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Golden Knights stymied again, face 3-1 series deficit

Updated September 12, 2020 - 9:56 pm

Robin Lehner collapsed to the ice during the second period Saturday, shaken up from a shot that the Golden Knights goaltender stopped with his neck.

When he got to his skates, Lehner had a noticeable welt from the encounter with Alexander Radulov’s one-timer.

Much like their goalie, the Knights were left damaged and bruised following a 2-1 defeat to the Dallas Stars in Game 4 of the Western Conference Final at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta.

“We all got to find a way here to be a little bit better,” Lehner said.

The Knights’ offensive frustration against Stars goaltender Anton Khudobin continued to mount as the stingy Stars moved one victory from playing for the Stanley Cup.

After squandering a 3-1 series lead to San Jose last postseason, the Knights must mount a similar comeback to advance.

History is against the Knights, as 34 of 35 teams that have had a 3-1 lead in the conference finals have gone on to win the series. The 2000 New Jersey Devils are the only team to pull off the feat and went on to win the Stanley Cup.

“We’ve been here before,” coach Pete DeBoer said. “We were in the exact situation against Vancouver with a goalie (Thatcher Demko) playing like this and a team playing like this. We stuck with it long enough to get through that.

“For me, it’s perseverance. We’ll work on some things, look at what we can do a little bit better.”

The Knights were unable to pull the Stars out of their defensive shell despite scoring first and were stymied by Khudobin for the third time in the series.

He finished with 32 stops and has allowed six goals in four games.

Defenseman Alec Martinez scored a power-play goal in the second period, but the Knights couldn’t convert on a five-on-three advantage for 1:10 in the third period despite three shots on goal.

Forward Mark Stone played the third period in visible pain after he blocked a shot in the second and returned to the locker room.

“It’s frustrating, but we have to stick to our game plan,” forward Reilly Smith said. “Getting negative and squeezing your stick too tight isn’t going to help anyone. Stick to our game plan, a little more urgency on pucks when we do find them. We just have to find a way right now.”

The Knights had a 22-6 advantage in shots on goal after Martinez’s drive from the top of the right circle at 7:44 of the second beat Khudobin and appeared to be in control before the Stars rallied with two goals.

The Knights were 10-1 when scoring first in the postseason before Saturday.

“There’s been lulls in our game,” Martinez said. “But I think we’ve been doing a lot of good things and generating opportunities. I think throughout a series or a game you’re going to face adversity. Right now, our back’s against the wall. It’s no secret.”

Stars forward Andrew Cogliano pressured defenseman Nate Schmidt into a turnover in the Knights’ zone, and Joe Pavelski’s backhand deflected off Schmidt’s stick and over Lehner’s shoulder to tie the game at 11:34 of the second.

Dallas captain Jamie Benn potted the go-ahead goal with 58.3 seconds remaining in the period when he pounced on a loose puck in the slot during a power play and beat Lehner, who had 18 saves.

The Knights had killed off 22 straight penalties dating to Game 4 of the conference semifinals against Vancouver.

“I thought the two penalties we took in the second period probably took us out of the rhythm that I felt we were in early in that second period,” DeBoer said.

The Knights continued to generate more scoring chances (29-22) and high-danger chances (15-12), according to NaturalStatTrick.com, and finished with a 68-38 advantage in shot attempts.

But the Knights also missed the net on 19 attempts, which included two posts hit, and didn’t register a shot on goal during the final 3:52.

Khudobin has stopped 124 of 130 shots in the series.

“It seems that it’s just a mad scramble and we’re not finding loose pucks,” Smith said. “As a forward group, we’ve got to do a better job finding some of those pucks and scoring some goals because we can’t rely on our defense to score every goal for us every single night.”

Contact David Schoen at dschoen@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5203. Follow @DavidSchoenLVRJ on Twitter.

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