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Lights finally go out for the Stars after Cup finals loss

Dallas Stars right wing Alexander Radulov (47) and goaltender Jake Oettinger (29) hug goaltender Anton Khudobin (35) as the Tampa Bay Lightning celebrate winning the Stanley Cup in game six of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final at Rogers Place.
Dallas Stars right wing Alexander Radulov (47) and goaltender Jake Oettinger (29) hug goaltender Anton Khudobin (35) as the Tampa Bay Lightning celebrate winning the Stanley Cup in game six of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final at Rogers Place.

The Dallas Stars never got a chance at any champagne bubbles.

In the end, the only win for the overmatched skill-wise Stars, was they don’t have to line up for any more daily nose swabs to see if they’ve come down with COVID.

Nobody did get sick, a victory for one and all in lockdown in the Edmonton and Toronto bubbles for the last two months but that was the only positive after Game 6 of the Cup final Monday with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

They scored early, then wrapped the Stars up in a 200-foot straitjacket.

Dallas ran out of bodies and out of air as the Lightning strangled them, holding them to eight shots through 40 minutes in a 2-0 victory. Playing without three regular forwards — Blake Comeau, Roope Hintz and Radek Faksa — and dressing a hobbled defenceman Andrej Sekera, they had lots of heart, but no legs.

So no celebration for coach Rick Bowness, who has been behind an NHL bench for more games than anybody else in history, and is still looking for his first hug with the Stanley Cup. His team had lots of try, beating Calgary, Colorado and Vegas to get this far, but ran out of gas against Tampa, the team he used to work for as an associate coach to Jon Cooper.

The bubble life was a chore for everybody but Dallas kept rolling along.

“It was different and difficult, but all of a sudden, we’re in the Stanley Cup finals … the winning got us through the nine weeks we were here,” said Bowness. “You learn to live with it on a daily basis. It is Groundhog Day but you look so much forward to the excitement of the games. It’s different with no crowd but you get used to it because when you’re competing for the Stanley Cup it doesn’t matter where you are, what the rink is. That’s a thrill in itself.”

Bowness emphasized over and over how proud he was of his players.

“Nobody expected us to get this far and we got as much out of this team as we could,” said Bowness, who had mixed emotions in the handshake line because he spent five years with Tampa. He got a big hug from Nikita Kucherov and Conn Smythe trophy winner Victor Hedman.

“I have a great rapport with all the players there and it’s (handshake line) hard to describe. You only get so many chances at the Stanley Cup and you’re dealing with those emotions,” he said.

In the end, Dallas just didn’t have enough left.

“We didn’t have enough in the tank,” said Bowness.

They beat two higher-rated teams in Colorado and Vegas to get here, though.

“We had so much fun up to this point and it’s fun being on this stage and a lot of guys in this league or business don’t have opportunity to feel this pressure,” said Dallas centre Tyler Seguin, who worked his butt off in the final and was their second best forward after Joe Pavelski against Tampa.

“It was great but other than that there’s nothing really positive you could take from bubble life … it definitely sucked and we’re all looking forward to seeing family and friends now.”

At least Seguin has a Cup when he was with Boston in 2011. So does Corey Perry when he was with Anaheim in 2007 but that didn’t stop Seguin from looked teary-eyed when they fell short.

“We’re two wins from the Stanley Cup and we gave it our all … some key players got hurt but we grinded it out,” said John Klingberg, who didn’t get the hype of his defence counterpart Miro Heiskanen but he was outstanding, showing Hall of Famer Sergei Zubov talent with the puck throughout, no panic at all.

“There are no feelings … right now there is nothing,” said goalie Anton Khudobin.

“Emotions are tough right now. Going into the trainer’s room all these games and having to wait in a line to get in because everybody has ice-bags on as the boys were grinding it through. So was Tampa, they’re a great team too and they earned it,” said Seguin.

Klingberg was good to the last drop but they just couldn’t score in the last game.

“Seventy days we’ve been here (JW Marriott in Edmonton), we’ve left girlfriends, wives … this is our second family. We’re brothers, but this one stings a lot, it hurts a lot. This is the dream to play on the biggest stage in the world and you end up losing,” he said.

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020

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