The Vegas Golden Knights will try to keep their slim playoff hopes alive when they begin a three-game road trip on Tuesday night against the team ahead of them in the Western Conference wild-card standings, the Dallas Stars.
Vegas (42-31-6, 90 points), one of the preseason favorites to win the Stanley Cup, trails Dallas (44-30-5, 93 points) by three points with three games to go. The Golden Knights, who hold the regulation wins tiebreaker over the Stars, 33-30, no longer control their own destiny in the playoff race after coughing up a valuable point in a 5-4 shootout loss to San Jose on Sunday night in Las Vegas.
Had the Golden Knights not blown a 4-2 third-period lead in the final 2:11 against the Sharks, they would have been in position to take over the second wild-card spot from the Stars with a head-to-head regulation win.
Nick Bonino cut it to 4-3 when his long point shot through traffic eluded rookie goaltender Logan Thompson. San Jose, which had lost 11 consecutive regular-season games to Vegas, then forced overtime in dramatic fashion when Timo Meier buried a rebound off the end wall with 0.9 seconds left.
The Golden Knights had a chance to seal the win before Meier’s tying goal but Mark Stone’s shot from the neutral zone hit the side of the goal. Vegas also outshot the Sharks, 6-1, in overtime and failed to convert on a power play. Thomas Bordeleau, a 20-year-old rookie center playing just his fifth NHL game, then won it for San Jose when he scored in the third round on his first career shootout attempt.
“They threw some pucks to the net and got some bounces,” Vegas coach Peter DeBoer said. “It was a tough way to lose a point after we put in quite a bit of hard work. But we’ve got no time to sit and worry about it. You hope that it doesn’t cost us a playoff spot. If it does, that’s a tough one to sleep on all summer.”
“Really a devastating loss, but we’re still in it,” Stone said. “You have to think that way. We have a big game on Tuesday and can keep our chances alive.”
Vegas is also four points behind Nashville for the first wild-card spot. The Predators still must play Pacific Division winner Calgary and Central Division champ Colorado before ending the season at the Western Conference’s worst team, Arizona, which has lost 17 of its last 19 games.
Dallas still has home games with the Coyotes and Anaheim, which is just 3-14-5 in its last 22 games. Vegas finishes its season-ending road trip with games at Chicago and St. Louis.
The Golden Knights will have to make their playoff push without No. 1 goalie Robin Lehner. The team announced Monday that Lehner would undergo shoulder surgery, ending his injury-marred season.
The Stars, who are a sparkling 25-10-3 at home this season, rallied from a 2-0 first period deficit to defeat visiting Seattle 3-2 on Saturday night. The Stars didn’t arrive home until 3 a.m. on Saturday morning due to weather and plane issues that turned their trip back from Calgary on Friday into a 17-hour marathon.
“Great resilience,” Dallas coach Rick Bowness said. “Give our guys full credit, they dug deep to find the win. … We were clearly running on fumes at the end, but we dug deep, they found the will to win and that was the difference.”
After the Stars fell behind 2-0 in the first period, they scored all three of their goals in the middle frame, two of them coming from Roope Hintz. Jake Oettinger made 30 saves.
The Stars lost the 2020 Stanley Cup Finals to Tampa Bay in the pandemic “bubble” in Edmonton. They’re hoping to avoid missing the playoffs for the second straight year since that defeat.
–Field Level Media