DALLAS -- It wasn't a very talkative Dallas Stars team in the aftermath of a late third-period collapse that turned Tuesday into exit interview day rather than Game 7.
After watching his team give up two goals in the final 2:10 of regulation and then the deciding goal less than three minutes into overtime, a disappointed Stars coach Lindy Ruff faced the media.
"It’s tough to lose this series considering how well we played the whole series really," Ruff said. "We had just dominant periods that one thing that was missing was a little bit of finish. You can go back to Game 2 where we were dominating. We could have been the team that scored late. We had a couple of unbelievable opportunities to tie it and we missed those opportunities.
We talked [Sunday] morning about some of our finish. We had it right there at 4-2 with 2 minutes left. But it’s a cruel way. Sometimes hockey’s cruel. It was cruel, really cruel, to a group of guys that worked as hard as they possibly could. There wasn’t one guy that was a passenger."
Credit the Ducks, who didn't stop believing and playing either despite getting dominating in nearly every facet of Game 6. But after allowing Trevor Daley's second goal of the game midway through the second period, the Ducks made a goalie change and didn't let anything else get behind them. Jonas Hiller, taking the place of Frederik Andersen, was solid and kept his team in it. And with the extra skater on the ice and an empty net at the Ducks' end of the arena twice as the game wound down, Anaheim found a way to get the job done.
For the Stars, it brings their first playoff appearance in six seasons to an end. But the coach knows valuable experience was gained in the process.
"It’s a great platform to push off of," Ruff said. "My job is to make them understand how difficult it really is. We’ve set our bar at a certain level now. Now we have to push above that."
Ruff believes that's going to take "incredible work ethic" from his young team going forward.
"It is hard to get in the playoffs," Ruff said. "You know that. I know that. You haven’t been in there. But the work we put in the second half, some of the adversity we faced, made us strong enough to push back from 2-0 in this series. [It] made us bring our 'A' game.
"You asked what I thought the team would bring. They brought the best they could possibly bring [Sunday]. And I’ll say it again, I was damn proud of the way they played. I was proud of the way they competed. It’s a fun team to coach. It really is. Embrace this, because we’ve got some good players that are pushing through. My job now is to make them understand how hard it is to repeat it and get better."
Ruff also used his postgame forum to speak directly to Stars fans, who filled the American Airlines Center for Games 3, 4 and 6 and were clearly hungry and excited about having postseason hockey back in Dallas.
"I was awfully proud of our fans," Ruff said. "I don’t think half of them sat down the whole game. This building was something that helped push these guys and you could just feel the energy. That’s something special."