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Pivotal Game Three Awaits Suddenly Scoreless Stars

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The Stars need to rebound from a tough game two loss, but they’ll need to get to the crease to do it.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Dallas Stars at Vegas Golden Knights Gerry Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

The first game of the Western Conference Final saw a return of Dallas Stars hockey. Unfortunately, so did the second game. If the Vegas Golden Knights were “tired” in the opener, the Stars spent most of Tuesday night’s game “disinterested”.

The expectation was that Dallas would need to survive a Vegas onslaught to start the game. Sure, the Golden Knights were better, and Anton Khudobin was there to clean up anything remotely dangerous, but the story of the first period was not Vegas on their toes, it was Dallas on their heels.

Vegas was able to get to the center of the ice with their best players.

Meanwhile, Dallas didn’t put up much of a fight.

The Golden Knights were able to set up their cycle game, and while the Stars did generate a handful of odd man rushes, they ended up chasing the game in their own end through the first two periods. With a 3-0 lead, Vegas took their foot off of the gas in the third, but even then, Dallas never generated much of a serious threat.

Robert broke down many of the issues in a film study on Wednesday; lazy penalties and sloppy play led to Golden Knights goals. Jake Oettinger made his NHL debut, so it wasn’t a complete loss.

The glass half full crowd can point to a split of the first two games. The next two are “home” games, so Rick Bowness has the opportunity to tinker with matchups as he sees fit.

Against the Calgary Flames and the Colorado Avalanche, the Stars proved resilient. There was a sense that going down a goal or two wasn’t a death knell. When John Klingberg scored on the first Dallas shot of the series, it seemed to portend more of the same. The subsequent drought may not turn out to be anything other than a temporary blip, but offensive inefficiency was part of this team’s regular season identity. If the Stars can’t light the lamp in game three, it’s going to be difficult to argue against a hard regression to the mean.

Dallas Stars Lineup

Mattias Janmark (13) - Joe Pavelski (16) - Alexander Radulov (47)
Joel Kiviranta (25) - Roope Hintz (24) - Denis Gurianov (34)
Jamie Benn (14) - Radek Faksa (12) - Blake Comeau (15)
Jason Dickinson (18) - - Tyler Seguin (91) - Corey Perry (10)

Esa Lindell (23) - John Klingberg (3)
Jamie Oleksiak (2) - Miro Heiskanen (4)
Joel Hanley (39) - Andrej Sekera (5)

Anton Khudobin (35)

Vegas Golden Knights Lineup

Jonathan Marchessault (81) - William Karlsson (71) - Reilly Smith (19)
Max Pacioretty (67) - Chandler Stephenson (20) - Mark Stone (61)
Alex Tuch (89) - Paul Stastny (61) - Nicolas Roy (10)
William Carrier (28) - Nick Cousins (21) - Ryan Reaves (75)

Alec Martinez (23) - Shea Theodore (27)
Brayden McNabb (3) - Nate Schmidt (88)
Nick Holden (22) - Zach Whitecloud (2)

Robin Lehner (90)

Keys to the Game

Possession. The Golden Knights thrive on puck possession. That’s not really the Stars game, but they need to at least make the numbers close. Winning a few board battles could help.

Patience. Dallas took extra penalties and found themselves on the wrong side of the puck in game two. It looked like they were trying to force the action, and Vegas was able to take advantage when the Stars got out of position.

The Rush and The Crease. The Stars score when the pressure teams off of the rush and when they fight for space in the crease. Many times, its getting to the crease off of the rush. This game may boil down to whether the Stars can exit the zone with speed or whether Vegas can force turnovers on the forecheck.