LM Otero / AP
Published Tuesday, April 26, 2022 | 8:36 p.m.
Updated Tuesday, April 26, 2022 | 10:30 p.m.
The Golden Knights’ season may have ended because of a skills competition.
Mathematically, Vegas is still alive despite going 0-for-7 in a shootout and losing 3-2 to the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center on Tuesday with two games remaining.
But the Golden Knights (42-31-7) couldn’t afford anything less than two points against the Stars, the team they’re chasing for the second wild card in the West, and now sit four points behind Dallas.
The Nashville Predators and Los Angeles Kings both clinched playoff spots with Vegas’ loss, meaning the only way the Golden Knights can make a fifth straight playoff appearance is by winning their final two games and hoping Dallas loses to Arizona and Anaheim in regulation.
Vegas and Dallas both play at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday night.
“Tough pill to swallow. Unfortunately, we’re going to need a lot of help here and we’re going to have to take care of business tomorrow and Friday,” said captain Mark Stone.
The easy thing to do is look back at the Golden Knig
hts’ body of work over the last month and a half and pinpoint the missed opportunities. Whether it’s losing all five games during an East Coast road trip in March, or the recent losses to Vancouver in overtime and New Jersey eight days ago.
But should Vegas be eliminated from playoff contention in less than 24 hours, it's the last two games that should be talked about — earning only two out of a possible four points and both losses coming in shootouts.
Despite any belief the 5-4 shootout loss to San Jose on Sunday shouldn’t have happened, the Golden Knights went a combined 0-for-10 during these last two shootouts, and are 4-for-18 dating back to their last four. Those conversions all came during one game.
“We’ve got to win. It’s not perfect, back-to-back. We emptied the tank tonight,” coach Pete DeBoer said. “We don’t have a choice. We’ve got to find a way to re-energize and get ready and win a game tomorrow.”
This isn’t to imply the Golden Knights will miss the playoffs because they failed to score one-on-one against the opposing goalie. They still blew a two-goal lead with two minutes remaining Sunday, and took a 2-1 lead into the third before faltering Tuesday in a game they needed to win in regulation.
William Carrier and Chandler Stephenson scored late goals in the first and second periods, respectively, but second-year Stars forward Jason Robertson scored his 39th and 40th goals this season to offset the Vegas leads.
Robertson tied it 2-2 at 3:13 of the third period.
“He’s a scorer. He finds areas,” defenseman Brayden McNabb said. “It’s what goal-scorers do.”
In his first start since the announcement that Robin Lehner was undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery, Logan Thompson made 28 saves to give the Golden Knights a chance at the end.
His biggest save, arguably of his career, came in overtime when Dallas forward Roope Hintz skated down the left side on a breakaway. Thompson robbed Hintz’s wrist shot with the glove.
After Thompson stopped the first six shootout attempts his way, Dallas defenseman Miro Heiskanen broke the tie with the only goal in the shootout. William Karlsson’s attempt to prolong it was stopped by Jake Oettinger, the Stars’ rookie goalie who made 33 saves.
“He was great. He did everything he could for us tonight,” DeBoer said of Thompson. “Even outside of the shootout, I thought in the game he was excellent.”
Despite Thompson’s best efforts — and they will need to be had again Wednesday night in Chicago — the Golden Knights are on their last legs. Once the puck drops at United Center, they’ll only be able to focus on what they can control in front of them.
At the same time, they’ll be rooting for the Coyotes, a chore not taken up by many outside of Glendale, Ariz., this season.
Then they’ll do it all over again Friday should it get that far.
“Unfortunately, we’ll know if that last game means anything Thursday night,” Stone said. “We’re professionals. We’ve got to be ready for tomorrow because we’re still fighting. You just never know in this league. Crazier things can happen.”