Golden Knights shoot for sweep of buckling Stars

The Vegas Golden Knights will aim for a four-game sweep when they visit the Dallas Stars in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals on Thursday night.

The Golden Knights won the first two games of the series in overtime in Las Vegas before Adin Hill made 34 saves in a 4-0 win in Game 3 on Tuesday in Dallas.

“We are just playing as a team,” Vegas forward Ivan Barbashev said after tallying a goal and two assists in Game 3. “When you do things right, you get rewarded. I think that’s what we’ve been doing the whole playoffs.

Vegas has won five straight games for the second time in the 2023 playoffs and 11 of 13 since losing their postseason opener, 5-1 to the Winnipeg Jets.

Defense has been the key, as the Golden Knights have limited their opponents to two goals or fewer in seven of those wins.

“We’re frustrating the top players, skilled players,” Vegas defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “Collectively, as a group, we’re clogging up the middle of the ice and we’re frustrating teams.”

Making things more difficult for the Stars in Game 4 is that they will be severely short-handed at the forward position.

Dallas captain Jamie Benn was suspended two games by the NHL on Wednesday over his game misconduct for cross-checking Mark Stone in the face while the Vegas forward was on his back at 1:53 of the first period.

“Fortunately, Mark Stone is OK and we’ve got to live with the consequences,” Dallas coach Peter DeBoer said.

Benn had a hearing with NHL Player Safety on Wednesday.

“We went in with good intentions,” Stars forward Joe Pavelski said after Game 3. “It looked like (Benn) was going to have a big game. From the couple of shifts he had, he was engaged right away, then got tied up and (everything) happened from there. We’ve just got to respond better.”

The Stars also lost forward Evgenii Dadonov to a lower-body injury early in the first period.

Benn has 11 points (three goals, eight assists) and Dadanov 10 points (four goals, six assists), both in 16 playoff games.

DeBoer removed goalie Jake Oettinger for the third time in the playoffs after he allowed three goals on five shots in the first 7:10 of Game 3. Scott Wedgewood replaced Oettinger and stopped 10 off 11 shots, but Oettinger will likely return to the net for Game 4.

“I thought we had the legs and the energy and attitude to survive (the bad start), but we didn’t,” DeBoer said. “That was unfortunate. Now we are in a big hole and we’ve got to find a way to win a game on Thursday.”

For a 10-minute stretch from late in the second period to midway through the third, Dallas was also without Max Domi, who received a 10-minute misconduct for roughing Golden Knights forward Nicolas Hague, leaving the Stars with nine forwards.

Dallas fans pelted the ice with debris following the penalty on Domi, resulting in an early start to the second intermission. The Stars and Golden Knights came out of the intermission and completed the final 22 seconds of the second period before playing the third.

On Wednesday morning, the Stars issued an apology to the Golden Knights and the NHL for their fans’ behavior. Domi was levied a $5,000 fine earlier in the day.

The Golden Knights could be without forward Brett Howden, who left in the third period of Game 3 after re-aggravating an injury.

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