Updated September 15, 2020 - 8:46 am
Had Max Pacioretty buried his scoring chance with about seven minutes remaining in the third period Monday, the outcome of Game 5 might have been different for the Golden Knights.
Dallas goaltender Anton Khudobin came up with one of his 34 saves to keep it a one-goal game, and the Stars tied the score a few minutes later.
Whether it was a timely stop or an opportunistic goal, Dallas executed at key points throughout the Western Conference Final and advanced with a 3-2 overtime victory over the Knights at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta.
”It’s that time of year: 1-nothing, 2-1 games,” coach Pete DeBoer said. “You have to be able to win them, and you have to be on the right side of them. There’s not a lot of room out there, and guys are playing for keeps.
“We were right there. It’s a very slim margin. We just couldn’t get a timely goal in order to put us in a position to be on the right side of that ledger.”
The Knights had multiple chances to tip the series in their favor but were unable to come through at critical junctures.
Dallas got the jump in Game 1 and had a 1-0 lead before the Knights knew what hit them. In Game 3, the Knights squandered a five-on-three advantage early in the third period before Jamie Benn put the Stars ahead. Alexander Radulov bagged the winning goal 31 seconds into overtime.
Another five-on-three for the Knights went by the wayside in the third period of Game 4, while Dallas’ Joe Pavelski and Benn sparked the Stars with second-period goals.
The Knights had a 2-0 lead midway through the third period Monday before Benn started the comeback and Joel Kiviranta converted on a power play with 3:47 remaining. Denis Gurianov clinched the series 3:36 into overtime on the power play, as well.
“Probably the last eight games, it felt like we were cursed around the net. Nothing was going in,” forward Reilly Smith said. “Our defense did a good job supplying a lot of the offense through that stretch, and as forwards, we just weren’t able to help our team out. It was timely situations. I feel like the onus is on us.
“We try to stay positive and stick to our game plan and keep grinding teams down, but it seemed like no matter what we were doing, it just wasn’t ending up in the back of the net.”
The Knights head home despite scoring one fewer goal than Dallas in the five games (9-8).
Jonathan Marchessault went the final 11 games without a goal, while Pacioretty was held without a goal in eight straight.
The Knights were 3-for-22 on the power play in the series and saw Dallas score on three of its final five power plays after starting 0-for-8.
”I felt even the games we lost here in the bubble, I felt we could win and we could have won,” DeBoer said. “We’ve got to learn some things from this about what works in the playoffs and how you score in the playoffs. I’m still getting used to and getting to know the group. But the goal of this team is to win a Stanley Cup, and they’re right in that window.”
Here are three more takeaways from the season-ending loss:
1. Stone plays through pain
Knights right wing Mark Stone turned in a gutty, captain-like performance despite not being close to 100 percent.
Stone blocked a shot with his right foot in the second period of Game 4 on Saturday and went to the locker room. He returned in the third and logged more than eight minutes of ice time, but was noticeably hobbled during a five-on-three advantage.
He was shown during warmups before Game 5 testing out the apparent injury and appeared to labor at times in the first period before settling in.
In 19:08 of ice time, Stone had a team-leading five shots on goal and nine shot attempts to go with four hits.
2. Fleury’s last prank?
Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury might have appeared in a Knights uniform for the final time. If so, he couldn’t resist going out with a smile.
At the end of warmups, Fleury laid the net flat on the ice and pushed it against the end boards to prevent the Stars from shooting at the empty net.
Marc-Andre Fleury once again makes sure the Stars aren't shooting towards his goal at the end of warmup. pic.twitter.com/HeGTWEJ5Qr
— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) September 14, 2020
Earlier in the series, the known jokester took the net off the moorings and turned it facing the boards to discourage Dallas’ Alexander Radulov, among others, from trying to score before leaving the ice.
Fleury played one game in the series and finished the postseason with a 3-1 record, 2.27 goals-against average and .910 save percentage. After Game 5, his agent, who also represents at least one player with Dallas, sent a tweet congratulating Stars coach Rick Bowness.
There were no swords involved.
3. Theodore’s final impression
Shea Theodore gave fans and media one more play to remember him by before he departed the bubble as a budding all-star.
The defenseman controlled a pass on his backhand and then whipped a long pass through the neutral zone to spring Chandler Stephenson on a breakaway for the first goal.
Theodore finished as the Knights’ leading scorer in the playoffs with 19 points, and his seven goals is tied with Tampa Bay’s Victor Hedman for the most among defensemen.
He leads the league with 80 shots on goal, 12 more than Anders Lee of the New York Islanders.