Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals is not a great time for one of the more potent offensive attacks in the National Hockey League to evaporate. Sunday night’s game saw the Golden Knights completely dominated by the Dallas Stars for two periods, ending in a 1-0 shutout.
“We didn’t come out to play for the start of the game.” Nate Schmidt told the media after game 1. “For the first 35 minutes of the game we were back on our toes and they weren’t. That game could have been a lot worse than 1-nothing after two periods.”
The only goal of the game came off the stick of John Klingberg early in the first period. After a three-on-two rush, Klingberg picked up a blocked shot and fired the puck past Marc-Andre Fleury to give the Stars a 1-0 lead. The Golden Knights best chances in the period came from Nick Cousins, who airmailed a shot over the shoulder of Anton Khudobin. Cousins had another chance later in the period that was stopped by the toe of Khudobin. The Golden Knights never really got to their game for most of the first period. Towards the end, they started to find their game a little bit, but were unable to generate any noteworthy chances on goal. Fleury settled in after allowing the goal, turning aside the next 10 shots he faced. He would not give up another goal for the remainder of the game.
With how poorly the Golden Knights played in the first period, their second period proved even worse. At the start of the period, shots were 11-8 in favor of Dallas. By the end of the period, Dallas had out-shot them 23-12. Vegas struggled all night to get through the neutral zone, and it was prominent in the second period. The Stars did a fantastic job clogging up the neutral zone whenever Vegas tried to bring the puck through. One of the strengths of the Golden Knights is speed, and they were unable to use it tonight. Despite being heavily out-shot and heavily out chanced, Fleury stood tall in net to keep his team in the game. In the dying seconds of the period, the Stars took a penalty and it looked like momentum might change heading into the third period.
To some extent, momentum did change. Vegas came out of the second intermission looking much better. They forechecked hard and spent much more time in the offensive zone. They also did not give up any high danger chances to the Stars in the third period. The positives for the period end there. They continued to have the same problem that has plagued them the last four games: finishing. Vegas had some good looks in the period, but a majority of the shots that made it to Khudobin came from the point with very little traffic in front of the net. The Stars defense did a fantastic job of cleaning up loose pucks in front of the net, limiting the Golden Knights to point shots, and not allowing much traffic in front of the net. Despite out-shooting the Stars 13-2 in the third period, the Golden Knights failed to find the equalizer goal. The 1-0 score from the 17:24 mark in the first period held.
It has been four games now since a Vegas Golden Knights forward has scored a goal that was not on an empty net. Things only get harder from here, as the Stars have the ability to challenge the Golden Knights at every turn. That being said, the Golden Knights have the ability to rebound and will look to do just that come game 2. Ryan Reaves will also return in game 2 after being suspended for game 1 for a high hit on Vancouver forward Tyler Motte. Reaves’ physical play could help set the tone for the Golden Knights in game 2.