For the first time since 2000, the Dallas Stars are one win away from reaching the Stanley Cup Final.
It’s been 21 years since the Stars won it all in 1999, and after Saturday night’s, 2-1, victory over the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 4 of the 2020 Western Conference Final, Dallas is five wins away from raising the Cup for what would be the second time in franchise history.
All of the scoring occurred in the second period of Saturday night’s game as Alec Martinez kicked things off for Vegas with a power-play goal and a, 1-0, lead at 7:44 of the middle frame before Joe Pavelski (9) lucked out on a shot that fluttered off of Nate Schmidt’s stick and over the shoulders of Robin Lehner– tying the game, 1-1, in the process at 11:34.
Late in the second period, Jamie Benn notched his seventh goal of the postseason while on the power play for the eventual game-winning goal as the Stars took the lead, 2-1, at 19:01 of the second period.
Dallas leads the series 3-1 and can make the 2020 Stanley Cup Final with a win in Game 5 on Monday (8 p.m. ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS).
1. Vegas is doing that thing again.
The Golden Knights opened the night with the lead in shots on goal, 13-5, after one period, then, 24-14, through two periods and finally, 33-20, after the final horn.
In true hockey fashion, naturally the Stars won, 2-1.
In just this series alone against Dallas, Vegas had the same number of shots as the Stars in Game 1 (25-25), outshot Dallas in Game 2 (32-24), outshot Dallas in Game 3 (40-23), as well as in Game 4 for a grand total of 130 shots against the Stars compared to Dallas’ 92 total shots on goal in the series.
If you’re wondering, both teams have scored six goals in the series.
That’s some serious inefficiency from the Golden Knights– facing a hot goaltender or not, we saw this problem as the Vancouver Canucks were forced to switch goaltenders from Jacob Markstrom to Thatcher Demko due to Markstrom’s injury in the Second Round.
Vegas might also not be getting high quality shots, but at this point the only thing that matters is that they trail in the series 3-1 and face elimination on Monday.
2. First one to score wins the game, but not actually.
Entering Saturday night, the Golden Knights had 10 wins when scoring first, which leads all teams in the 2020 playoffs.
Alas, Dallas scored two unanswered goals for their seventh comeback win of this postseason– the most among the teams in the 2020 postseason.
In their run to their first and only Stanley Cup championship so far back in 1999, the Stars recorded nine comeback wins (the most playoff comebacks in Minnesota North Stars/Dallas Stars franchise history).
3. That’s making the most of your chances.
Despite only having six shots on goal– including one in the second period alone– Pavelski scored on Dallas’ seventh shot of the game and second shot on net in the middle frame as the puck deflected of of Schmidt’s stick and floated in the air, over Lehner and into the twine.
Dallas ended up finishing the second period trialing in shots on goal in that period alone, 11-9, but led, 2-1, on the scoreboard entering the second intermission.
Considering only three goals were scored by the two teams in the entire game– that’s getting a lot for your dollar in one period, you know, considering how Vegas finished the night leading in shots, 33-20.
4. Everything’s bigger in Texas.
And nothing is bigger than Anton Khudobin these days.
Yes, even though the Stars are in Edmonton, Alberta these days while participating in the Stanley Cup Playoffs bubble courtesy of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Khudobin is 7-1 when making at least 30 saves in a game this postseason. Markstrom was the only other goaltender with at least five wins in that scenario as the Canucks goalie went 5-3 in games where he faced 30 or more shots.
In the meantime, Khudobin has a 2.67 goals against average, a .918 save percentage and one shutout in 18 games played this postseason to go along with his 11-6 record overall.
5. Chance to advance (for Dallas).
I don’t know how else to make this any more apparent, but the Golden Knights trail in the series 3-1, which means that the Stars could make the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since they lost to the New Jersey Devils in six games in the 2000 Stanley Cup Final.
If you didn’t have the Stars making a deep run in the playoffs, well, it’s understandable since there was five months off between the shortened regular season and postseason action, but also they’ve been a dark horse all along– lurking in the shadows of the St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche and Golden Knights battling for Western Conference dominance as one of the best regular season teams.
When it mattered most, the Stars turned it on.
They relied on last year’s heartbreak as motivation for this year’s power through– even in the face of an injury to their regular starting goaltender, Ben Bishop.
Simply put, this is an incredible run.
Even if Vegas bows out in five games, Dallas can’t say it was all that easy to wrap things up in a short amount of time.
Again, there’s only been 12 combined goals in the entire series thus far– split evenly between the two clubs.
On the other hand, the Golden Knights could make the Stars unnerved by forcing a Game 6 and possibly a Game 7 afterward, but there’s less of a chance of Dallas blowing a 3-1 series lead than there is of Vegas scoring five goals on Khudobin in a game (it seems anyway).