The Dallas Stars are heading back to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2000 after eliminating the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 5 of the Western Conference Final. Anton Khudobin stood tall as he backstopped the Stars to a Game 5 victory. But the real hero was Denis Gurianov who scored in overtime as the Stars defeated the Golden Knights by a score of 3-2 and win the series 4-1. Who would have thought before the series started that it was going to be the Stars winning this series in five games? Well, the forgotten team in the Western Conference is now off the Stanley Cup Final.
Denis Gurianov Sends The Dallas Stars To The Stanley Cup Final
Another Epic Goal Duel
From the start of Game 5, it was another goalie battle between Anton Khudobin and Robin Lehner. Both goalies brought their A-games. Especially Khudobin who again continued to get peppered from the offence of the Vegas Golden Knights. But Khudobin was equal to the task. It is like the kryptonite for the Golden Knights offence is a hot goaltender. Khudobin was there at every turn as he robbed several Golden Knights players in the second period. With the Golden Knights up 1-0 after a goal by Chandler Stephenson, and Vegas was looking for more Khudobin came up with some big saves stopping Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty. With the Golden Knights pressing the Stars in the second period, Khudobin was very aggressive in his positioning. He made sure to keep his team within striking distance.
Robin Lehner had another game for the ages for the Golden Knights. He did not face as many shots as Khudobin did as the Golden Knights were dictating play for most of the game. It is clear even with the Golden Knights trailing in the series, Lehner was the guy that was going to be in between the pipes. Earlier in the third period, Lehner was tested as Jamie Benn set up Tyler Seguin, but Lehner was equalled to the task. Lehner’s save allowed the Golden Knights to go down the other way and score to increase their lead to 2-0 on a goal by Reilly Smith. Regardless of what you think of the decision to start Lehner, he has been awesome these playoffs for the Golden Knights.
Dictating Pace of Play
One of the main reasons the Golden Knights had one of their best games of the series is because they were playing with nothing to lose. Sure if the Golden Knights lost they would have been eliminated from the playoffs. But having the pressure being off allowed them to dictate the pace of play. From the opening puck drop, the Golden Knights had the Stars on their heals. Like always their fourth line started and kept the physicality going from Game 4. Know more so than the hit delivered by Ryan Reaves on Stars defenceman Esa Lindell. Reaves has been a force for the Golden Knights all playoffs long. He continues to make an impact for the Golden Knights.
The Golden Knights play best when they are dictating play. Through four games, it has been the Stars dictating play. However, in Game 5, it was the Golden Knights turn to enforce their will on the series. While Vegas won Game 2, but they still allowed Dallas to dictate play at times. In Game 5, it was all Golden Knights. Each line was moving their feet and beating the opposition to loose pucks. Throughout the entire game, the Golden Knights were swarming Stars netminder Anton Khudobin. But in this game, the Golden Knights did not let Khudobin get in their heads as they just coming and coming. With Vegas rolling all four lines, it did not give the Stars time to breathe in their defensive zone. And the Vegas was most deadly off the rush. That is where they controlled play best. It definitely was the best game of the series for Vegas.
Unfortunately for Vegas, it was too little too late as the Stars were able to capitalize on their chances to advance to the Stanley Cup Final
Changes In Momentum
Leading 2-0, the Golden Knights got away from their system. Instead of playing an attacking style, they went into prevent defence. This allowed the Stars’ top line of Benn, Seguin, and Alexander Radulov to go to work. Benn cut the lead in half scoring midway through the third period. From there it was all Stars. Even though the Golden Knights led by one goal, the Stars were able to change momentum just like that. And all it took was a goal from the top line. Throughout the playoffs, when the Stars have been out of games all it took was one goal for them to be back in it. All the Stars needed was a slight opening and they took it. Late in the third period with the Stars on the power-play, Joel Kiviranta tied the game at 2-2.
That decision to change strategies in the third period with a 2-0 lead proved to be costly. They allowed the Stars back in the game and ultimately cost them the series. Finding new life in the third period, the Stars controlled the play offensively as they pinned the Golden Knights in their own zone. But as we have seen all playoffs long the Dallas Stars are a relentless team that will not go away. The Golden Knights found that out first hand. The cardiac kids of the Western Conference proved again that no lead is too big for them. With all the momentum in the Stars favour, Dallas had another power play in overtime. This time Denis Gurianov got the goal to win the game and end the series.
No Room For Error
There was no room for error out there for the Golden Knights. With their season on the line, the Golden Knights looked like the team that was the favourite to win the Stanley Cup. Entering Game 5, the statistics did not favour the Golden Knights. Teams leading the 3-1 in the Conference Finals have a 34-1 series record since Conference Finals play began in 1982. The only team to come back from a lead 3-1 in the Conference Finals with the New Jersey Devils in 2000 against the Philadelphia Flyers. So when Vegas took the ice they knew that any mistake in Game 5 was going to be costly. That is why the Golden Knights played like a team not afraid to lose Game 5. However, in the third period, the Golden Knights played not to lose and it cost them.
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