DALLAS (AP) — The Vegas Golden Knights kept their composure and got the best payback after an ugly hit early against their captain.
They have a 3-0 series lead in the Western Conference Final and are now just one more win away from making it to another Stanley Cup Final.
Ivan Barbashev scored a power-play goal after Dallas Stars captain Jamie Benn was ejected because of his hit on Mark Stone less than two minutes into the game. That was the second of three goals the Golden Knights had in the first 7 1/2 minutes, leading to an early exit for goalie Jake Oettinger as they won 4-0 in Game 3 on Tuesday night.
“You keep your composure,” said Alex Pietrangelo, who added a goal midway through the second period.
After the two captains collided near the blue line and Stone fell to the ice, Benn lunged forward with both hands on his stick and made contact near Stone’s neck as he was sliding over the center line.
“We’re upset when we see that, he’s our captain,” coach Bruce Cassidy said. “But at the end of the day, they make a call that gives us a chance to make them pay for the penalty. And we did with one goal anyway, so we’ve doubled our lead. … Do it the right way. That’s been our mindset all along.”
While Oettinger had the shortest start of his career, Vegas goalie Adin Hill stopped 34 shots in his first career postseason shutout. Hill also became the second Knights goaltender with a five-game winning streak this postseason — Laurent Brossoit won five in a row before an injury.
After four consecutive comeback victories in these playoffs, including two overtime wins at home to start the best-of-seven series, the Golden Knights were in control all of the way in this one.
Game 4 is Thursday night, when Vegas will have the opportunity to advance to its second Stanley Cup Final in the franchise’s six seasons.
The Golden Knights were Western Conference champions during their inaugural 2017-18 season, then lost the Cup Final in five games after winning the opener against the Washington Capitals. Vegas missed the playoffs for the only time last season, before coach Pete DeBoer was fired and became the Stars coach.
Johnathan Marchessault scored only 71 seconds into the game, which was only 42 seconds before Benn was assessed a game misconduct after a five-minute major for cross-checking.
“Let’s put it this way, he made a mistake. He feels really badly about it. I don’t think anyone in the building feels worse than he does about it,” DeBoer said. “I’m not going to pile on, he’s been a leader here for his entire career, and leads every day on and off the ice. … Fortunately Mark Stone’s OK, and we’ve got to live with the consequences.”
The Stars played the rest of the game without Benn, who could also face an NHL suspension after the league reviews the play.
Just before Benn’s early exit, he had a wrister that was stopped by Hill but was initially still loose under the goalie as Benn tried to get his stick back on it.
The goal by Barbashev, who later had two assists, was one of only three shots the Knights got on net during the five-minute penalty. His 30-foot wrister for a 2-0 lead came after a Ty Dellandrea’s short-handed break was blocked and Nicolas Roy took the rebound the other way before passing to Barbashev.
“What goes unnoticed in there is the save by Adin Hill on the shorthand 2-on-1 … and we come down and score,” Cassidy said. “That 15 seconds of hockey is a huge impact of the game.”
Oettinger was pulled and replaced by Scott Wedgewood after William Carrier’s backhander made it 3-0 with 12:50 left in the first period.
The 24-year-old Oettinger has now lost three starts in a row. He has lost four of five overall, the win being when he had 22 saves for the Stars in their 2-1 win in Game 7 of Western semifinal against Seattle.
Wedgewood stopped 10 of 11 shots, with Pietrangelo’s goal coming just a second after the end of a power play as Miro Heiskanen was coming out of the penalty box.
Stars center Max Domi got a game misconduct with 21 seconds left in the second period. After his cross-check against Nicolas Hague, Domi started throwing punches.
“I think you guys know exactly what was being discussed,” Hague said when asked about what led to that incident. “There’s no reason for me to get involved in anything. It is what it is, and we got a big win.”
Fans in the arena reacted to the ensuing penalty by throwing water bottles, food and other items on the ice. With extended time needed to clean up the playing surface, officials sent both teams to their locker rooms early for the second intermission with the Knights up 4-0.
Those final 21 seconds were played after the intermission before the clock was reset to 20 minutes for the third period.
“It was a little weird,” Hill said. “I’ve never seen so much stuff on the ice, that’s for sure.”
NOTES: Stars forward Evegenii Dadonov left with a lower body injury in the first period and never returned. … It was the first Western Conference Final game in Dallas since May 19, 2008, when the Stars lost to Detroit in a decisive sixth game.
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