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Dallas Stars Advance to Stanley Cup Final


EDMONTON, Alberta — For the first time in 20 years, the Dallas Stars will play for the Stanley Cup.

The third-seeded Stars erased a two-goal deficit in the third period, then eliminated the Vegas Golden Knights with a 3-2 overtime win in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals at Rogers Place in Edmonton.

The rookie forward Denis Gurianov scored the winning goal at 3:36 of overtime, after third-period goals from Jamie Benn and Joel Kiviranta erased Vegas’s 2-0 lead built from goals by Chandler Stephenson and Reilly Smith.

Both teams came into Game 5 with their lineups unchanged. For Dallas, that included forward Roope Hintz, who left Game 4 in the first period with an apparent injury and whose appearance was said to be a game-time decision. In net, Robin Lehner made his fourth consecutive start for top-seeded Vegas, while Anton Khudobin improved his postseason record to 12-6 with the win.

Once again, Khudobin was strong in the Dallas net, stopping 34 of 36 shots. Through the first four games of the series, the Golden Knights outshot the Stars by an average of 9.5 shots per game. Going into Game 5, Khudobin had faced more shots and made more saves than any other goalie in the N.H.L.’s 2020 postseason.

Throughout the series, the Stars used their strong defensive structure to minimize high-danger scoring chances and to shake the confidence of Vegas’s scorers. Khudobin did the rest.

Through their first 12 postseason games, including the round robin, Vegas posted a 10-2 record and averaged an impressive 3.75 goals per game. But after taking a 3-1 lead in their second-round series against the Vancouver Canucks, the Golden Knights managed just 12 goals — four in three games against the Canucks, then eight in five games against the Stars — in their final eight games.

With the possibility of elimination looming, Vegas failed to build on its 1-0 first-period lead during three consecutive power-play opportunities in the second. The Stars surrendered one power-play goal in each of the previous three games, but the penalty killers went 3-for-3 on Monday while Dallas’s power play went 2-for-4 and delivered the tying and winning goals.

Early in overtime, Vegas defenseman Zach Whitecloud took a delay-of-game penalty when he accidentally shot the puck over the glass while trying to clear the zone. With 39 seconds left in the penalty, Gurianov fired a shot from the point that beat Lehner over his glove to end the series.

Benn had gotten the Stars on the board with 10:06 to play in regulation, extending his scoring streak to three straight games. He picked up a loose puck after a shot from the sideboards by defenseman Esa Lindell and put it past Lehner. The goal was Benn’s eighth of the postseason.

“He’s a great captain and a great person and I’m happy that he’s getting rewarded with points because people always judge him on his points,” Stars Coach Rick Bowness said of Benn. “We judge him: what are you doing to help us get in? He showed me he can help us get in the playoffs and keep moving forward.”

Later in the third, Vegas winger Alex Tuch was whistled for his second penalty of the game after tripping Hintz with 5:24 left to play in the third period. Kiviranta tallied the tying goal with 23 seconds left in the man advantage, lifting the puck over an outstretched Lehner.

The goal was the first from Kiviranta since his hat trick in Game 7 of the second round, including the overtime game winner, helped the Stars advance past the Colorado Avalanche. In that series, like this one, Dallas had led three games to one.

“We played with fire,” Dallas forward Tyler Seguin said. “That was the message tonight, that we didn’t want to do that. We were thankful in a way that just the two weeks ago that happened to us — we weren’t ready. So I think you saw us more prepared.”

The win is the first time that Bowness has advanced to the Stanley Cup Final as a head coach. He previously served as an assistant coach for the Vancouver Canucks in 2011 and as an associate coach with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2015. Both those teams lost in the final.

“When you’re behind the bench and you see that puck go in and you know you’re going to the Stanley Cup finals, words can’t describe the emotion that comes through,” Bowness said.

In Stars franchise history, including their time as the Minnesota North Stars from 1967 to 1993, their only Stanley Cup win came in 1999, against the Buffalo Sabres. They returned to the final the next season but lost to the Devils.

The Stars’ opponent in the final will be either the Lightning or the Islanders. Tampa Bay leads the Eastern Conference finals three games to one and can advance with a win in Game 5 on Tuesday night.

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