‘A game of mistakes’: Stars stumble in loss, face 2-0 deficit
LAS VEGAS — It wasn’t like the Dallas Stars didn’t address why they lost a second straight overtime game to the Vegas Golden Knights.
If anything? There was more of a conversation around the circumstances of the game-tying goal in their 3-2 overtime loss Sunday in Game 2 of the Western Conference final that sent the Stars to their first 0-2 series hole of these playoffs.
Stars defenseman Ryan Suter had possession behind the net only for Golden Knights center Jack Eichel to come from behind and steal possession. Eichel played a give-and-go pass up the wall to Ivan Barbashev before Eichel shoveled a no-look, backhanded pass to Jonathan Marchessault, who beat Suter in coverage, in the low slot for a shot he lifted above Stars goaltender Jake Oettinger‘s glove for a 2-2 tie with 2:22 left in the third.
Marchessault’s goal sent the game to overtime where Stars forward Wyatt Johnston nearly scored the game-winner 30 seconds into the frame before Chandler Stephenson grabbed the game-winning goal.
The Stars cleared the puck out of their defensive zone but were caught in the midst of a line change that gave the Golden Knights a 4-on-3 advantage. From there, Mark Stone passed it to Shea Theodore, who fired a shot on net that Oettinger initially saved before Stephenson collected the rebound for the game-winner.
“Definitely in the overtime for sure. Poor line change,” Stars coach Pete DeBoer said when asked about the smoothness in his team’s line changes in the series. “It’s a game of mistakes. They make a mistake, leave Johnston wide open in front of the net in overtime, too. It’s just they stuck it in.”
Both DeBoer and Suter spoke about what went wrong on Marchessault’s goal that allowed the Golden Knights to get back into the game.
Suter was the first to speak.
“Did you watch it?” Suter said to a reporter. “Then, you know what happened.”
He was then asked what he would have wanted to do differently in that situation.
“That’s for us to talk about,” Suter said. “Obviously, it wasn’t the right play and it ended up past us.”
As for DeBoer? He said he was “not going to start assigning blame” on around what happened on the game-tying goal.
“There’s mistakes made, and they cashed in, and they made a real good play,” DeBoer said. “Jack Eichel makes a world-class pass.”
Being in a 2-0 series hole is an unfamiliar role for the Stars. They opened their first-and second-round series against the Minnesota Wild and Seattle Kraken with overtime defeats in Game 1 before winning Game 2 en route to winning those respective series.
Yet what has been a familiar experience for the Stars this postseason has been the inability to find success in overtime. Stephenson’s game-winning goal condemned the Stars to what is now an 0-4 record in the extra frame this postseason.
How DeBoer spoke about the Stars’ effort in Game 2 was far different than how he sounded Friday after Game 1. DeBoer stressed that the Stars looked sharper Sunday than they did in the opener.
What Dallas achieved in the first two periods against Vegas was a reflection of what the Stars had done to reach the conference final. Entering Sunday, they led all postseason teams in the fewest scoring chances per 60 in 5-on-5 play while allowing the third-fewest shots in 5-on-5 play, per Natural Stat Trick.
The Stars limited the Golden Knights, who are sixth in shots per 60, to a combined 10 shots through the first 40 minutes.
So, what changed? The Golden Knights started gaining control of the puck while finding ways to maximize that control. In their first two periods, they had a 41 percent shot-share. But in the third period, the Golden Knights had a 63.4 percent shot-share which explains how they were able to break through for 12 shots despite not having any power-play chances.
After Game 1, DeBoer talked about why the Stars must find answers when it came to their overtime struggles.
Less than 48 hours later, overtime remains an equation the Stars are still trying to solve.
“We had a good chance right before they score,” Stars defenseman Miro Heiskanen said. “If we can capitalize on that and score on that, the series is 1-1. They got the bounce there and scored on that. Of course, it’s little details and tough bounces sometimes. But we have to go out there and attack and try to score goals.”