DALLAS -- For the Dallas Stars, the playoffs are a pipe dream once again, even though it won't be official for another few days.
But there's no need to feel sorry for the players. Or coach Glen Gulutzan. Or general manager Joe Nieuwendyk.
The Stars don't deserve to make the playoffs.
Not if we're going to keep it real. This isn't about a lack of effort. It's about a lack of performance.
Really, it's that simple.
The Stars knew if they won their last three games, they'd make the playoffs for the first time in four years. Lose, and they'd need so much help to make the playoffs FEMA couldn't help them.
San Jose 5, Dallas 2.
Pathetic. Embarrassing. Shameful. There's really no other way to describe the Stars' performance Tuesday night because they wasted so many chances to win the game.
Frankly, it's the same thing we've seen much of the season from this club aside from it's terrific 11-3 start and its 10-1 streak in February and March.
You know exactly what I'm talking about.
Dumb penalties. Poor execution. Missed opportunities. Now, the Stars find themselves in grave danger of missing the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season.
Dallas trails Phoenix and Los Angeles by four points and San Jose by three points. Each team has two games left.
Emotions are high. Everyone is upset. Everyone is vested. We'll talk about it tomorrow and move forward.
”-- Stars coach Glen Gulutzan
This game changed during a 30-second span in the second period.
Benn, though, regained the puck, skated in back of the net and found Alex Goligoski just inside the blue line. Gligoski scored on a slap shot for a 2-1 lead with 8:50 left in the period.
Morrow had tied the score late in the first period. Finally, the Stars had the lead.
It lasted 32 seconds.
Even a novice hockey fan knows the most important shifts in any game are those that occur immediately after a goal is scored. The team that scored tries to ride the momentum, while the team that allowed the goal presses to negate the goal it just allowed. It's Hockey 101. Apparently, the Stars failed the course.
"The shift after the 2-1 goal, we had a mistake in coverage," Gulutzan said. "We had no chance to build momentum from that goal."
A similar play snuffed whatever comeback hopes the Stars had in the third period.
With just more than five minutes left and the Stars down 3-2, a set play off a face-off created a breakaway for Benn, one of the Stars' best goal-scorers. Seriously, if there was one guy Gulutzan would pick for a third-period breakaway, it would probably be Benn.
He split two defenders and skated in alone but never made an aggressive move that forced San Jose goalie Antti Niemi to commit. Just before he hit the crease, Benn tried to sneak the puck between Niemi's pads, but he made a stick save.
Less than 30 seconds later, Joe Thornton, who'd rather pass than shoot, scored to give the Sharks a 4-2 lead.
End of game. End of season.
Hey, we can talk about the mathematic probability of the Stars getting into the playoffs all night long, but it ain't happening.
No chance. No way.
All you have to do is look in that locker room after the game. Their faces told the story.
The season is done.
One player leaned forward, rocking gently, his hands in his head. Another, across the room, leaned back with his eyes closed in utter dejection. A third slumped, staring straight ahead.
"I didn't say anything to them," Gulutzan said. "Emotions are high. Everyone is upset. Everyone is vested. We'll talk about it tomorrow and move forward.
"Now, we need help, but it's business as usual. That's the only way we can look at it."
This team isn't going to beat Nashville on the road Thursday, which will render Saturday's game against St. Louis meaningless.
Remember, we've seen this before. Last season, the Stars needed a win in their final game to make the playoffs but lost to Minnesota.
Maybe next year.