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Stars Drop Game 1 To Golden Knights In Western Conference Final

Credit: Tim Heitman / Dallas Stars

The Dallas Stars are at least consistent this postseason.

Game 1 of the first round? Lost in second overtime. Game 1 of the second round? Lost in overtime. Game 1 of the third round? Lost in overtime. They went on to win each of the first two rounds, but the result of this one is still to be determined.

They got off to a rough start once again, looking like they’d been sucker-punched by the speed and energy of the opponent. It’s a distinctly disturbing trend and something they need to figure out. They’ve been at their best with good starts, and their stat of not winning any games when being scored on first this postseason speaks to that.

About the midway point of the first period, Dallas seemed to get back on track with their skating and started to push more at the end of the frame. With less than two minutes remaining in the period, Jason Robertson struck to end his eight-game goal-less streak with a tip-in goal. It came after the Stars were beneficiaries of a defensive zone turnover by Vegas, and Roope Hintz made the play to throw the puck at the net where Robertson made the deft play to get them on the board first.

The second period seemed to tilt in Vegas’ favor, and William Karlsson eventually tied the game after a juicy rebound from the backboards punched out to him to the side of the net. He didn’t hesitate to use a quick release to put it past a scrambling Jake Oettinger.

The start to the third period saw Karlsson net his second to give Vegas the first lead of the game. Hintz used his stick to break up a Vegas pass, but couldn’t corral the puck quickly enough. Karlsson shot it right from the high slot. Oettinger had a clear view of the shooter on that one.

Hintz scored less than three minutes later to tie it again. After taking a cross-ice pass from Joe Pavelski through the slot, Hintz quickly settled the puck on the heel of his stick and then snapped it past Vegas goaltender Adin Hill. Hintz now leads all NHL players in the postseason in points.

It seemed that Dallas was out of this one midway through the third when Teddy Blueger put Vegas ahead 3-2. It came right after Kolesar, skating towards the net, appeared to step on Miro Heiskanen’s stick blade and tripped, sending him careening into Oettinger. He was unable to get set to make the stop on the rebound shot by Blueger. It seemed like a play that might have been challenged by Pete DeBoer and his staff for goalie interference. However, the contact by Heiskanen prior to the play may have put Kolesar into the net, which would negate the penalty. The challenge, if lost, would then put the Stars on the penalty kill and hand Vegas even more momentum at a key juncture.

But the Stars seemed to keep their cool. With Oettinger pulled for the extra attacker at the end of the third period, Stars captain Jamie Benn found the equalizer to force overtime. He was left all alone on the side of the net and waited for the puck to break loose with a mass of humanity in front of Hill’s crease. He was able to collect it and put the puck in before Hill realized what was happening.

But that comeback, which the Stars have yet to pull off for a win this postseason, fell short. Just 95 seconds into overtime, Brett Howden put the puck in off a spinning Oettinger in his crease to give Vegas the overtime win.

The positive? The Stars have been in this position before. They don’t seem to care if they’re at home or on the road, so the lack of home ice in this series shouldn’t been as much of a deterrent to their confidence. They also seemed to get better as the game wore on, and it’s not possible they could look worse on the power play, which should give them an edge in this series, than they did tonight. They also got some even-strength scoring once again.

The negative? Oettinger still looks very human as he has almost the entirety of the playoffs. You have to wonder if his heavy workload down the stretch of the season with Scott Wedgewood injured for a few weeks is catching up to him. Vegas also did a very good job of shutting down the rush offensive chances that Dallas usually feasts on, so some adjustments will be needed to try to find some different ways to get sustained pressure in the offensive zone. And Heiskanen, who usually is so cooly efficient and positively impacts the games on both ends of the ice, didn’t have his best game of the postseason. He doesn’t usually do that twice in a row.

Dallas has yet to lose two games in a row in the playoffs. But their Game 2 versus Vegas on Sunday afternoon will be their biggest test yet to keep that stat on the right side of the ledger.