Game 2 Preview: Golden Knights need to capitalize on chances against Stars

Game 2 Preview: Golden Knights need to capitalize on chances against Stars

The Vegas Golden Knights will host the Dallas Stars for Game 2 of the Western Conference Final this afternoon at T-Mobile Arena with a chance to take a 2-0 series lead.

That will be easier said than done.

That's especially true since the Stars lost Game 1 in each of the first two rounds and rebounded in Game 2 to even the series at 1-1.

Despite being 7-6 all-time in Game 2 matchups, the Golden Knights will look to take full advantage of home ice after a largely dominant effort Friday night.

Though the Golden Knights blew two one-goal leads in the third period, Vegas was the better team for most of the night and course-corrected with Brett Howden's overtime winner 1:35 into extra time.

Howden lifts Golden Knights to 4-3 overtime victory in Game 1 against Stars
The Vegas Golden Knights delivered in the first installment of the Western Conference Final matchup against the Dallas Stars, winning Game 1 by a score of 4-3 in overtime to take a 1-0 series lead. Both teams scored one goal through 40 minutes but combined for four in a wild

But had the ending gone a different way, it wouldn't have mattered that the Golden Knights outplayed Dallas for most of the contest.

All of the chances the Golden Knights generated, particularly early on, were wasted opportunities.

The odd-man rushes that Vegas squandered were chances to close out the game and prevent Jamie Benn's last-minute heroics to force overtime.

The Jack Eichel and Ivan Barbashev two-on-one in the third period was too casual, and while Barbashev had an empty net as a target, the killer instinct Vegas demonstrated in Game 5 against Winnipeg and Game 6 against Edmonton was lacking.

The forecheck was a factor. Depth was a factor. Neutral-zone play was a factor.

The systems were in place. The structure was sound.

But the desperation wasn't quite there.

This afternoon, Dallas is sure to come out with desperation. After all, the Stars didn't play very well and yet could have won Game 1. It was there for the taking, and the Stars will be hungry to shift the narrative before the series shifts to Dallas.

Keys to the game


At 5-on-5, the Golden Knights held a 71.43 percent Corsi share in the first period and a 55.56 percent share in the second. Those numbers represent a combined 45-26 advantage in shot attempts.

They led 25-14 in shots, 21-8 in scoring chances and 8-3 in high-danger chances; that equated to a combined 64.1 percent shot share, 72.4 percent scoring chance share, 72.7 percent high-danger share and a 71 percent expected goal share at 5-on-5 through the first 40 minutes.

But through two periods, the game was tied 1-1.

That's a problem.

Despite the fact that Vegas was all over the ice and completely dominant, Jake Oettinger was up to the task. He may not have finished the game with the best numbers (33 saves on 37 shots for an .892 save percentage), but he was huge for his team throughout the game, including when he stopped all 17 shots he faced in the first period.

He made a memorably clutch save on a brilliant Eichel breakaway attempt. Eichel received Barbashev's pass behind him but gathered the puck through his legs before getting denied by Oettinger's glove.

Initially, Jonathan Marchessault turned the puck over after fumbling the puck, but he hustled to recover before setting up the play. It's a perfect example of Vegas' work ethic early.

But it also serves as a perfect example of a chance Vegas needed to bury but didn't.

The Golden Knights have to put those away.

Stay disciplined

The Golden Knights only took two penalties in 61:35 of action in Game 1.

On the surface, that seems like a reasonable outcome. But the Golden Knights took undisciplined penalties that completely changed the dynamic of the first period. Dallas was nowhere to be found in the first half of the opening frame, but Mark Stone and Chandler Stephenson sat for two minutes each with just 45 seconds between kills.

Though the Vegas penalty kill was outstanding, particularly on the second penalty, this interrupted Vegas' rhythm and allowed the Stars to regroup and get back in the game. The goal that came at the end of the period was not a direct result since it came off a strange bounce, but the Golden Knights handed away the momentum after playing a dominant 12 minutes.

These teams were perfect on the penalty kill during the season series, going a combined 14-for-14. But as Game 1 demonstrated, it's not always a matter of giving up a goal; sometimes, it's merely about giving away momentum.

