The team that scored first in the Western Conference Finals took all three wins: the Dallas Stars in Games 1 and 3, the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 2.
The Golden Knights disagree.
“We talked about it this morning at our meeting,” said the Vegas defender Shea Theodore said. “This is going to be a focal point in the future. ”
Dallas leads the best-of-7 series with Game 4 at Rogers Place in Edmonton, the hub city for the Conference Finals and Stanley Cup Finals, Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS) .
Goal number one matters to these playoff teams. The Golden Knights have scored the first in 11 of their 18 games and are 10-1-0 in those games. The Stars have scored the first in nine of their 19 games and are 7-2-0 in those games.
The impact of scoring the first goal in a game may seem obvious, but Vegas coach Peter DeBoer said it makes a significant difference against Dallas, especially when it comes to the way the Stars play.
“In three games, I think what we’ve learned is that Dallas are a very good defensive team and play well within their structure,” DeBoer said, “and it’s a lot easier for them. to play in there when the game is tied or they have the lead.
“For two of the three games, that’s the case. In the second game, we put them in a hole and they have to come out of that structure and open it up to do that, and all of a sudden there’s a lot more room for us. play games. ”
The Stars scored 2:36 in the opening period of Game 1 and it ended up being the only goal of a 1-0 win.
The Golden Knights scored three times in 9:39 in the second period of Game 2, and that was all they needed for a 3-0 win.
“For me that was a bit of history through three games,” DeBoer said. “How do we put them in a hole and put pressure on them to get them out of their structure?” ”
Vegas did so in Game 2, overtaking Dallas in a slow line change that ended in a 4 on 3, leading to a Paul Stastny goal for a 1-0 lead at 4:53 of the second. period. A power play goal by William Karlsson followed at 8:24 to bring the score to 2-0.
The Stars, to DeBoer’s point, then began to cheat for the offense. The Golden Knights took advantage of an untimely pinch deep in the offensive zone by center Tyler Seguin and scored a 3-1 to bring the score to 3-0 at 2:32 pm.
Game 3 was more of a flip-flop on the scoreboard, but the first goal, by the Dallas defender Jamie Oleksiak at 19:43 of the second period, forced Vegas to play the catch. He drew twice in the third period but lost Alexandre Radulovgoal 31 seconds after overtime.
“I have the impression that when we get the first [goal] we can control the game better and play more according to our style, ”said Theodore. It’s going to be something we’re going to have to do. ”
The Stars will have a better chance of getting off to a quick start in Game 4 if they limit their penalties. They beat the Golden Knights 4-3-5-5, but Vegas is ahead 2-0 on special teams with two power play goals.
Vegas had 14 power play chances in three games, including three in the third period of Game 3, with 61 seconds of a 5v3. Dallas had five power plays in three games.
“When you continue the game you end up taking penalties, which we did in the second game,” said Bowness. “And we took a few unfortunate ones last night. The puck above the glass[bydefenseman[bydefenseman[parledéfenseur[bydefensemanJohn Klingberg]completely, completely unforced. The other on [forward] Blake [Comeau], it is a hanging penalty. … These are self-inflicted. Some sanctions are good sanctions. … The ones we take aren’t and we’re just going to continue to preach discipline and stay out of the box. It’s a great power play out there. ”
Despite four goals in three games, Dallas can put Vegas on the brink of elimination with a win in Game 4.
The first goal could be the difference.