The Vegas Golden Knights topped the Dallas Stars 3-0 in Game 2 to even the Western Conference Final at 1-1. Each of the Golden Knights’ goals came from forwards, something that hadn’t happened in four games prior, at least with a goaltender in net.
Robin Lehner was stout for Vegas throughout the game, making 24 saves en route to his fourth shutout of the postseason. He also saved 1.99 expected goals against and four high-danger chances.
Paul Stastny, William Karlsson and Tomas Nosek all added goals for the Golden Knights in the second period. Stastny added another point on Karlsson’s tally.
The Golden Knights came out of the gate much better in this game. While they failed to execute on the little things throughout the first period — passes missing the mark, failed entries, too many interceptions from the Stars — they left the period with the shot advantage, giving up just five to Dallas and producing eight.
Even better, they denied the Stars a game-opening goal in this contest. The Golden Knights allowed a few too many rush chances throughout the game for some tastes. But they also allowed Dallas a good chunk of possession time without anything to show for it.
Peter DeBoer’s new-look lines panned out nicely. He rolled combinations including Mark Stone, Chandler Stephenson and Alex Tuch as well as Nicolas Roy, Stastny and Max Pacioretty.
Those lines in particular were critical in creating chances. However, the Knights were unable to capitalize on those chances early in the contest. But after a successful second-period penalty kill, which turned out to serve as an important marker in this game, Vegas turned on the offensive jets.
A brilliant offensive read by Brayden McNabb eventually set up the Golden Knights’ first goal of the series. McNabb intercepted the puck from the Stars and made the pass to Pacioretty, who found Stastny in front of the net for a deflection goal. The thing Vegas has needed since late in the series against Vancouver, a high-danger goal, finally came to fruition:
Great patience by Pacioretty to avoid the sliding Hanley, and Stastny finishes it for his first goal at 5-on-5 since Game 2 against Chicago.#VegasBorn pic.twitter.com/UhQSxnBPFd— Danny Webster (@DannyWebster21) September 9, 2020
Coming in to Game 2, a Golden Knights forward had not scored a goal on a goaltender in four games, but that streak ended with Stastny’s tap-in. It was Stastny’s first goal (not including an empty-netter) since Aug. 13.
Shea Theodore missed multiple shifts after going down hard on a backcheck later in the frame. It was one of the scarier sequences given how valuable he has been to the Knights throughout the postseason. Fortunately, he was back in time for a power play. In typical Theodore fashion, he got the primary assist on the ensuing goal:
It was the team’s second goal from a forward, and the power play looked strong. Karlsson hadn’t scored since Aug. 30. Stastny added an assist on the goal for his second point of the night.
The Golden Knights got plenty of power-play time in the second period. Corey Perry straight up tripped Jonathan Marchessault, Jamie Benn punched McNabb with a backhand (McNabb would later draw a double minor to end the game) and Stone drew a slashing call. Vegas would take two penalties of their own, though both were killed. Theodore appeared to score a power-play goal, but the call was reversed due to incidental contact with the Dallas netminder.
But the Knights’ forwards were the stars of the period, and passing got back on track for Vegas, which should be a confidence boost moving forward in this series.
As far as passing goes, there may not be a better display than what the Knights set up to take a 3-0 lead:
Stephenson, Roy, Stephenson, Nosek. What execution on the 3-on-1.— Danny Webster (@DannyWebster21) September 9, 2020
Three goals in 9:29 for #VegasBorn in the second. pic.twitter.com/91WEZwk0hY
After Tyler Seguin got caught drifting, the Knights set up an odd-man rush and isolated John Klingberg, an offensively-minded defenseman. They froze him with perfect puck movement between Chandler Stephenson and Roy, which opened up the lane to Nosek, who lifted the puck over the diving Anton Khudobin. It was quite a play; that may be a forward line worth exploring moving forward.
Passing would remain well-executed throughout the duration of the period. Even the penalty kill got in on the action with Karlsson and Reilly Smith combining for a chance. That’s something the shorthanded units will need to continue to do throughout this series, as Dallas’ power play has been effective in the postseason.
Vegas’ dominant middle frame would result in Khudobin being pulled one game after recording a 25-save shutout. He was replaced by Jake Oettinger, who made his NHL debut in the third period.
The Golden Knights did something they don’t usually do in response: they took their foot off the throttle. Vegas didn’t get a shot on goal for the first 11:43 of the third period.
While some of that was Dallas’ defense stepping up, Vegas didn’t have the same energy as in the second or even first periods. Vegas was outshot 9-4 in the third period at 5-on-5 but remained in control of the high-danger battle, allowing just one.
All in all, it was a fantastic response from the Knights.
The Golden Knights take on the Stars for Game 3 on Thursday. This is now a best-of-five series.