had a 2-0 lead by the end of the first period after Connor McDavid deked his way to the net before firing a point-blank shot to beat Jake Oettinger, then Zach Hyman scored a power-play goal with a little more than three minutes left in the frame.

Not only did the Oilers have a two-goal lead after the first, but they did it by mustering three only shots while the Stars had 12.

The Stars would finish with 35 shots, the Oilers with 10. Natural Stat Trick’s metrics show that the Stars had a shot-share of 73.75% in 5-on-5 play while also racking up 10 high-danger scoring chances, something they hadn’t done since Game 3.

And they had three power-play chances, while the Oilers had just one opportunity with the extra-skater advantage.

Even with their latest defeat, losing in the conference final for a second straight season strengthens the Stars’ belief that they’re in a championship window. The group has reached three West finals in the past five years for an organization that built its roster through the draft.

Benn was among 10 players who were drafted by the Stars and played for them in Game 6. The team’s younger talents include Jason Robertson, Roope Hintz, Wyatt Johnston, Thomas Harley, Oettinger and Mavrik Bourque, who made his playoff debut Sunday.

The 34-year-old Benn is one of 13 Stars players under contract for next season. Harley, as a restricted free agent, is among those who will remain under team control. Others, such as trade-deadline acquisition Chris Tanev, second-round series hero Matt Duchene and veteran forward Joe Pavelski, are unrestricted free agents.

“I believe that, yeah,” Benn said of the Stars’ setup for a strong future. “But I’m not really thinking about it right now. This a tough time.”

Seguin, who is under contract for three more seasons, shared his reasons for optimism.

He said recent Stanley Cup champions have had to go through painful defeats before reaching their goal, noting that it took time for the Golden Knights and Tampa Bay Lightning to break through.

Another team he mentioned is the one the Oilers will face in the Stanley Cup Final: the Florida Panthers. They lost in the first round in 2019 and again in 2020 before reaching the second round in 2021 and losing, only to now be in a consecutive Cup Final for the first time in team history.

“Unfortunately, you got to lose a lot to win in this league,” said Seguin, who won a Cup with the Boston Bruins in 2011. “I don’t know why it’s like that. Learn some lessons, keep this taste and get ready for next year.”

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