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Hockey

What We Saw, What It Felt Like: Stars-Golden Knights, Game 3

A close final score masks a dominant performance.
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Wyatt Johnston's monster game put Dallas right back in the series. Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports

The playoffs are complicated. Each series is its own story, and each game is its own chapter encompassing a dozen moments and plot points. But the playoffs can also be simple. Each of those moments, those plot points, falls into one of two buckets: the things we observe and the emotions they inspire within us. That’s what we’re here to talk about.

What We Saw

Logan Thompson. 

Wait, you need more? 

OK. Even with Wyatt Johnston’s heroics, the Vegas Golden Knights goalie was the story. He stopped 43 shots, turned away half a dozen breakaways, and effectively turned what should have been a Dallas blowout into a close game that was tied 2-2 heading into the third period. 

Thompson even notched an unofficial assist on Jack Eichel’s shorthanded goal. Thompson denied Roope Hintz on the power play with another glove stop, which sprung a 2-on-1 break that swung what should have been a 3-1 Dallas lead into a tie game. 

If that sequence goes any other way—if Hintz scores, if Thompson catches the puck clean and freezes it, anything—Dallas wins the game in regulation. Instead, we got our first overtime game of the series. 

Thankfully for Dallas, the better team was rewarded, as Johnston elevated the puck over Thompson’s shoulder for his second goal of the game. The 20-year-old was already one of the Stars’ best players, but this was one of those games that can help shape a long-term legacy. He had 11 scoring chances all by himself, and when he was on the ice, Dallas was a far superior team. 

And this is the weird thing about Game 3s when one team has a 2-0 series lead going in. Had Vegas taken this game, the series would effectively be over. Instead, all of the silver linings from losses in Game 1 and 2 re-emerge, almost justified by Game 3’s result. Flaws and missteps became chances for growth, rather than signs of your demise. 

It’s a series again, and that’s really all Dallas can ask for. —Sean Shapiro

What It Felt Like

Pause the doomsday clock. 

Dallas didn’t just need a win to get back into this series. The Stars needed a performance to rally around, featuring adjustments from Pete DeBoer that inspire hope, not just reassurance. And that’s more or less what the Stars got in Game 3.

Johnston and Logan Stankoven continue to play like stars in the making, so much so that it’s almost unfortunate that this Dallas team is getting them before they’ve even hit their prime. Miro Heiskanen and Thomas Harley played strong, if not perfect, on the blue line. Joe Pavelski, who scored plenty of points in the regular season despite his shift-to-shift impact hitting its nadir, got demoted, and it paid almost instant dividends. Everything culminated in Dallas nearly breaking Moneypuck’s Deserve to Win O’Meter.

For many fans, an overtime win is too close for comfort though. (Especially for the ones who might be critical of Jake Oettinger.) After all, Dallas didn’t blow Vegas out of its own barn 7-2 or something. But that is a superficial way of looking at things. This wasn’t just a team perfunctorily accruing shots and winning the shot differential. Not even halfway through the second period, Dallas had accrued six odd-man rushes to Vegas’ one. By the end of regulation, the Stars had four breakaways. In some ways, it felt like DeBoer had cracked the code, exploiting the Golden Knights’ aggressive forecheck and blitzing the neutral zone with intentional recklessness.

Will it be enough? That’s the question from here on out. The anxiety will burn and linger, perhaps even more so knowing that the Stars can have two dominant periods yet still get dragged into overtime thanks to Thompson’s heroics. But who’s to say Jake Oettinger can’t do the same to Vegas in Game 4? Who’s to say that Johnston is only just getting started?

I’m talking about hope because I think the Stars earned it. That doesn’t mean they earned the benefit of the doubt if they have designs of winning this series—far from it. But don’t let the close score fool you. This was a dominant performance. —David Castillo

Authors

Sean Shapiro

Sean Shapiro

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Sean Shapiro covers the Stars for StrongSide. He is a national NHL reporter and writer who previously covered the Dallas…
David Castillo

David Castillo

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David Castillo covers the Stars for StrongSide. He has written for SB Nation and Wrong Side of the Red Line,…
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