It's tough to be a fan.
Coaches and players can't really understand the amount of crushing you felt tonight, because they have to get up and get ready for another game. Yes, they are upset. Yes, they are depressed. Yes, they feel some of your pain.
But they cannot feel that the season is over. They can't let it enter their thoughts for a second. They have nine games they can win. They probably only need 96 points to get into the playoffs, right. That means they can win five of the next nine and be right there. If they win six of nine, they're probably in for sure. That's doable, right?
Meanwhile, you curse the sky in some sort of Star Wars tribute shouting a plaintive ``Noooooooooooooooo,'' while Teemu Selanne and Cam Fowler tear your heart out. If you love the Stars, you probably hate the Ducks. If you hate the Ducks, you probably hate Selanne and Lubomir Visnovski and Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan. If you hate those four, then you hated this game, where all played a huge role in sticking a dagger right into the heart of the Stars.
And if you love the Stars, then you probably wanted desperately for them to take defenseman Cam Fowler in the draft last year when he was gift-wrapped by the hockey gods and set down at No. 11 for Dallas to scoop up.
So seeing Fowler, who just turned 19 on Dec. 5, score the overtime winner to beat the Stars had to be one of the worst feelings ever. You not only hated the Ducks, but you hated the Stars at that time _ and that is a very tough thing for a fan to have to deal with.
And I have no words that will make it better.
I will say that the Stars do still control their destiny (no matter what the magic number says). You win the right games and you win enough of them, and you will make the playoffs. This is not about a perfect finish, this is about beating Nashville, beating the Ducks the next time you play them, beating the Kings. This is about doing that and then finishing out strong against a very winnable end of the schedule (Columbus, Colorado, Colorado, Minnesota).
You do that, and you earn a spot in the post-season and break a two-year drought. You don't do it, and you don't earn anything. It's that simple, really.
And maybe that's why the athletes can be a little more calm than you can. He has control over what happens (to some degree). He knows that the destiny is waiting out there to be molded. All you can do is wait and hope. It's a tough job, but it's one you've chosen.
So hang in there and enjoy the finish. It should prove to be entertaining, if nothing else.
Then again, if it plays out like Wednesday, that might be all of the entertainment you can take.
Tying goal had some controversy: The Stars felt the tying goal by Teemu Selanne was something of a fluke. The puck was rimming around in the right corner when it hit an official and went straight to Sakue Koivu. Koivu immediately put a shot on net, and the puck whizzed through a crowd and landed right on the stick of Selanne, who shoveled it past Kari Lehtonen.
``It's a tough one, but it's also just a horrendous break,'' Stars coach Marc Crawford said. ``The puck comes around, it hits the referee and it goes right to their guy, so what can you do? We don't plan for the referee to be in the way, he doesn't plan to be there, so unfortunately, we get a horrendous break with five seconds to go and it has nothing to do with the play.
``There was no breakdown in coverage,'' he added. ``If you watch it closely, Goligoski's going right to Getzlaf, who the puck should be going to, and it bounces right to their guy, he gets the half-second, gets the puck to the net, gets it through, and Selanne's on the backside. And because there's a break, our guys collapse as they would. Give them credit, they took advantage of the break, but you can't plan for the referee to be in the way, but that's part of the game and you have to deal with it.''
Crawford said he wanted to stay positive.
``We have to look at the positives,'' he said. ``We played a strong game tonight, we battled, we battled a hard team, and by all rights, we should have won the game, but we got a point out of it. So all is not lost, we will survive to fight a better day and we move forward.
Eriksson returns, pots a goal: Loui Eriksson returned from missing two games with a head injury, and looked fantastic. He played 22:12, had four shots on net and three that missed the goal. He looked in mid-season form.
``I thought Loui was terrific tonight,'' Crawford said. ``For a guy to come back and be as dangerous as he was all night, that was pretty impressive. And we're going to need him and Richie to play with the magic that they showed tonight, when they do that, they're very effective players.''
Lukowich returns to play: Brad Lukowich last played for the Stars in 2007. He last played an NHL game last season with Vancouver. However, the 34-year-old defenseman was needed to fill in with Nicklas Grossman and Karlis Skrastins hurt. Lukowich played 9:36 and finished plus-1.
Mark Fistric also returned to play, but his was from five healthy scratches. He had six hits, including a crushing of Dan Sexton that helped swing the game the Stars' way in the second period.
Fistric finished with 14:24 in ice time.
Ducks are riding good luck, good play: The Ducks have won three straight in overtime and are 9-2-1 in their last 12 games (with five of the wins coming in overtime). They are making all of the right plays at the right time.
"I've always said it's better to be lucky than good,'' said Ducks winger Teemu Selanne, who scored the game-tying goal with 5.4 seconds left in regulation. ``With the years, I've learned to be in the right spot at the right time, and I've tried to read the play where the puck might come. Obviously, it helps when you play with great players. If you get open, you know the puck is going to come there. Good things happen when you believe. I don't think the team played that well. The team confidence is the key right now. It's doesn't matter if you're up two goals or down two goals. You've got to believe you're going to come back. That's what has happened lately. It's a good feeling."
Selamne on how big this win is: "We know now that every game is going to be the biggest game of the year. This is going to be crazy. Everybody's playing well, and all the games go to overtime almost. There's no freebies around. Obviously, every point can be the difference in the end. But it's amazing. The last two months or even after Christmas, our conference and our division have played playoff hockey every night. It's crazy. I've never seen it like this before. On the same hand, it's making this exciting but it would be nice to get a break somewhere but obviously not. So far so good. Everything is in our own hands. We are controlling our own destiny. We play against all the other teams that are battling against us, so it's a fair game."