Max Domi wrapped Ty Dellandrea in a bear hug as the two Dallas Stars celebrated behind the Golden Knights’ net Saturday.
The Stars got knocked to the ground in the first three games of the Western Conference Final. They’re starting to hold each other up again. The results sent nervous energy pulsating throughout the announced crowd of 18,546 at T-Mobile Arena.
The Golden Knights, once up 3-0 in the series, will need to travel to Dallas for the second time after giving up two third-period goals in Game 5 to lose 4-2.
History remains on their side given only four teams in NHL history, and none in the round before the Stanley Cup Final, have been eliminated after taking a 3-0 lead. That doesn’t change the feeling that the Knights have missed two strong opportunities to end things, while Dallas is starting to gain confidence as play continues.
“There’s no doubt in here,” defenseman Alec Martinez said. “There’s frustration, obviously. You want to close out a series. Again, I think the Dallas Stars are a really good hockey team. This is that time of year. They’re playing really well, and we’ve got to match their urgency and desperation.”
The Knights, following a similar script to their 3-2 overtime loss in Game 4, took 1-0 and 2-1 leads Saturday.
Left wing Ivan Barbashev scored on a gritty drive to the net with 6:24 left in the first period. Center Chandler Stephenson put the Knights ahead again 3:20 into the second.
The two leads lasted for a total of 3:57. Right wing Luke Glendening equalized for the Stars in the first, then left wing Jason Robertson tied the game again in the second with his fifth goal of the series.
The Knights still entered the third period one goal away from reaching their second Stanley Cup Final for the second straight game. They couldn’t find it.
Instead, it was Dallas that pushed through with two third-period goals from Dellandrea. The 22-year-old’s first goal gave the Stars a 3-2 lead with 9:25 remaining in the third. His second came 1:27 later to give his team some cushion.
“I don’t think we’ve brought our best the last two games, but we’ve still been in a spot to win the game,” captain Mark Stone said. “Definitely got to bring a little bit better effort, start playing more desperate with a chance to wrap it up.”
The Knights will need to find a way to regroup after losing consecutive games for the first time this postseason.
Dallas’ offense has turned the pressure up, as the Stars had a 15-10 edge in high-danger scoring chances at five-on-five, according to the website Natural Stat Trick. Goaltender Adin Hill made 30 saves — several of them spectacular — to keep things close.
What bothered coach Bruce Cassidy more than anything was the Knights’ carelessness with the puck. They were credited with 24 giveaways. They averaged 6.5 per game in the regular season and 8.3 their first 15 playoff games.
That’s something, along with their breakouts, they need to clean up if they want to advance.
“I’m not sure you’re beating the Arizona Coyotes in January with 24 giveaways, no disrespect to Arizona,” Cassidy said. “It’s not the right way to play. Twenty-four giveaways. We’re trying to go to the Stanley Cup Final against a desperate team. So, to me, it’s the whole game right there.”
Here are three takeaways from the loss:
1. Hill’s performance
Hill allowed four goals for only the second time in eight starts in the playoffs, but that doesn’t do justice to the way he played.
A few of his saves were some of his best of the season. He made a spectacular glove save on Stars center Roope Hintz, the NHL’s leading scorer this postseason, 8:46 into the first period. T-Mobile Arena’s sound system played the late Tina Turner’s “The Best” in response.
That might not have even been Hill’s best stop. He made an incredible diving save on left wing Joel Kiviranta 1:04 into the third. He made two stops on rush attempts from rookie Wyatt Johnston that were impressive, too.
2. Stars depth steps up
Glendening and Dellandrea gave the Stars three goals from their bottom-six forwards Saturday.
Captain Jamie Benn — who will return in Game 6 after serving a two-game suspension for cross-checking Stone — previously was the only player not on Dallas’ top line or pair to score in this series.
The Knights’ advantage down the lineup was a major reason why they were able to jump out to a 3-0 lead. The Stars will get deeper with Benn’s return — and if Dellandrea gains confidence after being a healthy scratch in Games 1 and 2.
3. Stephenson ties record
Stephenson’s goal was his eighth of the playoffs, tied with right wing Jonathan Marchessault and center William Karlsson for the most on the team.
That’s also tied for the franchise record for the most in a single postseason with Marchessault’s eight from 2018 and Alex Tuch’s eight from 2020.