NHL Bubble Wrap: Khudobin, Stars eliminate Golden Knights in Game 5

  • For the first time in 20 years, the Stars are headed to the Stanley Cup Final. Eliminating the Golden Knights in five games wasn’t easy, but Dallas just keeps rolling.
  • The NHL announced a seventh straight week without positive COVID-19 tests. Still mind-boggling, honestly.
  • The Flames removed the “interim” tag, making Geoff Ward their full-fledged head coach.

Game 5: Stars 3, Golden Knights 2 [OT] (DAL wins series 4-1)

During much of Game 5, it looked like the Golden Knights might grind out a win to avoid being eliminated.

To start, they managed another 1-0 lead, this time coming off of a nice breakaway move by Chandler Stephenson. Vegas piled on the volume during the second period, yet the score remained 1-0.

Once Reilly Smith made it 2-0 shortly after the third period began, things looked even brighter for Vegas. Then the wheels fell off.

First, Jamie Benn muscled home a rebound to make it 2-1. Following a bad penalty from Alex Tuch, Joel Kiviranta managed some more playoff magic with a power-play goal. Just like that, all of the Golden Knights’ hard work evaporated into a 2-2 score heading into overtime.

Then, Zach Whitecloud will be haunted by a delay of game penalty, as Denis Gurianov powered home the overtime series-clincher. The Stars keep finding ways to scratch and claw their way to victories, and it’s brought them all the way to the 2020 Stanley Cup Final.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Three Stars

1. Anton Khudobin, Dallas Stars

Sorry if this sounds like a broken record, but Khudobin keeps banging out the hits.

Sure, people are correct in stating that the Golden Knights could stand to take greater advantage of rebounds, or create more of them. The phrase “netfront presence” is appropriate to chuck around.

Yet sometimes such talk also boils down to nitpicking otherwise head-scratching results. Often in the postseason, you simply run into a hot goalie, or even goalies. And it’s pretty tough to describe Anton Khudobin as anything but red-hot.

In Game 5, Khudobin made 34 out of 36 saves to nab this win. He shut down plenty of high-end opportunities, most memorably turning away a golden Max Pacioretty semi-breakaway when the game was 2-0. If the Stars want to continue with their bend-but-don’t-break strategy, than they need Khudobin to continue to be goaltending Gumby.

2. Denis Gurianov, Stars

Goodness, was that overtime game-winner ever a rocket of a shot by Gurianov.

The young winger ended Game 5 with two points, as he combined that overtime game-winner with an assist on the tally that sent the contest to OT. While his offense has been sporadic, Gurianov now has 17 points during 21 playoff games.

There are times when it still seems like he’s a few mistakes away from the doghouse, but when you see production like this, you wonder if the Stars should let him unleash that shot more often? Opponents are saying: “Um, actually, please don’t?”

3. John Klingberg, Stars

It’s easy to see why Miro Heiskanen receives so much hype, but don’t sleep on the other big-time Stars defenseman. Klingberg earned two primary assists, collecting his points on the game-tying and winning tallies. Klingberg ended the night with impressive possession stats to boot, giving him an edge over other worthy considerations, such as Jamie Benn.

Highlight of Stars’ Game 5 win vs. Golden Knights

Quite a rally from down 2-0. Check out that Gurianov rocket (with more highlights in the video above this post’s headline):

Factoids

  • This postseason’s run makes things funky. Still, Sportsnet Stats provided an interesting note that the Stars are the first time since the 1968 Blues to enter the Stanley Cup Final with a negative goal differential during the playoffs.
  • Count this as the fifth Stanley Cup Final trip in Stars’ franchise history (not just Stars, but also North Stars). [via NHL PR]
  • The Stars managed their eighth comeback win of this playoff run. That’s the most in NHL history before a Stanley Cup Final, according to ESPN Stats & Info.

TUESDAY’S NHL PLAYOFF SCHEDULE

Game 5: Islanders vs. Lightning (TB leads 3-1) – 8 p.m. ET, NBCSN (livestream)

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