Golden Knights lose 2-1 in shootout to Stars, lock up home-ice in first round

Golden Knights lose 2-1 in shootout to Stars, lock up home-ice in first round

The Vegas Golden Knights fell just short in a tightly-checked game, falling 2-1 in a shootout to the Dallas Stars Saturday afternoon at American Airlines Center.

With the point from Saturday's contest, the Golden Knights can finish no lower than second place in the Pacific, which ensures home-ice advantage in at least the first round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Golden Knights, who have 107 points through 80 games, had a chance to clinch the division title, but Edmonton won a lopsided game against San Jose, thus keeping the Oilers in the hunt. Edmonton owns the first tiebreaker between these clubs.

The Golden Knights may have to finish up the regular season down another man, though, as Zach Whitecloud suffered a concerning injury in the third period that required him to be helped off the ice and down the tunnel.

First period

The Golden Knights took a 1-0 lead late in the first period when the fourth line took advantage of a sleepy shift by Dallas. Keegan Kolesar set up Brett Howden on a breakaway, and he made no mistake, beating Stars netminder Jake Oettinger for his sixth goal of the season.

Ben Hutton recorded the secondary assist on the play, giving him five points in his last six games.

Phil Kessel scored, but the goal did not stand as it went off his glove before entering the net.

It was an excellent opening frame by the Golden Knights, who kept Dallas to the perimeter and led 7-1 in high-danger chances, according to Natural Stat Trick.

Second period

The Stars evened things up with the lone goal of the frame, as Joel Kiviranta scored just under 13 minutes into the period on a 2-on-1.

The Golden Knights otherwise played well despite Dallas' push to get the equalizer, getting sticks on pucks consistently, winning board battles and protecting the slot and net-front.

Vegas also killed off two penalties in convincing fashion.

Third period

Neither team was able to break through in the third, though both teams had strong stretches. The Golden Knights led 3-0 in high-danger chances.

However, the Stars' most promising opportunity came on an empty net but was thwarted by a spectacular block by Brayden McNabb, who saved the goal while Jonathan Quick tried to dive back into position.

Eventually, both teams shut things down, playing conservative hockey in a low-scoring affair.

However, the Golden Knights came out on the losing end of the third period, as Whitecloud suffered what looked like an ugly knee injury. Roope Hintz was checked into Whitecloud and landed on Whitecloud's bent leg on the ice.

Whitecloud had to be helped off the ice and down the tunnel.

Bruce Cassidy said Whitecloud was "doing OK" after the game. "We're all hopeful it looked worse than it may turn out to be, but we won't know until we get home. Right now, the news was OK, I guess, but they'll have to look at him tomorrow."

Whitecloud missed extended time with a knee injury (to his other knee) earlier this season. Vegas is already missing Shea Theodore and has relied heavily on a healthy defense corps during the club's turnaround coming out of the All-Star break.

Extra time

Overtime was more wide-open, with both teams trading chances.

It started with Chandler Stephenson using his speed and following up on a rebound. However, his wraparound chance was denied by Joe Pavelski, who saved the game for Dallas.

Then, Max Domi hit the post.

Vegas responded with a post of its own, this time by Reilly Smith, which kicked off a particularly impressive shift. After hitting the post, Smith battled a Stars defender to keep the play alive and maintain control of the puck. He set up several chances, got another shot attempt off, won the race to the puck and tried to set up William Karlsson with a between-the-legs pass. Though the pass was intercepted, it was a valiant effort with the extra point on the line.

In the end, a shootout was required for the second time in three games in this year's season series.

The Golden Knights failed to beat Oettinger, though Paul Cotter forced him to make an incredible toe save to seal the win.

The only player to light the lamp was Hintz, who recorded the game-winner in the second round.

The Golden Knights played a very strong defensive game and lost to another top team in the Western Conference. The Golden Knights finished the season series without a win, going 0-1-2 in three games. Oettinger remains undefeated against Vegas.

"I loved our effort," Cassidy said after the game. "The [defense] really had to play hard against some big bodies going to the net all night. It's a good point. You always want the other one. In overtime, I thought we had some looks, one rung off the bar. [The Stars] finished one in the shootout, we didn't. So credit to them, but I thought it was a good hockey game."

Quick stopped 24 of 25 shots for a .960 save percentage. The two teams combined for just 45 shots, and Quick only faced five high-danger chances, according to Natural Stat Trick. However, it marked his first start with Vegas in which he gave up fewer than three goals since shutting out Carolina on March 11.

The Golden Knights were strong through the neutral zone, played very well on the boards, kept Dallas to the perimeter and had an especially strong penalty kill.

The power play was out of sorts once again one game after a marked improvement. That was partly due to the absence of Jack Eichel – who is day-to-day with a lower-body injury – as the zone entries suffered without him. Though Dallas has the third-ranked penalty kill in the league, the Golden Knights' power play continues to search for consistency.

The Golden Knights will wrap up the regular season with a home-and-home against Seattle on Tuesday and Thursday.