Stars win Game 7, eliminate defending champion Golden Knights: 3 takeaways

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DALLAS — Game 7s are often the stage for unlikely heroes, and that was the case again on Sunday evening.

Dallas Stars fourth-line forward Radek Faksa backhanded a shot on net early in the third period. It ricocheted off a leg in front and past Vegas Golden Knights goalie Adin Hill for the game-winner in a 2-1 Stars victory that sent Dallas to the second round.

Faksa hadn’t scored in the playoffs — or for more than a month — prior to Sunday, but he scored the biggest goal of the season as the Stars edged the defending champion Golden Knights in another hard-fought game.

Jake Oettinger stopped 21 of 22 shots, and Dallas coach Peter DeBoer improved his record in Game 7s to 8-0 all-time. Dallas also earned some revenge against the team that eliminated them in the conference finals last year. The Stars now will face the Colorado Avalanche, who handled Winnipeg in five games, in the second round.

Johnston’s heater continues

Wyatt Johnston, at age 20, has been great for the entirety of the series, and stepped up for Dallas in the biggest game of the season. He read Vegas defenseman Shea Theodore’s pass out of the corner, intercepted the puck in the slot and rifled a shot underneath Adin Hill’s glove to open the scoring late in the first period.

Johnston was the Stars’ best overall player across all seven games, leading the team in on-ice expected goal share (68.4 percent). He was on the ice for a team-high seven goals in this series.

His speed and skill are obvious, but Johnston has been just as effective with sustained zone time in these playoffs. He’s not the biggest forward at 6-foot-1, 185 pounds, but he regularly finds his way to inside position against bigger opposition. He had nine shot attempts and three high-danger chances in Sunday’s Game 7 alone.

Dallas held Vegas ‘stars’ in check

DeBoer has made a living taking away the best players on the opposing teams in the playoffs, and he was able to do it again in this one. Vegas’ Mark Stone, Chandler Stephenson, Tomas Hertl, William Karlsson, Ivan Barbashev, Shea Theodore and Alex Pietrangelo were all held without a five-on-five goal in the first round.

Stone did contribute two key goals on the power play, and an empty-netter late in Game 6, but his offense creation at five-on-five was notably missing. Even Jack Eichel and Jonathan Marchessault – who were Vegas’ best players throughout the series – both missed grade-A chances in Game 7 when the score was tied.

Golden Knights’ depth forwards solid

With both teams struggling to generate many dangerous looks, and Vegas’ top players held off the scoresheet, the Golden Knights got a huge second-period tally from Brett Howden, thanks to an excellent pass by Michael Amadio.

The third-line wingers beat the Dallas defense up the ice, and Amadio drew Oettinger out of his crease before feeding a perfect pass to Howden on the backside of the play. Howden only had to deflect the puck into the wide-open net to tie the game 1-1.

In the end, it wasn’t enough to overcome the void, but Vegas’ depth players showed well on Sunday.

(Photo of Wyatt Johnston: Cooper Neill / Getty Images)

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