Mistake-prone Knights allow Stars back into series

Jake Oettinger played his best game of the Stanley Cup Playoffs to help Dallas even the series with Vegas at 2-2 with a 4-2 road win in Game 4.

LAS VEGAS — Saturday, it was Logan Thompson who was the star. Monday, it was Jake Oettinger’s turn.

The Dallas Stars goaltender was rock-solid and borderline sensational in helping his team win Game 4, 4-2, in front of 18,333 at T-Mobile Arena and even the first-round Stanley Cup Playoff series with the Vegas Golden Knights at 2-2. 

Game 5 is Wednesday at American Airlines Center in Dallas. Game 6 will be Friday in Las Vegas.

“I think he had his best night,” Stars coach Pete DeBoer said of Oettinger, who turned aside 33 of the 35 shots he faced and shut down the Knights in the third period while Dallas was nursing a 3-2 lead. “He locked it down in the third period. He made some key stops.”

The trend of the visiting team emerging triumphant in this series continued and home-ice advantage has not proved to be a key to date. Maybe that changes come Wednesday.

But the Knights know they can win on the road and provided they clean up their act in their own end and put better pressure on Oettinger, perhaps they can regain control of a series in which they had led 2-0.

“We have to be the team that makes the right plays,” Vegas coach Bruce Cassidy said. “We’ve got to be hard on them and make them earn their ice.”

Knights defensemen struggle

The Knights’ blueline corps collectively had a tough go of it in Game 4. Alex Pietrangelo and Shea Theodore in particular, struggled consistently and it was Theodore who fumbled a puck at the blue line in the final minute that Roope Hintz got to and deposited ino the empty net with 1:22 remaining to seal Vegas’ fate. Pietrangelo was not as clean in his own end and got caught out of position on more than one occasion.

It helped that the Stars found seams and solved Thompson, who had made 43 saves in the 3-2 overtime loss in Game 3. Twice he was beaten from near the goal line and while you can’t lay all the blame at his feet, Thompson didn’t appear as sharp Monday as he had been earlier in the series.

“We need to play better as a group,” Knights forward Jonathan Marchessault said. 

Cassidy shook things up a little Monday. Michael Amadio made his first appearance of the postseason, drawing in at the expense of Anthony Mantha.

Amadio rewarded his coach’s decision by getting Vegas on the board first 14:25 into the contest, scoring off a rebound of Brayden McNabb’s shot.

Cassidy also reunited Tomas Hertl with Mark Stone and Chandler Stephenson on the second line with Brett Howden skating with Amadio and William Karlsson. Karlsson was injured in Game 1 and whatever the injury is — the Knights, of course, are not saying — it appears to have limited his ability to take faceoffs.

In Game 3, Hertl took the vast majority of the draws while Karlsson was involved in just two faceoffs. In Game 4, Karlsson was 2 of 5 at he dot.

While he may be healthy enough to stay on the ice, what Karlsson can do is somewhat limited.

How much more effective he will be the rest of the way remains to be seen. But he was skating well and  and had two shots on Oettinger, which were both stopped.

But the Knights’ inability to play with the lead would cost them. Jack Eichel had put them back in front 2-1 in the second period after former Knight Evgenii Dadonov had tied it 1-1 late in the first. Dallas’ Wyatt Johnston, the Game 3 OT hero, tied it in the second on the power play with Pietrangelo in the box and fourth-line winger Ty Dellandrea would pot what would be the game-winner with 1:26 left in the second.

Oettinger in charge

Oettinger took over from there. The Stars’ defense bottled up the middle, forcing Vegas to create its offense from the perimeter and  the high-danger scoring chances in the final 20 minutes were minimal — just two — in 15 total shots on goal.

Will we see more tinkering with the Golden Knights’ lineup come Wednesday? Could defenseman Ben Hutton draw in? Could Pavel Dorofeyev find his way onto one of the lines?

The Knights managed just four goals in the two home losses. They are likely going to need more offense to regain control of this series. 

Cassidy said: “Here we are, tied 2-2. We have to be the team that makes the right plays. We mismanaged the puck again and we have to clean that up.”

Among other things.