LAS VEGAS — A healthy scratch to start the series, Ty Dellandrea scored two pivotal, third-period goals in the Dallas Stars‘ 4-2 victory on Saturday against the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals.
The win kept the Stars’ season alive for at least two more days. Game 6 is Monday night in Dallas.
Dellandrea’s winning and insurance goals also came with another accomplishment in that it guaranteed Stars captain Jamie Benn will return for Game 6 after being suspended for the past two games for a cross-check on Golden Knights captain Mark Stone in Game 3.
“It’s a lot of desperation, we have a lot to play for here,” Dellandrea said. “Our group’s really come together and leaned on one another. Guys have stepped up. … We’ve really been leaning on one another and playing for a lot here. It’s been a group effort for sure.”
Stars defenseman Thomas Harley set up Dellandrea’s goal by breaking up a Golden Knights’ entry with his stick, passing it to Joel Kiviranta, who then played a diagonal cross-ice pass to Dellandrea for what was a 1-on-3 rush.
Creating time and space was a challenge, yet Dellandrea temporarily had both right when he launched a wrist shot from the top of the right faceoff circle. Even then? His window started to close when Golden Knights defenseman Alex Pietrangelo tried closing down on the shot only to have the puck deflect off his stick and sneak just underneath Adin Hill‘s glove to give the Stars a 3-2 lead with 9:27 remaining in the third period.
Barely 90 seconds later, Dellandrea scored again to practically guarantee Game 6.
Golden Knights defenseman Zach Whitecloud was behind the net when he tried playing the puck off the boards that led to Stars forward Max Domi scooping a loose puck that he tried throwing on net as he was being pushed from behind. Dellandrea recovered the rebound and lifted a shot over Hill to double the lead with 7:58 remaining.
Dellandrea said after Game 4 that he’s been more mindful about utilizing his shot which led to him referencing a scoring chance he felt he should have converted in Game 5.
“It shows how special you are when you get taken out and it’s he didn’t make it about him,” Stars goaltender Jake Oettinger said of Dellandrea, who is one of his closest friends on the team. “It’s all about the team. He wanted us to win. When you get your opportunity to step up and that’s what he did. I’m so proud of him. I tell him to shoot it all the time. He’s got a great shot, so, I’m happy it was him.”
Finding secondary and tertiary scoring became a priority for the Stars considering Benn was suspended and that Evgenii Dadonov suffered a lower-body injury early in Game 3 that has led to him missing the last two games.
Dellandrea’s goals helped fill that void. So did the second-period goal by Luke Glendening, who has now scored two goals in 16 playoff games after scoring three goals in 70 regular-season games.
Now add what Jason Robertson has achieved to this point for the Stars in the conference final. A 100-point scorer in the regular season, he didn’t score in the second round. But in the conference final, he’s become one of the Stars’ most consistent players. He scored the first game-tying goal, which means he’s accounted for five of the 12 goals the Stars have scored against the Golden Knights in this round.
Those contributions add to the composite of how the Stars are among the deepest teams in the playoffs. They’ve had 16 players score at least one goal in the postseason — the same number as the Golden Knights.
It’s another reason why Benn’s return has a chance to be crucial. It gives the Stars a forward who scored 33 goals in the regular season and has added to those totals with 11 points in 16 playoff games before his suspension.
“Our whole thought process was we win two games, and we get him back,” Glendening said of Benn. “[We] didn’t want his season to end that way and wanted to give him the opportunity to play again.”
Benn’s return for Game 6 on Monday could also lead to one of two outcomes.
Either the Golden Knights will win the series and advance to the Stanley Cup Final to face the Florida Panthers.
Or the Stars will tie the series and return for Game 7 with a chance to advance to their second Stanley Cup Final in four seasons.
Yet what makes the Stars’ recent accomplishments even more intriguing is the context that comes with teams that have trailed in a series. The Panthers rallied from a 3-1 hole in the first round to upset the Boston Bruins before they eventually punched their ticket to what is just the second Cup final appearance in franchise history.
And there’s also a bit of the personal experience Stars coach Pete DeBoer has when it comes to mounting a comeback. DeBoer was in charge of the San Jose Sharks when they fell into a 3-1 hole in the 2018-19 playoffs before they won the series in seven games.
The opponent? It was the Golden Knights.
“I don’t think you can compare any series to any other series,” DeBoer said. “But I know our group and we weren’t happy about being in the hole we were in, and they’ve decided to do something about it. Now, we’re rolling.”