The Golden Knights can't afford to do that, nor can they afford to give Dallas free opportunities on the man-advantage since the Stars scored nine power-play goals in the first round against Minnesota and currently have the top-rated power play of the four teams remaining in the postseason (30.2 percent).

It's worth noting that Vegas held a 22-5 edge in hits through the first two periods and trailed 12-7 in the third.  The Golden Knights didn't chase hits, either. Instead, the physicality was incorporated into their forecheck, and it was an element of Vegas' best stretches of the game. There's risk in being physical with the increased potential for penalties, but if the Golden Knights maintain discipline, physicality could be a factor once again.

Start strong

The Golden Knights were particularly effective early on in all four periods. They didn't score in the first period but had full control over the game. They scored in the first half of the second period and early in the third before scoring just 95 seconds into overtime.

In Game 1, Vegas trailed for a total of 10:33, including 1:16 at the tail end of the first period following Jason Robertson's goal and the first 9:17 of the second before William Karlsson lit the lamp. Even throughout those 10-plus minutes, the Golden Knights were controlling the game; that's something they need to try to replicate in Game 2.

However, scoring the first goal would go a long way.

Dallas managed to light the lamp first in Game 2 against Minnesota and Seattle; in fact, the Stars took 2-0 leads in both games.

The Stars have benefited greatly from getting on the board first; Dallas is 8-2 when taking a 1-0 lead and 0-4 when surrendering it.

That's something the Golden Knights need to take advantage of. Though giving up the first goal has not been a critical factor for Vegas, playing with a lead is better than chasing against a stingy defensive Stars club.

The Golden Knights have given up the first goal in nine of 12 postseason games and in six of their last seven; Vegas is 6-3 when the opposition scores first but a perfect 3-0 when opening the scoring.

If Dallas has yet to win when giving up the first goal and Vegas has yet to lose when scoring it, it seems like a decent opportunity for the Golden Knights to exploit. Of course, previous results only go so far, but if Vegas is able to get off to a strong start and capitalize on its chances, scoring first would seem to be a natural reward.

Contain DAL 1

Robertson, Roope Hintz and Joe Pavelski combined for seven points in Game 1; the only other point recorded by a Dallas player was the goal scored by Benn, which was assisted by Pavelski and Hintz.

The Stars' top-line trio has a combined 48 points in 14 games, and Pavelski's 12 have come in just nine.

This is one of the best lines in the game, and it's a threat every time it hits the ice. Dallas was able to get its top line on the ice when Karlsson's unit was on the bench, and it led to a goal. Much like the Edmonton power play, the Stars' top line's crisp passes and laser shot that found the back of the net happened very quickly.

The Golden Knights need to continue to hard-match the Karlsson line against the Hintz line, and everyone throughout the Vegas lineup needs to be diligent on every one of its shifts.

Projected lineups

Golden Knights

Ivan Barbashev – Jack Eichel – Jonathan Marchessault
Reilly Smith – William Karlsson – Nicolas Roy
Brett Howden – Chandler Stephenson – Mark Stone
William Carrier – Teddy Blueger – Keegan Kolesar

Alec Martinez – Alex Pietrangelo
Brayden McNabb – Shea Theodore
Nicolas Hague – Zach Whitecloud

Adin Hill
Jonathan Quick


Jason Robertson – Roope Hintz – Joe Pavelski
Mason Marchment – Max Domi – Tyler Seguin
Jamie Benn – Wyatt Johnston – Evgenii Dadonov
Joel Kiviranta – Radek Faksa – Luke Glendening

Ryan Suter – Miro Heiskanen
Esa Lindell – Colin Miller
Thomas Harley – Joel Hanley

Jake Oettinger
Scott Wedgewood

How to watch

Game 2: Golden Knights vs. Stars
When: 12 p.m. PT
Where: T-Mobile Arena
Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM

Schedule for 2023 Western Conference Final: Golden Knights vs. Stars
The Vegas Golden Knights will compete in the Western Conference Final for the fourth time in six seasons after eliminating the Edmonton Oilers in six games nearly a week ago. The third-round matchup against the Dallas Stars will begin Friday, May 19; if necessary, Game 7 will be May 31.