NHL: Western Conference Games 3-4 Recap

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Dallas Stars goalie Anton Khudobin (35) kneels on the ice after giving up a goal to Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Shea Theodore, not seen, as Golden Knights’ Reilly Smith (19) and Jonathan Marchessault (81) celebrate during the third period of Game 3 of the NHL hockey Western Conference final, Thursday, Sept. 10, 2020, in Edmonton, Alberta. Photo by Jason Franson/The Canadian Press via AP.

This past weekend, The Vegas Golden Knights and Dallas Stars played Games 3 and 4 of the Western Conference Final and Dallas won both to take a 3-1 stranglehold on the best-of-seven series.  

On Thursday during Game 3, with the series tied at 1-1, both teams played a bend-but-don’t-break style of hockey until Stars defenseman Jamie Oleksiak broke the scoreless tie with 17 seconds left in the second period. From there, both teams traded goals until the game was tied 2-2 at the end of regulation; Shea Theodore and Mark Stone scored for Vegas while captain Jamie Benn scored for Dallas. It didn’t take long in overtime for Stars winger Alexander Radulov to wire a perfect shot from the hash marks past Robin Lehner and give his team the 2-1 series lead.  

Saturday night’s Game 4 saw many of the same themes for the Golden Knights who’ve been struggling to score against Dallas’ suffocating defensive structure. At 7:44 of the second period, Vegas defenseman Alec Martinez (who has a knack for scoring big goals in the playoffs), opened the scoring with a power-play slap shot. Less than five minutes later, former Sharks captain, Joe Pavelski tied the game up with a backhand shot he snuck past Lehner. Then, with less than a minute left in the second period, Jamie Benn’s power-play goal gave the Stars a 2-1 lead they would not give up.  

Dallas Stars’ Jamie Benn (14) celebrates his goal against the Vegas Golden Knights with Alexander Radulov (47), Joel Hanley (39) and others during the third period of Game 3 of the NHL hockey Western Conference final, Thursday, Sept. 10, 2020, in Edmonton, Alberta. Photo by Jason Franson/The Canadian Press via AP.

The Stars are extremely tough to beat right now. Their goaltending has been fantastic (Anton Khudobin is 11-6 with a .918 save percentage and 2.67 goals-against-average), and their offense has come up big with contributors up and down the lineup. The Stars are the only team remaining with four players with seven or more goals. The only slight cause for concern with Dallas is that their star defenseman, Miro Heiskanen, remains quiet offensively this series. He has only one assist in four games against Vegas while he had collected 16 in the two previous rounds. That being said, Heiskanen is a +2 in the series and still leads his team in point scoring with five goals and 17 assists throughout the Stars playoff run.  

The Golden Knights continue to be let down by their secondary scoring. Their top scorers, Mark Stone and Shea Theodore have delivered this series with a combined two of Vegas’s six goals in through four games. Now that Stone’s status for Game 5 is in doubt, Vegas will need to get more production from elsewhere in their lineup. The problem appears to be that Vegas is generating shots, but mostly low-quality shots. They have taken 40 or more shots in five games throughout the playoffs and lost all five; that says they’re shooting and hoping to score rather than shooting with purpose.  

Game 5 will be played on Monday, Sept. 14 at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.  

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