The Dallas Stars rolled into Monday night’s game up 3-1 in a series that no one but die hard Stars fans had picked them to win, and for the first two periods, they played like a team no one would pick to win. Thankfully, hockey has three periods and the third is when the Stars finally showed up.
The first five minutes really looked like this was going to be an exciting first period for both teams, and that proved true for the Golden Knights, at least. The Golden Knights out shot the Stars 14-9 in the opening frame, but even worse, five of those shots were literally right on Anton Khudobin’s doorstep. One of which ended up being the frame’s only goal.
The goal came in with 8 minutes left in the first period. A messy defensive play that had Jamie Oleksiak completely out of his pocket ended up with a breakaway for Chandler Stephenson. Oleksiak pinched the puck in play as they’ve asked him to and Roope Hintz was supposed to cover the empty space but instead pressured the puck as well, leaving ample room on the side for Stephenson to carry the puck.
Someone clearly took the batteries out of Hintz’s controller.
Ryan Reaves had a Ryan Reaves kind of night, beginning with blindside hit on Esa Lindell when Lindell didn’t even have the puck. Even without the blindside, that’s a pretty textbook case for interference, but it wasn’t called.
They did call Mattias Janmark (that bruiser) and William Carrier for a scrum resulting from the hit but nothing exciting happened in the 4 on 4.
Around Stephenson’s goal, the wind really went out of Dallas’s sails. Miro Heiskenan got stuck on the ice for a prolonged period of time because the Golden Knights are not going gentle into that good night and they played like it.
The Stars played like it was a random Monday night in March. They had a power play opportunity towards the end of the first when Alex Tuch got called for tripping Andrej Sekera, but they only managed to get one shot on goal from Corey Perry.
The Stars had a chance with the man advantage in the first few minutes of the middle frame when Shea Theodore was called for interference against Perry. Alarmingly, the Stars had zero shots on that power play. In fact, until more than 10 minutes into the second frame, the Stars had only one shot on goal in the period.
Vegas had a power play opportunity after Blake Comeau was called for tripping Mark Stone. During that penalty kill, Tyler Seguin blocked a shot that clearly stung. He ended up spending some time in the tunnel hopping around and trying to shake it off.
A fury of chances in front of the net left the Stars with nothing much to show for it except a really good chance by Jamie Benn.
Two weak calls on the Stars to close out the second, Mattias Janmark for tripping against Nate Schmidt and a Jamie Benn “hooking” penalty (it was really a penalty for breathing his air, as far as I can tell). The Golden Knights had plenty of opportunity with the advantage but were not able to score.
Corey Perry spent some time down the tunnel after crashing into the boards but was back on the bench a few minutes later.
If this game had fans in the seats, no one would have been in them for the Vegas goal, they’d still be coming back with their intermission snacks. Tyler Seguin opened the third period with a quality chance on Robin Lehner that ended up going back the other way on a rush from Reilly Smith.
John Klingberg was back with him but wasn’t able to close the shooting lane.
After this, score effects took over. The Stars remembered that if they win tonight, they’re securing a berth in the Stanley Cup Final, rather than another game on Wednesday night. Beginning with the goal at the start of the third and all the way through the final buzzer, the Stars finally came alive, and it was really lead by Jamie Benn, who scored to get the Stars on the board.
Benn scored from the place he likes best, right up in the crease. Which, coincidentally, is where Joel Kiviranta, an absolute hero, scored the game tying goal from six minutes later.
JOEL FUCKIN KIVIRANTA!— Here's Your Replay ⬇️ (@TheReplayGuy) September 15, 2020
And the pressure from the Stars didn’t let up after this. They didn’t get the go ahead goal in regulation, but it certainly wasn’t for lack of trying. The Golden Knights spent the entire game absolutely on fire, but the Stars finally caught up here in the third. And in catching up, forced an overtime.
The Golden Knights lost Zach Whitecloud to a puck over glass penalty two minutes into the overtime period, sending the Stars to the power play. Paul Stastny broke his stick in the penalty kill so the Knights were down several players
Hintz got the puck out to Klingberg, Klingberg got the puck to Denis Gurianov who got himself clear in front of the net and found the back of it to send the Stars to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2000.