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Hockey

What We Saw, What It Felt Like: Stars-Golden Knights, Game 5

At long last, Dallas has control of the series.
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Jason Robertson's power-play goal gave Dallas a long-awaited series lead against Vegas. Jerome Miron-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

Midway through the second period, the ESPN broadcast caught Jason Robertson, Logan Stankoven, and Wyatt Johnston reviewing something on a tablet. 

It’s a common sight on the Dallas bench. Robertson, for example, reviews every shift immediately upon leaving the ice. It’s part of his process of taking in as much information as possible and trying to apply it within the game. 

And in Game 5, those clips looked pretty good for the trio of young forwards, who have effectively taken over as the Stars’ new foundation this postseason. Johnston had a pair of assists and continued to be the most dynamic player in the series. Stankoven teed up Evgenii Dadonov for a goal in the first period and would have had another had his elder linemate properly finished. And Robertson delivered the game-winning goal on the power play, picking up his own blocked shot and firing it home for a 3-2 lead in the second period. 

Coming into the game, Vegas had made itself the story after Golden Knights coach Bruce Cassidy made the surprising decision to switch goalies from Logan Thompson to Adin Hill, the hero of last season’s Cup run. That move looked panicky after Vegas had been outplayed at home in Games 3 and 4, but credit to Hill, who played well enough to reduce that headline to more of a subplot on a night where the teams combined for seven penalties and power plays. 

Vegas got its power-play goal early. Dallas cashed in with its vital response later. In between, the Stars did a nice job limiting the Golden Knights from generating much of anything offensively, finishing with a 7-5 edge in high-danger chances, according to Natural Stat Trick. That was enough to notch their third consecutive victory and flip the series on its head. Finally, a team won a game on home ice. That’s the natural order of things in playoff hockey. So, too, is the top overall seed finally taking control of this first-round matchup. —Sean Shapiro

What It Felt Like

Belief, or a matter of time?

The series is still obviously close. There’s no reason to underestimate the defending Cup champs. But if anyone’s feeling the pressure, it’s the Golden Knights. While I personally thought switching to Hill in net was more tactical than reactionary, it still felt unnecessary. After all, Vegas played a pretty solid Game 4. But the penalties plus Alex Pietrangelo’s haymaker to Tyler Seguin’s face—called a major initially, then reduced to a two-minute minor despite Seguin bleeding from the nose—feels like their personal insecurities adding up.

If you’re Dallas, the thinking must be bigger than merely closing out the series. You’re also thinking about how the last series ended and how fitting it would be to send Vegas packing in six. After all, while the Stars continue to be the more poised team, they’re not without an edge. That Pietrangelo punch was likely no accident, given Seguin’s hit on Shea Theodore. Throughout the series the Stars have been willing to muck it up, giving as good as they get. Punch. Counterpunch. And right now they’re the ones delivering more hits and racking up more damage.

The asterisk, of course, is that Vegas has one game to change the narrative. Then all bets—all narratives, for that matter—are off. But it certainly doesn’t feel like the potential outcome when Thomas Harley is winning a one-on-one battle with Jack Eichel behind the net and Logan Stankoven is intercepting Vegas passes in the neutral zone and Jamie Benn continuing to deliver his bruising style as the captain of the team. For all the weapons the Golden Knights added at the deadline, they’re looking outgunned by a team that only needed one (Chris Tanev, of course).

Speaking of one: Dallas still needs one more victory. I can’t say, “It’ll be the most important one of all,” because, well, this is only the first round. But as we’ve discussed, this is no ordinary first-round opponent. Wednesday night’s win was yet another argument that this Stars team is no ordinary contender. —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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