With Mark Stone back, Vegas playing like champions

Vegas won both games in Dallas, and will travel home to try and end the series.

DALLAS — The start of game two was exactly what all playoff teams were afraid of. The Stars came to play, and so did all the fans in American Airlines Center. Dallas’ new game plan became clear quickly: hit anything wearing white and gold. 

Two massive hits occurred within the first three minutes of the game, bringing the fans into the equation which is what Vegas was looking to avoid. The packed crowd of over 18,000 was silenced during the first game of the series as the Stars struggled in the opening minutes, however game two had an electric environment from the opening puck drop to the final horn.

Vegas, however, also lived up to the physical challenge that was brought to them. They responded right back delivering huge open ice hits of their own. Goalie Logan Thompson was tested early in the game with a barrage of shots, each turned away, keeping the Stars at bay until the final minutes of the first period.

After a slashing call brought the Stars to the power play, Los Angeles native Jason Robertson was the first to score during the second game of the series. Dallas had been solid previously on the man-up advantage, sitting at 6th in the league while Vegas had a mediocre penalty kill hovering right at league average.

Barely a minute later, the Knights responded after a strong back check which led to a wide open tap in by Jonathan Marchessault. Marchessault led the team in goals this past season at 42, and added to his goal last game to make it his second goal this postseason.

The second period also lacked scoring until the final minute, mainly due to the Stars net-minder Jake Oettinger. The 25 year old made a series of three saves, two of which on his side to keep the game tied at one and keep the crowd in the game.

In the final minutes of the second period however, Vegas’ Noah Hanifin was able to put away a rebound after a flurry of saves by Oettinger. Hanifin, who was traded from the Flames to the Knights in March, was able to put up 12 points in his 19 games that he played for the Knights, along with another 35 during his time in Calgary. 

Oettinger continued to show why he was an all star this past season, keeping his team in the game while hoping they would tie it up. On the other side, Thompson stepped up to the table. The right handed catcher had five minutes of relentless attack by the Stars, while Vegas’ defense adapted a dump and change strategy to try and keep fresh legs on the ice. 

The final minutes of the game was all about survival for the Golden Knights. Former LA King Alec Martinez as well as Logan Thompson were scrambling to keep the one goal lead. The Stars pulled their goalie with a minute and a half to go, and Marchessault continued the strong defensive effort by stealing the puck off the wall and finding Jack Eichel to ice the game 3-1.

With the Knights now up 2-0 in the series, they are in a great position to upset the top team in the west. Vegas is statistically much better at home (27-12-2 vs. 18-17-6), which can be attributed to the loud crowd environment and devoted fans. Last year’s cup winners have made a name for themselves in the playoffs over the years, only missing them once thus far, as well as having a home record of 31-15 during the postseason.

If you are a Golden Knights fan, you have to be very happy with the position the team is in, especially since they had to fight to secure a playoff spot. Looking ahead, if they won they would play the winner of the Winnipeg vs. Colorado series. The Jets tied their franchise record for most wins in a season, as well as having the most points out of the Canadian teams at 110. The Avalanche on the other hand are an extremely quick team, with stars that are starting to settle into their roles as veterans. As the leading offensive team in the league, they averaged 3.68 goals per game, however also struggled defensively having the 16th most goals against this year.

The Knights still have two more games to win before they are able to look toward their next opponents, and the Dallas Stars are certainly not a team that should be overlooked.