Updated September 14, 2020 - 10:01 pm
Golden Knights coach Pete DeBoer was so confident in his team Monday that he didn’t have a postgame speech prepared had they lost.
Midway through the third period, it appeared as though DeBoer wouldn’t need to say anything.
But the Knights were unable to get across the finish line and allowed three unanswered goals to lose 3-2 in overtime to the Dallas Stars in Game 5 of the Western Conference Final at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta.
Denis Gurianov fired in the winner on a power play 3:36 into the extra session to send the Stars to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2000. They will meet either Tampa Bay or the New York Islanders.
“We just could never get that next goal to extend a lead or get out in front enough in the series,” DeBoer said. “You have to give them credit. They won the net-fronts in both ends. They were better around their own net against our forwards, and they were better at our net making it tough on our defensemen.”
The Knights were trying to join the 2000 New Jersey Devils as the only teams to rally from a 3-1 deficit in the conference final, but couldn’t find enough offense to extend their season.
The Knights averaged 1.5 goals per game while losing six of their final eight games in the bubble. They dropped four one-goal games against the Stars and finished the series with a minus-1 goal differential.
Reilly Smith scored 15 seconds into the third period for his first goal in 11 games to put the Knights ahead 2-0.
But Jonathan Marchessault went 11 games without a goal, Max Pacioretty didn’t score in eight straight and Mark Stone, who didn’t appear to be 100 percent in Game 5, had one goal in his final eight postseason appearances.
The Knights now enter an offseason full of uncertainty, with the future of goaltenders Robin Lehner and Marc-Andre Fleury at the top of the list.
“It was a tight series. I think our team probably outplayed them for 90 percent of it, but they scored timely goals,” Smith said. “That’s just what cost us. We weren’t scoring. They were getting ugly goals in front of our net, and we weren’t doing that for them.”
The Knights’ penalty kill was stellar throughout the series, but couldn’t come through in overtime after defenseman Zach Whitecloud chipped the puck over the glass and was given a delay of game penalty.
The Stars mustered three shot attempts that didn’t find the net, but with the power play winding down, Gurianov fired a missile from the right circle that beat Lehner for his ninth goal of the postseason.
“They got a few bounces,” Lehner said. “They just throw pucks in there, and they’re good at battling in front.”
Dallas goaltender Anton Khudobin remained a leading candidate for the Conn Smythe Trophy and finished with 34 stops.
Stars captain Jamie Benn ignited a third-period comeback when he outmuscled defenseman Alec Martinez in front of the net and fired a shot past Lehner at 9:54 to cut the Knights’ lead to 2-1.
The Stars took advantage of a tripping penalty on Alex Tuch to tie the score with 3:47 remaining in regulation.
Lehner made a stop near the end of the power play, but Joel Kiviranta, who had a hat trick in Game 7 of the conference semifinals, cleaned up the rebound for his fourth goal of the postseason.
Dallas finished 2-for-4 with the man advantage after mustering one power-play goal in the first four games.
“I liked our penalty killing the entire series,” DeBoer said. “I don’t think tonight was a reflection of that. I think the overtime goal is one of those things, broken stick with a long change, you can’t get the guy off. They took advantage.”
The Knights hadn’t scored a first-period goal since Game 5 against Vancouver on Aug. 30, but Chandler Stephenson converted on a breakaway at 8:14 of the first period for a 1-0 lead.
Defenseman Shea Theodore’s outlet pass sent Stephenson in alone, and he tucked a backhand through Khudobin’s legs for his third goal of the postseason.
But the Knights were unable to hold the lead for the second straight game and saw their season end more than a year after they reported to training camp.
“I didn’t think that any game we gave away,” Stephenson said. “Towards the end here, it seemed we did everything right but score. That’s pretty much all it came down to.”
Game 1 — Stars 1, Golden Knights 0
Game 2 — Golden Knights 3, Stars 0
Game 3 — Stars 3, Golden Knights 2, OT
Game 4 — Stars 2, Golden Knights 1
Game 5 — Stars 3, Golden Knights 2, OT