Dallas’ young Star is hero in Game 3 OT win over Knights

Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports
Wyatt Johnston scored twice, including the game-winner in overtime, to help Dallas defeat the Golden Knights 3-2 and get back in their opening-round Stanley Cup Playoff series.

LAS VEGAS — At age 20, Wyatt Johnston still isn’t old enough to gamble in a casino. But he’s old enough to skate in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and emerge as the hero.

The Dallas Stars right wing took eight of his team’s 46 shots Saturday in Game 3 of their opening-round series against the Vegas Golden Knights. His first shot went in. So did his last. In doing so, Dallas battled back in the series to trail 2-1 after Johnston’s goal with 3:38 left in overtime gave the Stars a 3-2 win at T-Mobile Arena.

Game 4 is 6:30 p.m. Monday.

“I tried a couple low that he stopped so I tried to go up high and it worked,” Johnston said of the game-winner he got past Logan Thompson, who had singlehandedly kept the Knights in it.

Veteran center Tyler Seguin, who knows a thing or two about being a hero, said of Johnston: “At this time of the year, different players have to step up at different times. He was great for us.”

Dallas came to town a desperate team and the Knights struggled to match that desperation, something which troubled Vegas coach Bruce Cassidy. 

“They had a sense of urgency we didn’t match,” Cassidy said. “We were a step behind all night with our reads.”

Give Dallas credit. It didn’t get rattled, even when Thompson was standing on his head preventing the Stars’ 2-0 second period lead from becoming 3-0, 4-0 or even 5-0. And when the Knights cut it to 2-1 on Brayden McNabb’s goal in a 4-on-4 situation and Jack Eichel tied it with a shorthanded goal, Pete DeBoer’s guys stuck with it through the third period and into OT.
“This is a momentum building,” DeBoer said of T-Mobile Arena, which had 18,536 in it Saturday hoping to see the home team put a 3-0 stranglehold on the series. “One goal can turn into two or three when the crowd gets into it.

“We didn’t manage it well in the second period but I thought we handled it better in the third and in overtime.”

Playoff hockey can be unpredictable. Sometimes, the visiting team can dominate. We see it every year. We may be seeing it in this series where two talented, evenly-matched teams have the ability to go into the other’s barn and come out on top. So far, home ice hasn’t generated any success.

“You don’t want to dig yourself a hole against this team,” said Knights captain Mark Stone, who didn’t have to endure incessant boos from the crowd in playing at home Saturday. “We need to come out faster and match their desperation.

“Logan was unbelievable. He saved us. But we have to look at he things we didn’t do well and come back ready on Monday.” 

Ah, Thompson. He did everything humanly possible to steal Game 3. He stopped 43 of the 46 shots he faced and he seemed to be a mixture of Martin Brodeur, Ken Dryden, Patrick Roy and Billy Smith to keep the Knights from being run out of the rink. 

But at some point, it’s up to the rest of the team to take care of business and Vegas wasn’t up to the task, particularly in OT where it was unable to sustain a good third period where the Knights had Dallas goalie Jake Oettinger in trouble but couldn’t get the game-winner past him. .

“You could tell they had more jump than us in overtime,” Cassidy said of the Stars, who outshot the Knights 8-7 in the extra period.  “We weren’t able to create much sustained pressure.”

The Stars knew what they needed to do and they did it. They’ve made this a series. Win or lose Monday, they know they’ll have at least one more game at home at American Airlines Center when they host Game 5 on Wednesday. 

“We knew we had to come here and steal one,” Seguin said. “Now we want to steal two.”

DeBoer said: “Game 2 was better for us than Game 1 and Game 3 was better than Game 2. So that’s a good sign. We’re getting better with each game.

“I knew we were playing with fire when they tied it but I liked our response. We got it back on the rails and it’s a new series.”