Jason Franson / The Canadian Press via AP
Published Friday, Sept. 11, 2020 | 3:01 a.m.
Updated Friday, Sept. 11, 2020 | 5:05 a.m.
Twice, the Golden Knights scored to tie the game in the third period on Thursday. Twice, they scratched and clawed, firing puck after puck at the net to pull even with the Dallas Stars in the Western Conference Final.
They controlled the third period to earn the right to try to win Game 3 in overtime. But 31 seconds into overtime, the comeback was over.
Overtime lasted one shift and only needed one shot, when Alexander Radulov’s snipe from the right circle went under Golden Knights goalie Robin Lehner’s stick, hit off the far post and into the back of the net for a 3-2 defeat. The Stars hold a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven game series.
“We just didn’t capitalize on our chances,” Vegas forward Mark Stone said. “We had opportunities to win the game, just a little breakdown in overtime.”
It’s a gut-punch loss for the Golden Knights, who certainly had to like their chances going to overtime after third-period goals from Shea Theodore and Stone evened the score.
They out-attempted the Stars 37-9 in the third period alone, and erased two Dallas leads, although never grabbing one of their own. To add to the mojo, Lehner made a sprawling save as time expired in the third to prevent a buzzer-beating game-winner for Dallas.
“Territorially we had the puck most of the last two games,” Stone said. “They collapse. They do a good job of getting five tight, and we’ve got a find a way to spread them out and get bodies to the net.”
Dallas scored first at the end of the second period when a Stone shot attempt went off Dallas defenseman Jamie Oleksiak’s skate and the other way, leading to Oleksiak scoring on a breakaway with 16.7 seconds remaining in the period.
“They upped their compete level after the first and pushed us back a little bit,” Vegas coach Peter DeBoer said. “I just think a real good team gave us a real good push in the second period, and I liked our response in the third.”
Theodore continued his breakout postseason with his seventh goal and team-best 18th point. It came on the power play, the 11th power-play goal of the postseason for Vegas, and Theodore has scored or assisted on eight of them.
After Jamie Benn gave Dallas a 2-1 lead, Stone scored at the 12:46 mark to tie the game back up.
“It was one of those nights they were opportunistic and that’s what they are,” DeBoer said. “Puck got on the wrong guys’ stick in the wrong spots for us. Benn and Radulov with a little bit of room and those guys stick pucks in the net when they get those looks.”
This is only the second time in eight all-time postseason series where the Golden Knights trailed after three games. The other was the 2018 Stanley Cup Final, where the Capitals went on to win in five games.
Vegas is facing an uphill battle this series for really the first time this postseason. It speaks to the Golden Knights’ talent that it’s taken until the conference final for them to be trailing at all in a series, much less after three games.
“Obviously it’s frustrating but we’re not going to throw ourselves a pity-party,” forward Alex Tuch said. “No matter how much we felt like we should have won that game, we didn’t. And now we’ve got to move on to Game 4.”