It was just a matter of time before the suddenly-not-scoring Vegas Golden Knights to see their scoring revert to the mean. It’s a statistical concept that means when given enough sample size, things tend to fall around 50 percent on a bell curve. That’s why so many baseball teams are around .500 on a regular full season - that’s to be expected after 162 games.
Regression was most definitely due for a Vegas team that had been shutout in two of their last three games:
Regression is coming, and Dallas better be ready. https://t.co/IVbi1XmTM4— DefendingBigD (@DefendingBigD) September 7, 2020
Hint: Dallas was not ready for the regression to the mean.
The Stars expected the Golden Knights to flip the switch on them to start this one, and they did. They ended the period having controlled much of the play, with a 11-4 scoring chance edge according to Natural Stat Trick, including a 6-1 high danger chance advantage. Unlike in Game 1, Vegas found their way to the slot area more often during the first 20 minutes than they basically had the entirety of the first game.
Anton Khudobin was more than up for the challenge, though.
Much like Marc-Andre Fleury kept his team in the first game, Khudobin allowed the Stars to have that “bend but don’t break” mentality against the pushback from the Golden Knights tonight. He had several key saves, including two dangerous looks on his team’s first penalty kill of the night.
Dallas struggled at times to get into the offensive zone consistently early on in the period, including on the team’s first power play chance. Vegas did a good job of challenging the puck carrier when they got close to the blueline. When they did finally punch through, Corey Perry had a good rebound chance in front of Robin Lehner’s net but couldn’t puncture the opposing netminder.
Vegas would finally open the scoring with about five minutes gone in the period. While Dallas was in the midst of a line change, Joel Hanley went out to challenge the puck carrier to the side of the net and cutoff his cross-ice passing lane. John Klingberg, meanwhile, went to cover the point man without realizing that Mattias Janmark was still high in the zone to cover the passing lane for a play up the wall which left Paul Stastny in front of Khudobin’s net without coverage. Though Alexander Radulov came flying in off the bench, having seen the defensive lapse, he was a step behind getting there in time to prevent the first goal.
Not long after, Corey Perry would trip a Golden Knight to send Vegas back to the man advantage. A poor turnover in the corner by Miro Heiskanen (something he doesn’t do often) allowed William Karlsson to accept a feed and thread the puck right through Khudobin’s five hole.
Radulov took a penalty not long after that, and Shea Theodore’s shot from the point on the ensuing power play opened this one wide for the team in gray. Or so it seemed. The Stars challenged the goal for goaltender interference prior to the puck going in, as Max Pacioretty was in the blue paint and made contact with Khudobin’s skate. It appeared to keep Khudobin from being able to fully get across his crease. The goal was reversed after review as the league agreed with the goaltender interference challenge.
What could have become an avalanche was kept to a small mole hill, and Stars video coach Kelly Forbes continued to be the best at his job in the league.
The Stars took exception to a crosscheck by Jonathan Marchessault on Heiskanen, and Roope Hintz was the first in the post-whistle scrum to let him know how much that kind of play is not appreciated by the Dallas team. No penalty calls came from it.
Jamie Benn gave Vegas their third power play of the game when he roughed up Brayden McNabb. Dallas was able to kill this one off successfully, keeping the game within some semblance of a reach.
Benn, coming out of the box after serving his two minutes of shame, was able to find Janmark for a semi-breakaway look right after the penalty ended. Though Lehner made the save, it was one of Dallas’ most dangerous looks in the game. It wouldn’t take much time for Vegas to follow that chance up with a push the other direction. Klingberg was on the bad end of a 2-on-1 the other way with Tyler Seguin caught cheating in the offensive zone, and Vegas finally got their real third goal of the game as a result.
Late in the period, Dallas would get just their second power play opportunity in the game when McNabb interfered with Blake Comeau so badly that his stick ended up on the tarp in the stands.
Blake Comeau's stick just got knocked into the stands. pic.twitter.com/JcLHBlOjBM— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) September 9, 2020
Vegas wouldn’t let a measly thing like being down a player interrupt their flow, though, as Reilly Smith had a golden shorthanded opportunity early in the Dallas power play. Luckily, he shot the puck wide, though with as much time as Vegas spent with the puck, it almost didn’t matter. Dallas didn’t even come close to getting anything resembling a decent look on the offensive end. Vegas would take a 3-0 lead to the final frame.
Jake Oettinger, drafted by the Stars in 2017 with the 26th overall pick, took over netminding duties for the Stars to open the third period. With Khudobin not really at fault for the loss, and the Stars in front of him not making much headway in looking like they would claw their way back into the game, the coaching staff pulled him to ensure he didn’t get hurt so he can start in Game 3.
The Stars did not do him a lot of favors to ease him into the NHL pace in his debut, however, when they took an early penalty thanks to a slashing penalty by Radek Faksa, a sign of the Stars’ continued frustration in the game. Luckily, they collapsed in front of his net on the penalty kill, preventing a single shot from getting through on the man advantage. Roope Hintz had a particularly big shot block, and after taking the puck in the upper body area (it looked like arm in real-time), he went down the tunnel after his shift was done.
Jake Oettinger is the first goaltender in 55 years – and only one in the expansion era (since 1967-68) – to make his NHL debut in the round leading into the #StanleyCup Final (Conference Finals or Semifinals). #NHLStats https://t.co/j7IFrZv7tj— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) September 9, 2020
Luckily for Dallas, he would return to the bench and play some shifts later in the third, so hopefully it was just a stinger-type shot and not something to be concerned about for next game.
Dallas did seem to get a few more shots from the high-danger areas in the last frame, but Lehner was more than prepared to maintain the clean sheet for his team. Through nearly 12 minutes in the period, Dallas was so committed to their defensive structure that they didn’t have a single shot on goal that Oettinger would have to deal with, a good change from the first 40 minutes of this one.
Dallas pulled Oettinger with four minutes left in the game to get the extra attacker. They got some good looks, but Radulov killed any chance of getting into this one with a goal when he hi-sticked McNabb and drew blood with 1:12 remaining in the game. The penalty would have ended the game anyway, but the double-minor was just an extra little exclamation point on a rough outing for the Stars.
The series is now tied 1-1, and Dallas will need to learn from this one and make better adjustments in Game 3 on Thursday.