LAS VEGAS (AP) — After the Dallas Stars forced overtime Friday night with 1:59 left, Brett Howden flashed back to the previous night when Florida beat Carolina in four overtimes.
Could another marathon night be in store?
“I don’t think too many guys were saying it,” Howden said, “but I think they were thinking it.”
Howden made sure he and his Vegas teammates took care of business quickly. Operating from behind the net, Howden shot the puck off the back of Stars goalie Jake Oettinger 1:35 into overtime to give the Knights a 4-3 victory in Game 1 of their Western Conference final.
“I just just tried throwing it in there,” Howden said. “I got lucky that it went in. I think Oettinger put it in himself.”
This was the third time in four meetings this season these teams went beyond regulation to determine the winner. Dallas won twice in the regular season in shootouts.
The Stars also have plenty of experience with postseason overtimes. This is the third time in a row they have opened a series with an OT loss, so the Stars know how to fight back from adversity.
The Knights appeared headed to victory when Dallas took Oettinger out of the goal for an extra skater. Jamie Benn then forced the extra time when the Knights weren’t able to clear the puck from the crease with a 6-on-5 goal.
Having gone from victory to a tie and potentially a long night, the Knights kept their composure and didn’t waste time taking the early series lead.
“I said, ‘Let’s get this over with early so everyone can go home tonight,’” Knights coach Bruce Cassidy said, jokingly. ”I watched the (Florida-Carolina) game from start to finish. I found out the beauty of being out West now. When the game ended, it was 11 o’clock at night. ... We were able to capitalize on the first look. Sometimes that happens, sometimes it four overtimes.”
William Karlsson scored two goals for Vegas, giving him seven this postseason and extending his point streak to three games.
“You want to be one of the guys that contribute,” Karlsson said. “This is when it matters the most. I’m feeling good, and the puck is bouncing my way.”
Teddy Blueger also scored for the Knights, Zach Whitecloud had two assists and Adin Hill stopped 33 shots.
Roope Hintz and Jason Robertson each had a goal and an assist for Stars. Hintz has 10 postseason goals and 12 assists, and has hit the back of the net in four of the past five games. Joe Pavelski recorded two assists, and Oettinger made 33 saves.
Game 2 is Sunday in Las Vegas.
The Stars struck first, taking advantage of a quirky bounce off the boards where the Zamboni enters. The puck ended up on Hintz’s stick, and he took a shot from the high slot that Robertson redirected for a 1-0 lead with 1:16 left in the first.
The Knights evened the score midway through the second period when Whitecloud sent a shot from the point off the boards behind the net to Karlsson.
Both teams had near-misses in the second. A shot from Vegas’ Alec Martinez somehow sat on the goal line behind Oettinger, and Dallas’ Tyler Sequin hit the post on a play off the rush.
Karlsson put the Knights up 2-1 early in the third before Hintz answered for the Stars at 4:10 of the period. Blueger took advantage of a scrum in the crease to score at 9:20 of the third before Benn tied it up in the final two minutes.
The Stars had overcome a slow start in which the Knights outshot them 11-1 to open the game.
“I thought we got better as the game went on,” Stars coach Pete DeBoer said. “I thought our third period was our best. I thought our first period was our worst.”
NO CHALLENGE FROM DALLAS
Blueger’s goal would’ve been the winner if not for Benn’s late goal. DeBoer resisted the urge to challenge the play for goaltender interference. A missed challenge would’ve resulted in a power play for the Knights.
Blueger got the opportunity to score when Dallas’ Miro Heiskanen and Ryan Suter pushed Keegan Kolesar into Oettinger.
“Our guys in the video room looked at it and felt that Miro’s stick was in (Kolesar’s) feet, potentially tripping him into the goalie and that Ryan Suter potentially pushed him in,” DeBoer said. “We don’t get those views over on the bench. Those are those things decided in the war room. I looked at it between periods. It would have been a tough challenge.”