NHL playoffs: Stars pull away from Golden Knights late to force Game 6

The Stars will have momentum in hand — and their captain back — for a third-straight do-or-die game as the series shifts back to Dallas.

The Florida Panthers get to keep resting and waiting for their opponent in the 2023 Stanley Cup Final. While Matthew Tkachuk yucked it up with Shaq and the fellas, the Dallas Stars kept their season alive by beating the Vegas Golden Knights 4-2 in Game 5 to extend the series once more.

With the series shifting back to Dallas, the Golden Knights’ series lead has shrunk to 3-2.

The Golden Knights generated leads of 1-0 and 2-1, yet the Stars refused to give up. With two quick goals by Ty Dellandrea (his first career multi-point game in the regular season or playoffs in the third period, Dallas is proving to be deep and full of heart.

Vegas (Ivan Barbashev, Chandler Stephenson) and Dallas (Luke Glendening, Jason Robertson) exchanged goals in the first and second periods to send the game to the second intermission knotted at two. The game remained that way until after the mid-way point of the final frame, when Dellandrea broke the deadlock and added the insurance marker about 90 seconds apart to seal the 4-2 win for the Stars.

Jake Oettinger stopped 27 of 29 shots in the win, while Adin Hill allowed four goals on 34 shots in the loss.

The Stars refuse to go away. (Getty)
The Stars refuse to go away. (Getty)

Stars’ depth delivers in Game 5; Dallas survives without Benn

On paper, the two-game suspension of Jamie Benn should’ve only intensified the depth advantage for Vegas, especially with Evgenii Dadonov also injured.

You might argue that case was true in Game 4, where Jason Robertson (two goals) and Joe Pavelski (overtime game-winner on the power play) were the only Stars scorers. Although Robertson gets showered with justified praise later in this post, it’s Dallas’ depth that made the difference in Game 5.

During the first period, Luke Glendening shared his Joe Pavelski impression with a deft deflection to quickly tie Game 5 back up at 1-1. Glendening created plenty of other chances in Game 5, too, making it tough to imagine him being a healthy scratch as the series shifts back to Dallas on Monday.

In about a minute and a half in the third period of Game 5, Ty Dellandrea scored more goals (two) than he had in the rest of the playoffs (one in his previous 13 postseason contests in this run). The 22-year-old also only managed nine goals in a full 82 regular-season games.

Waging a big comeback often requires more than just your best players delivering. The Stars’ latest win hinged on their non-stars as much as anyone else.

Yes, Adin Hill deserves his share of the credit for Golden Knights’ run

At times, the Golden Knights have appeared “goalie-proof.” Winning the Western Conference amid all of their netminder turmoil was the most obvious example of this. Seamlessly moving from one not-even-first option (Laurent Brossoit) to another journeyman (Adin Hill) ranks as another.

No doubt about it, the Golden Knights excel at insulating their goalies. Regardless, Adin Hill deserves a hearty portion of credit for this run, with Game 4 featuring some of the best saves of his NHL career.

During the first period, Hill made a sensational save on Roope Hintz.

Both the save above and this third-period stop on Joel Kiviranta showed off a nifty glove hand. In the other net, Jake Oettinger deserves immense kudos for bouncing back from some bumpy stretches between this series and challenges versus the Kraken. Hill’s been busier, but they each made tough stops aplenty in Game 5.

As a pending UFA with a sneaky-solid resume (.910 save percentage in 101 regular season games) but no track record as more than a backup (27 games played this season was a career-high), it will be fascinating to see what the future holds for Adin Hill. Maybe Hill’s agent should just play the towering goalie’s (growing) playoff highlight reel at the negotiating table.

Robertson getting bounces, Eichel still snake-bitten

Heading into the 2023 Western Conference Final, people were fixated on a perceived lack of production for Jason Robertson. Indeed, he headed in with a mere pair of goals, although that can be misleading since he was gathering helpers. Still, it was fair to argue that Robertson didn’t look quite like the player who piled up 109 points in the regular season.

Modern NHL snipers can carry a “feast or famine” feel, so go ahead and say that Robertson is feasting against Vegas.

During Game 4, Robertson scored two goals and imposed his will with a gargantuan 11 shots on goal. His top line was all over the place in Game 5, with Robertson scoring his seventh goal of the playoffs (and fifth of the series) on one of those “earn your own bounces”-type tallies.

If you go by point production alone, you might disagree with the sentiment that Jack Eichel ranks among the best players in this series (he may just be the biggest impact factor through the WCF). Night after night, Eichel has been a beast in transition and at possessing the puck. It’s a relief that Eichel earned an assist on the 1-0 goal — making it happen by drawing the attention of both Miro Heiskanen and Wyatt Johnston, clearing the way for Ivan Barbashev.

(Ryan Suter’s critics will note a questionable read that also cleared the way for Barbashev.)

With a four-game assist streak, Eichel is getting on the score sheet. The goals aren’t coming, though. Some of that is the excellence of Oettinger, who’s managed high-level stops on Eichel in breakaway and rush situations. Some of it is bad luck, such as Max Domi snatching a puck from trickling into the Stars’ net.

As much as team play/depth matters in the NHL playoffs, the Golden Knights might grumble that Robertson’s getting bounces where Eichel seemingly is not.

Even-strength edge starting to shift from Vegas to Dallas?

Through Games 1 and 2, the Golden Knights appeared to be the superior 5-on-5 squad. With how Game 3 fell off the rails, you could probably hand that one to Vegas as well (Dallas was chasing for more than two periods). Yet, since Game 4, the run of play is somewhere between even to outright in Dallas’ favor.

While the Golden Knights scored two even-strength goals to one for the Stars in Game 4, Dallas generated a 15-10 advantage in high-danger chances. In Game 5, the Stars manufactured an identical 15-10 edge in that area.

Earlier in the series, one would assume that a lack of penalty calls would be a huge edge for Vegas. In Game 5, they couldn’t score on the only power-play opportunity of the contest.

If the Stars continue to assert their even-strength will on the Golden Knights, you have to wonder if Vegas should be frightened by this Dallas rally.