Stars Defeat the Golden Knights, the Reigning Champions, in Game 7

At American Airlines Center on Sunday, the Dallas Stars defeated the reigning champion Vegas Golden Knights 2-1 in Game 7 of the Western Conference First Round.

After dropping Games 1 and 2 at home, Dallas, the top-seeded team in both the Central Division and Western Conference, won four of the next five games to seal the series victory.

“Really wanted to win this series. We wanted our turn,” Coach Pete DeBoer of the Stars stated,  “We felt we did all the right things all year to get the first seed, and then you draw a team like Vegas. I honestly think they’ve got a deeper team than they had last year. To plow through the adversity of being down 2-0, there’s a lot to unpack.”

In the second round, the Stars will play the Colorado Avalanche, who defeated the Winnipeg Jets in five games.

“There’s probably a lot of doubters out there after Game 2, that probably thought we couldn’t come back. A lot of believers in this room, in this organization,” stated Jamie Benn, the captain of Dallas. “We played two pretty good games in the first two and we felt we were the better team. Fortunately, we came out on top.”

For the Stars, Jake Oettinger made 22 saves while Wyatt Johnston and Radek Faksa scored.

“[DeBoer] has a message that’s worked for many different groups of guys. For us, it was we felt like we had been the better team the whole series. If we played our best game, I think we would be happy with the outcome,”  stated Oettinger. “The focus on the defensive side of the game is what I was really impressed with from the message. If we take care of our own end, those 50-50 plays, if we go to the defensive side like he was talking about, we were going to score. We have a lot of great guys that can put the puck in the net.”

The Golden Knights, the second wild card from the Western Conference, were led by Brett Howden in scoring and Adin Hill in saves with 22.

“I think going into this series as an eight seed playing the top team in the conference, you expect it to be a long series,” stated Vegas captain Mark Stone. “We would have liked to have gotten a game at home there in Games 3 and 4. At the end of the day, we gave ourselves a chance in Game 7 to win the series against a very good hockey team. We didn’t get it done. We felt like we definitely had a team that had a chance to go on a long run.”

At 14:34 in the first quarter, Johnston gave Dallas the lead 1-0 when he scored from the high slot after Shea Theodore attempted a clearing play. Shortly after Vegas striker Jonathan Marchessault struck the post with a wide-open net, the goal was scored. Johnston stated, “[I’m] just trying to do whatever I can to help the team win, whatever that is.” “If that’s a penalty kill, if it’s blocking a shot, if that’s just getting the puck out. Trying to do my part, that’s the focus for me. It takes everyone to win a series.”

At 15:25 of the second half, Howden equalized the score with a quick backdoor feed from Michael Amadio at the left post.

Defenseman Alex Pietrangelo of the Golden Knights stated, “I think we had spurts throughout the series, but I don’t think we ever got to that level that we wanted to.” “We weren’t giving up much, they weren’t scoring much. They got a few fortunate bounces along the way, they made some good plays. I think both teams played well defensively. Our two goalies (Logan Thompson) and their goalie played well, too. It’s just two real good teams going at it.”

44 seconds into the third frame, Faksa’s goal gave the Stars a 2-1 lead once more. He deflected Alec Martinez’s shot with a backhand from the right circle after Craig Smith kicked a pass to his stick.

Bruce Cassidy, a coach in Vegas, stated, “Coaches always want to get to another level.” “We got to our game at times and so did they. I don’t think either team could sit here and say they were dominating the series or truly at their best the whole time. I thought Game 6 (a 2-0 win) was our best game, and I would hope that would bleed into today, but it didn’t. It wasn’t enough.”