Dallas Stars coach Pete DeBoer rattled off a list of improvements he saw his team make Sunday against the Golden Knights, from creating more scoring chances than they did in Game 1 to better puck management.
But the Stars head home with nothing to show for their effort.
A key turnover by veteran Dallas defenseman Ryan Suter led to the tying goal late in the third period, and the Stars lost 3-2 to the Knights in Game 2 of the Western Conference Final on Chandler Stephenson’s rebound goal 72 seconds into overtime.
The series continues Tuesday at American Airlines Center in Dallas with the Knights two wins away from playing for the Stanley Cup for the second time in franchise history.
“I really liked our game tonight. I thought we did a bunch of really good things, fixed a lot of things from Game 1,” DeBoer said. “If we play that type of game, then we’ve got a chance to win when we go home.”
Unlike the series opener when the Stars struggled to find their legs and lost in overtime, Dallas controlled the pace in Game 2 thanks to a tenacious forecheck. The Knights were limited to 10 shots on goal and 25 shot attempts through two periods, and Dallas led 2-1.
Stars defenseman Miro Heiskanen was credited with the first goal 2:47 into the game, and Jason Robertson answered Mark Stone’s power-play tally for the Knights with a goal on the man advantage midway through the second period.
But Dallas, which had been 8-0 in the playoffs when leading after two periods, couldn’t close out the resilient Knights.
Suter’s poor clearing attempt was intercepted by Knights forward Ivan Barbashev along the wall, and he quickly moved the puck down low to Jack Eichel. Suter and Evgenii Dadonov then spaced out in front of the net and failed to cover Jonathan Marchessault, who buried Eichel’s brilliant no-look feed to tie the game at 2 with 2:22 remaining in regulation.
”We played such a good game, made a mistake at the end, and it ended up in the back of our net,” Suter said. “We’ve got to find a way to come out of that with a win. We played a good game. You’ve got to forget about it, learn from it and move on.”
In the overtime, the Stars had a chance to win 30 seconds in when Joe Pavelski pounced on a loose puck behind the net and found Wyatt Johnston alone in the slot. But Knights goaltender Adin Hill made one of his 26 saves to keep the score tied.
Soon after, Stars goalie Jake Oettinger kicked out a shot from defenseman Shea Theodore, and Stephenson swooped in to bury the rebound.
”That’s part of the playoff journey. The teams that go deep find ways to win in overtime,” DeBoer said. “I thought Jack Eichel and Marchessault make a big-time play there to tie it. We respond. Our chance in overtime was as good or better than theirs. We’ve just got to stick them in the net.”
Dallas fell to 0-4 in overtime and lost consecutive games for the first time in the playoffs. Oettinger was 5-0 this postseason following a loss before Sunday.
The Stars are the fourth team in NHL history to allow goals in the first two minutes of overtime in consecutive playoff games, according to NHL public relations.
“We played a lot better today than in the first game. If we keep doing that, and of course clean up some mistakes, then we are going to be fine,” Heiskanen said. “We knew it’s going to be tight, and it’s tight for sure. Right now we have to take care of business and go home and get the two wins.”