The Vegas Golden Knights are looking to find their offense as they head into Game 2 of the Western Conference finals with the Dallas Stars on Tuesday night in Edmonton.
The top-seeded Golden Knights were shut out for the second time in three games in Sunday night’s Game 1 as Dallas goaltender Anton Khudobin stopped 25 shots while picking up his first career playoff shutout in a 1-0 victory.
Vegas, which managed just one shot on goal during one 15 1/2-minute stretch in the second period, has prided itself on rolling out four productive lines and got off to high-scoring start to the postseason, scoring 15 goals in three round-robin wins and 15 more in its five-game first round series victory over the Chicago Blackhawks. The Golden Knights then followed that up with another 15 goals while taking a 3-1 series lead in their second round matchup with Vancouver.
But dating back to William Karlsson’s goal at the 8:29 mark in the third period of a 5-3 win over the Canucks in Game 4, Vegas forwards have only managed two empty-net goals — both at the end of Friday’s Game 7 against Vancouver — over a span of 251 minutes and 31 seconds. Meanwhile, defenseman Shea Theodore scored twice during that span.
Golden Knights coach Peter DeBoer believes goals will continue to be at a premium in what figures to be a physical and tight-checking series with the Stars.
“They were exactly what we expected them to be,” DeBoer said. “They were one or two in the league in all the defensive analytics all year. They play a hard, heavy game. They make you work for your offense.
“This is going to be a different series, and we’re going to have to get our head around that and find a way to create offense. It’s not going to look or feel like the Chicago series or the Vancouver series.”
Although both teams were coming off emotional Game 7 second round victories on Friday — Dallas defeated Colorado, 5-4, in overtime while Vegas blanked Vancouver 3-0 — the Stars looked like the fresher team in Game 1. Dallas held Vegas to just 12 shots on goal and 20 shot attempts over the first two periods.
“It just took us too long to get into the game, took us too long to get that energy, that fire, that bravado that you need to play in these types of games,” Vegas defenseman Nate Schmidt said. “You’re in the final four. Every team is good.”
The Golden Knights could get a lift with the return of Ryan Reaves. The fourth-line forward served a one-game suspension in Game 1 for his illegal check to the head of Canucks forward Tyler Motte in the Game 7 win on Friday.
“He brings physicality, but he brings energy to our group too,” DeBoer said.
Dallas scored on its first shot on goal when defenseman John Klingberg scooped up a loose puck in the slot and fired a wrist shot past Marc-Andre Fleury for his third goal of the playoffs. That was all Khudobin, who turned aside 13 shots in the third period, and the Stars needed.
“(Khudobin) stepped up today and played a great game for us,” Klingberg said. “He won the game for us. I think we gave them a little too much life in the third period, but we’ll take it. We’ll move on and we’re up 1-0.”
“I know we only scored one goal, (but) we had lots of opportunities tonight and Fleury was outstanding for them as Khudobin was for us,” said coach Rick Bowness. “But that’s Dallas Stars hockey.”
–Field Level Media