Golden Knights keep rallying, lead Stars 2-0 with NHL West final moving to Dallas
DALLAS (AP) — The Golden Knights certainly know how to rally when they have fallen behind in these NHL playoffs because it has happened so much.
“We've got a thick skin,” Vegas coach Bruce Cassidy said. “It's veteran guys that know that one goal, getting scored on first, shouldn't dictate the rest of the game.”
Even though the Knights have trailed in 11 of their 13 games this postseason, including 10 times when the opposing team scored first, they have a 2-0 series lead over Dallas in the Western Conference Final. The Stars, who scored first in both of those road games before losing in overtime, host Game 3 on Tuesday night.
“Just trying to stick with our game,” Vegas center Jack Eichel said. “You know you're not going to be your best every night. But some nights when you’re not at your best, you find ways to win hockey games. ... You just keep working and you hope you get a bounce or someone makes a play.”
That was true Sunday in Game 2, when Eichel's slick backhand pass late in regulation after a Dallas turnover set up Jonathan Marchessault's tying goal. And when Chandler Stephenson made a game-winner 1:12 into overtime by knocking in a rebound during a sloppy line change by the Stars.
“We could have won both games,” Dallas coach Pete DeBoer said. “I don’t think it’s less troubling that we lost both games in overtime. ... There’s mistakes made, and they cashed in.”
The Knights' current streak of four consecutive comeback victories matches the longest in NHL playoff history — they are 8-3 overall after falling behind, and 7-3 when surrendering the game's first goal. Their two wins over Dallas made them only the fourth team to score in the opening two minutes of overtime in consecutive games in the same postseason.
Their plus-30 goal differential in the first period during the regular season trailed only East finalist Carolina, and they were only a plus-12 combined the rest of those games. The Knights have been outscored by seven goals in the first period during the postseason.
“Now in the playoffs, it seems like we’re chasing a bit," Cassidy said. “Yet, I don’t think we played poorly in the first period in a lot of games.”
Dallas has back-to-back losses for the first time since mid-March. The Stars became the first team ever with OT losses in three consecutive series openers in the same postseason, but didn't rebound with a win in Game 2 against Vegas like they did against Minnesota and Seattle.
"We’ve got a really resilient group,” Suter said. “Everyone showed up to play (Sunday) after Game 1 wasn’t very impressive. And then guys got it together. And now we need to go home and have that same effort.”
The Stars franchise overcame an 0-2 deficit in its very first best-of-seven NHL series, when the Minnesota North Stars rallied to beat the Los Angeles Kings in the first round of the 1968 playoffs. The Stars have since lost their last 12 series when falling in an 0-2 hole, six while still in Minnesota and six in Dallas, the last a first-round series against Anaheim in 2014.
The Stars went 8-14 in games that went past regulation in the regular season, two of those shootout wins while sweeping all three of their games against Vegas. Dallas is now 0-4 in overtime this postseason.
“The teams that go deep find ways to win in overtime,” DeBoer said.
Vegas is two wins away from getting to the Stanley Cup Final for the second time in the franchise's six seasons. The Knights made it in their inaugural 2017-18 season, when they beat the Washington Capitals in the opener, then lost four in a row.
“This year we have the best team we've ever had, I think. Not only on paper. The way we play is the biggest thing, and we’re playing good hockey right now,” said Marchessault, a Golden Knight from the very beginning. “The first year, no one thought we were going to win against Winnipeg in the semifinals, and we won. We thought that we hit our stride and we won the first game in the final and we lose four in a row. So there’s so much more work to do.”
Marchessault and the Knights aren't going to get ahead of themselves.
AP Sports Writer Mark Anderson in Las Vegas contributed to this report.
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Stephen Hawkins, The Associated Press