Falling Stars: Dallas Earns Its Early Vacation

So who crumbled worse Sunday: Rory McIlroy at Augusta or your Dallas Stars in Minnesota?

Hours after McIlroy ruined a four-shot lead with an 80 at The Masters, the hockey team fanned on a tap-in and missed the NHL Playoffs.

After the Chicago Blackhawks lost at home to Detroit earlier in the day, it was all set up for the Stars. Win and they were in. Against the lowly Minnesota Wild, no less. I know it was Dallas' sixth game in nine days, but you couldn't ask for a better do-or-die opponent. The Wild entered with wins in only three of the previous 14 games.

Somehow -- for the third consecutive season -- there will be no playoff hockey in Dallas.

The Stars botched their wide-open layup, blowing a 2-1 lead in a 5-3 loss to the Wild that ushered Chicago into the post-season and gave Dallas the undesirable achievement of having amassed the most points (95) while missing the playoffs.

Somebody named Colton Gillies scored for the first time in two years, Brad Richards hit the crossbar early in the third, and former Star Antti Miettenen netted the game-winner. For Minneosta it was a meaningless win in the home finale of a dreadful season.

For Dallas, it was the rotten cherry atop a melted sundae. Remember, on January 20, the Stars led the Pacific Division with a 29-13-5 record and were a whopping 10 points up on the 9th-place team.

Considering the departures of goalie Marty Turco and face of the franchise Mike Modano, expectations weren't high this season. Then Dallas' young team got hot and we got interested.

The Stars almost shoved themselves back on the map with a first-round playoff series against Vancouver. Instead, courtesy of this ugly loss, the next time we think about them is when they're finally sold.

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