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3 takeaways: Knights stave off elimination, force Game 7 vs. Stars

Updated May 3, 2024 - 11:59 pm

Game 7. Dallas. Sunday.

The Golden Knights live to fight another day.

The Knights broke a scoreless tie midway through the third period to defeat the Dallas Stars 2-0 in Game 6 of their first-round series at T-Mobile Arena on Friday.

Goaltender Adin Hill made 23 saves for his third postseason shutout — all have come against the Stars — defenseman Noah Hanifin scored at 9:54 of the period, and captain Mark Stone sealed the game with an empty-netter to keep the Knights’ championship defense alive for at least one more game.

Game 7 will be at 4:30 p.m. Sunday at American Airlines Center in Dallas.

“It’s a veteran team here. All the guys have gone the distance, and they know what it takes to win,” Hanifin said. “I think it’s good to build some momentum off of tonight.”

The stage is set for the Knights’ fourth Game 7 in franchise history. They’re 2-1 in the winner-take-all games — a 5-4 overtime loss in 2019 against the San Jose Sharks, a 3-0 win over the Vancouver Canucks in 2020 and a 6-2 win against the Minnesota Wild in 2021.

The Knights needed every bit of desperate effort to force this final game.

For a 0-0 game through two periods, it was the best offensive game of the series.

Both teams traded chances, but both goalies stood tall in their respective creases.

Dallas goaltender Jake Oettinger made calm saves that reminded the rest of the hockey world why he’s in line to be the best goalie in the league some day.

Hill, meanwhile, turned back the clock to last spring and played his best game in about three months.

The Knights weren’t short on their chances. They had a 51-37 edge in shot attempts through two periods. Dallas blocked 16 of those shots in what was an unusually low-scoring affair.

It was another chapter in a series that has seen the margin of error be extremely thin.

“What a game for goaltenders. It’s a 0-0 game, and sometimes those are snoozefests,” coach Bruce Cassidy said. “It wasn’t tonight.”

It was going to take one shot to change the game. With just over 10 minutes remaining, the Knights got it.

Hanifin gathered the loose puck after the fourth line carried it in, kept it in the zone, circled around the right circle and beat Oettinger from the right faceoff dot.

Right wing Keegan Kolesar set the screen in front as Hanifin’s shot hit the top-left corner.

“That’s what it took to beat Oettinger tonight. One that I’m not sure he saw,” Cassidy said. “Good combination of play from those players on the ice.”

In a series in which offense has been hard to come by for the Knights, especially from the blue line, Hanifin has made a difference. It was his second goal and fifth point of the series.

Stone finished off the win with an empty-netter from the defensive blue line with 1:19 remaining.

This series has seen bizarre swings of momentum.

It began with the road team winning the first four games, to the Knights making a goalie change for Game 5 and losing their third straight, to the Knights staving off elimination by not scoring until the third period.

Three games have been decided by one goal. Three more have needed an empty-netter to end the game. The cumulative score is 15-14 Knights.

It’s fitting there’s one more game to go.

“We’ve played in big games before,” Stone said. “Everyone in this room has been in big games. We just have to put our best foot forward.”

Here are three takeaways from the win:

1. Hill’s save sequence

It was a night of big saves all game from last season’s Stanley Cup hero. Hill made three in a five-second run that kept the Stars off the board early in the second period.

Stars center Tyler Seguin forced a turnover at the blue line to spring a breakaway, but Hill made the stop. The puck kicked to left wing Evgenii Dadonov, but Hill stopped his chance, then Hill lunged to his right to stop Seguin from below the goal line.

“You need to make big saves at big times in games. That’s how you win playoff games,” Hill said. “Just kind of staying calm, staying the course and focusing on that next shot.”

Perhaps three months ago, Hill lets one of those in. He had an .875 save percentage in his final 16 appearances in the regular season.

He made big saves at the right time. He’s the reason why the Knights are still alive.

2. Fast start

Open ice hasn’t been available in this series, especially for the Knights at five-on-five.

Though they didn’t get on the board, it was the best offensive game of the series at five-on-five for the defending champions.

The Knights had a 25-14 edge in attempts and 10-6 on shots through the first 20 minutes. Considering no penalties were called until the second period, it was the perfect combination for the Knights to keep the momentum throughout the game.

3. Lockdown defense

The Knights allowed nothing after taking the lead in the third period.

They held Dallas to just two shots on goal in the final 10 minutes. The shots came from a combined 87 feet away from the net.

One thing the Knights have done well is shut things down when getting a lead. They did it in the first two games, but put on a master class Friday.

“I think we just stuck with it. We played to our game plan tonight,” Hanifin said. “Everybody contributed, and we fortunately got a big win for us tonight.”

Contact Danny Webster at dwebster@reviewjournal.com. Follow @DannyWebster21 on X.

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