Stars Defeat Golden Knights in OT, Advance to 1st Stanley Cup Final Since 2000

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistSeptember 15, 2020

Dallas Stars right wing Denis Gurianov, of Russia, plays against the Nashville Predators in the first period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, March 5, 2020, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

The Dallas Stars are in the Stanley Cup Final for the third time in franchise history following a 3-2 overtime win over the Vegas Golden Knights on Monday in the Western Conference Final.

Dallas' last conference title came in 2000. The Stars were unable to successfully repeat their Stanley Cup triumph from the year before, falling to the New Jersey Devils in the Final in six games.

Jamie Benn provided the Stars with some life after they fell into a 2-0 hole, scoring their first goal with 9:54 off the clock in the third period. Joel Kiviranta equalized on the power play at the 16:13 mark to force overtime.

Zach Whitecloud received a delay-of-game penalty after hitting the puck over the glass 2:15 into overtime. With the Stars on the power play, Denis Gurianov fired a shot past Robin Lehner.

              

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Notable Performers

Anton Khudobin, G, Stars: 34 saves

Denis Gurianov, RW, Stars: one goal, one assist

John Klingberg, D, Stars: two assists

Robin Lehner, G, Golden Knights: 23 saves

Reilly Smith, RW, Golden Knights: one goal

         

Stars Come to Life in 3rd Period

Defense has been Dallas' calling card all season. The Stars were second in goals against per game (2.52) during the regular season, though that number had climbed to 3.10 through 20 postseason games. The series has seen a return to form as Dallas allowed six goals in four games.

For the bulk of Monday's game, the Stars were leaning far too much on their defense and failing to build anything in the attack.

Of course, the complexion of the game would have looked very different if the deflection from Lehner's save on a shot by Gurianov had been a few inches lower in the second period.

To Dallas' credit, the team didn't panic after Reilly Smith's goal. Quite the opposite, that was the wake-up call the Stars needed.

They can thank Anton Khudobin for keeping the score close as well.

Once the game went to overtime, it was only going to end one way. The last thing you want to do against the Stars right now is fail to put them away in regulation.

           

Vegas Falters at Inopportune Time

Soccer managers who advocate a possession-based approach often do so by arguing keeping the ball away from the opposition ensures they can't score. In effect, it becomes a defensive strategy.

Through two periods, the Golden Knights were following that blueprint to a T. They were controlling the tempo of the game and stymying the Stars by limiting the number of shots they could fire at Lehner.

Then the third period—which started so brightly—happened. The air slowly went out of Vegas' balloon even after they built a two-goal lead 15 seconds into the period through Smith.

Rather than putting Dallas to the sword, the Golden Knights took their foot off the gas.

There's no good way to lose an elimination game in the conference final. Head coach Peter DeBoer will be left wondering how everything unraveled for Vegas in the third period.

        

What's Next?

The Stars await the winner of the Eastern Conference Final, where the Tampa Bay Lightning have a 3-1 lead over the New York Islanders. The Lightning can close out the series Tuesday.