All those wily, old veterans couldn’t get the Dallas Stars another Stanley Cup championship.
Rick Bowness is the 65-year-old interim head coach who has been behind NHL benches in parts of five different decades. Joe Pavelski and Corey Perry are the veteran forwards in their mid-30s who spent their entire careers with their original teams before signing with Dallas in free agency last summer just for this chance.
Instead of a title for the aged after the best efforts of those grizzled guys to get the Stars this far, their season ended with a 2-0 loss to Tampa Bay in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final in Edmonton on Monday night.
”Anyone who’s ever won a Stanley Cup will tell you that to win the Cup, you’ve got to be lucky and you’ve got to be healthy,” Bowness said. ”I’m proud of our players. They gave us everything they could. Was there enough in the tank tonight. No, there wasn’t.”
Dallas was finally undone by mounting injuries and the failure of primary front-liners Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Alexander Radulov to score even a single goal in the final series. Perry and Pavelski combined for the last six goals scored by the Stars in this most unusual season.
”Emotions are tough right now,” Seguin said.
The Stars allowed yet another power-play goal in the finale. They were 0 of 3 with a man advantage Monday night, and 1 of 19 in the series – the only such goal came from Pavelski in the second period of Game 2.
A goal in double overtime of Game 5 by the 35-year-old Perry had extended the series. It was his second goal that night and Pavelski had the third in that 3-2 win. That was also Pavelski’s 61st career playoff goal, the most ever by a U.S.-born skater and good enough for 29th on the all-time list with exactly half of Wayne Gretzky’s record 122.
Before his two goals in Game 4, Pavelski was tied with American Mike Modano, who was part of the Stars’ only Stanley Cup championship team in 1999. After 14 goals in 67 regular-season games for the Stars, Pavelski had 13 more inside the bubble — the most ever in a single postseason by a player 36 or older.
The scoring records are no consolation for Pavelski, who last summer wanted to sign with a team that would give him another chance to win a Stanley Cup. His two finalists were the Stars and the Lightning; he got a three-year deal from Dallas
”Keep it. Next question,” Pavelski said when asked about the records after Game 4.
Perry spent his first 14 NHL seasons with Anaheim and was part of the Ducks’ 2007 championship in his second year. They bought out the forward’s deal before he signed a one-year contract with the Stars.
Pavelski’s only other trip to the Stanley Cup Final was five seasons ago when San Jose lost in six games to Pittsburgh. That was his first season as captain of the Sharks, for which he had played since 2006-07. His rookie season was the same year Perry got to raise the Stanley Cup at age 22.
The found a welcome home in Dallas under Bowness, promoted by Dallas in December after Jim Montgomery was fired for off-ice issues. Bowness used to be the top assistant for coach Jon Cooper in Tampa Bay and was part of the Lightning’s runner-up run in 2015.
The Stars went into the Stanley Cup Final off their longest break between games during more than two months inside the NHL bubble after they wrapped up the Western Conference Final in five games against top-seeded Vegas. They came out hitting against Tampa Bay to win the opener 4-1, but allowed six power-play goals in losing the next three games.
Tampa Bay was 0 for 1 on the power play in Game 5, but went ahead ahead to stay when Brayden Point scored about 12 1/2 minutes in after John Klingberg‘s tripping penalty. Blake Coleman, the 28-year-old center from Plano, Texas, who grew up a Stars fan, scored the other Lightning goal.
Dallas finished the season with several injured key regulars, including forwards Radek Faksa, Blake Comeau and Roope Hintz. Ben Bishop, their primary goaltender most of the regular season, appeared in only three postseason games, the last one Aug. 31 in a second-round game.
”We’re two wins away from winning the Stanley Cup,. We gave it all,” Klingberg said. ”Key players got hurt, we grinded out. Had playing coming in, stepping up doing a great job. I’m proud of this team, this organization, for what we’ve done.”