Denis Gurianov was the overtime hero, and the Dallas Stars summoned another comeback to beat the Vegas Golden Knights 3-2 Monday night in Edmonton and advance to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in 20 years.
Dallas, which won the best-of-seven Western Conference finals in five games, overcame a 2-0 deficit in the last 11 minutes of regulation. The Stars will face either the Tampa Bay Lightning or New York Islanders for the championship. Tampa Bay leads the Eastern Conference finals 3-1.
With the Stars on the power play, Gurianov set up at the right faceoff dot and drilled a 110 mph one-timer that found the mark at 3:36 of overtime. Since the league’s return to play after suspending action in March over the coronavirus pandemic, Dallas has won all five of its games that went beyond regulation this year.
Stars goaltender Anton Khudobin made 34 saves in yet another clutch performance, and his team won after trailing for the seventh time this postseason (eighth including the initial three-game span before the playoffs began).
“We are a confident group. There’s no panic,” Tyler Seguin said afterward. “We have key goals, big moments. Everything’s falling in our favor right now.”
With his team down by a pair near the midway point of the third period, Dallas captain Jamie Benn put his team on the board at 9:54 and cued the comeback. During a scramble, Benn gained the puck in the low slot and snapped a high shot into the net for his third goal in as many games.
It was similar to the overtime-forcing, game-tying goal by rookie Joel Kiviranta with 3:47 remaining in regulation. John Klingberg’s point shot was stopped, but Kiviranta — who had a hat trick in the Stars’ Game 7 win over the Colorado Avalanche last round — pounced on the rebound and buried the golden chance for the power-play marker.
Stars interim head coach will compete in his third Stanley Cup Final on the bench, having been the associate coach for the Vancouver Canucks in 2011 and assistant with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2015. Both times his teams lost.
“It means a lot,” Bowness said to Sportsnet broadcast. “I’m more excited for the players. They’ve worked very hard and down 2-0, they keep battling back like they’ve done all year. … We’re all going to share this moment.”
Vegas head coach Pete DeBoer afterward lamented the team’s lack of offense in the series despite quality possession time, often deep in the Dallas zone.
“There’s no doubt the last couple games of the Vancouver series against (Thatcher) Demko probably rattled our confidence in that area as a group,” DeBoer said. “Honestly up to that point, I thought we were creating a ton of offense.”
And now, the Golden Knights head into the offseason knowing they blew a huge opportunity in their elimination game.
“We all feel this is a wasted opportunity. … For our organization, we want a Stanley Cup, and we didn’t get it. So we’re pretty upset,” Reilly Smith said.
Needing a strong start to help keep their hopes alive, the Golden Knights received it when Chandler Stephenson opened the scoring in the first period. Stephenson was sprung on a breakaway by Shea Theodore and tucked a backhand through Khudobin’s legs at the 8:14 mark. It was the first time in eight games that Vegas scored a first-period goal.
Then, Smith tallied 15 seconds into the third period to double the lead. Vegas goaltender Robin Lehner stopped Tyler Seguin’s one-timer, which sent the Golden Knights the other way on an odd-man rush, and Smith ripped a top-corner shot over Khudobin’s trapper to snap a 10-game goal scoring drought. It was the fastest goal to start a period in Golden Knights playoff history.
Lehner finished with 23 saves in the loss.
-Field Level Media