LM Otero / Associated Press
Published Saturday, April 8, 2023 | 3:31 p.m.
Updated Saturday, April 8, 2023 | 5:19 p.m.
The Golden Knights lost 2-1 in a shootout to the Dallas Stars on Saturday at American Airlines Center, but check off another goal for Vegas heading into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Vegas secured home-ice advantage for the first round of the playoffs by earning one point. That ensures the Golden Knights finishing in the top two of the Pacific Division.
The loss, however, delays Vegas from clinching the division for at least one more game. It needed to win and have Edmonton lose in regulation in San Jose. The Oilers rolled past the Sharks, 6-1, for their seventh straight win.
Vegas will get a chance to clinch the division Tuesday against Seattle in the final regular-season home game for 2022-23 before meeting the Kraken again Thursday.
The Golden Knights have 107 points while the Oilers have 105. Edmonton faces the defending Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche Tuesday in Denver before meeting San Jose Thursday in Alberta.
“I loved our effort,” said Golden Knights coach Bruce Cassidy after his team earned a point for the 14th time in the last 16 games. “It’s a good point. You always want the other one. It was a good hockey game.”
Brett Howden scored the lone goal, and Jonathan Quick made 24 saves for the Golden Knights (49-22-9) as they played beyond regulation for the fifth time in the last eight games.
Vegas dropped to 2-3 in those games after failing to score in the shootout. Roope Hintz scored the lone goal in the second round. Dallas goalie Jake Oettinger used his right skate to stop Paul Cotter’s attempt in the third that would’ve extended the game.
“I think all these games lately have that (playoff) feel to them,” Howden said. “For us, they’re important points.”
The Golden Knights didn’t have Jack Eichel in the lineup, who is day-to-day with a lower-body injury. It’s not an injury that’s expected to keep the club’s top scorer out of the lineup for the final week of the regular season. Nicolas Roy was moved up to the top line in his place.
Without Eichel, the game was a defensive battle. Vegas put its focus on staying back and not allowing anything dangerous from a Stars team that entered the contest as the seventh-best scoring team in the league (3.44 goals per game).
Dallas’ top line of Jason Robertson, Hintz and Joe Pavelski managed a combined four shots on goal with Robertson accounting for three.
“It was a tight-knit game,” Golden Knights defenseman Ben Hutton said. “In a game of inches like that, we had some chances, they had some chances. It could’ve gone either way tonight.”
The fourth lines for both teams made an impact in the contest. Howden opened the scoring with his sixth goal at 14:21 of the first on a breakaway. Stars forward Joel Kiviranta responded at 12:59 of the second with a wrist shot from the left circle that got under Quick’s glove for his eighth goal.
The Golden Knights had to play the final half of the third period without defenseman Zach Whitecloud. He went to the locker room after Hintz fell on his left leg following a cross-check.
Whitecloud was out from Dec. 11-Feb. 7 due to a right knee injury. Vegas is already without defenseman Shea Theodore (lower body), who did not make the trip.
“We’re all hopeful it looked worse than it may turn out to be,” Cassidy said. “Right now, the news is OK, but they’ll have to look at him tomorrow.”
The Stars swept the three-game season series with two wins coming via shootout. The Golden Knights could see the Stars — and former coach Pete DeBoer — in the Western Conference Final.
Vegas must beat Seattle twice this coming week to clinch home-ice advantage throughout the Western Conference playoffs. However, if the Golden Knights lose one of those contests and Colorado wins its final five games, a stretch that starts late Saturday against Los Angeles, then the Avalanche win the West.
“We started the year, went into training camp, the team missed the playoffs the year before. That’s the first box you want to check. We did that,” Cassidy said. “We’re going to open at home. We’re a good road team. To me, there’s importance to that, but to me, we’d be OK wherever we’d play.
“We have an opportunity to win the division. This team likes to win things. That’s the next thing in front of them, so we’d like to do that. Conference, all of those things. You want health going into the playoffs, and you want to play a good team game. We’ll try to win the division if we can and get ready for Seattle on Tuesday.”