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Stars beat Oilers 3-1 to even up Western Conference final 1-1

Kris Knoblauch would have happily taken a split earlier in the week.

After his Edmonton Oilers saw an opportunity to truly grab hold of the Western Conference final — especially in an opening 20 minutes heavily tilted in their favour — the team’s head coach departed American Airlines Center with a sour feeling.

Mason Marchment scored the winner early in the third period Saturday as the Dallas Stars beat the Oilers 3-1 to even a series with razor-thin margins 1-1.

“It would’ve been nice to come out of here 2-0,” said Knoblauch, whose group picked a 3-2 double overtime victory Thursday. “Dallas has a lot to say about that.”

Jamie Benn, with a goal and an assist, and Esa Lindell, into an empty net, provided the rest of the offence for the Stars.

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Jake Oettinger made 28 saves — including 15 in the opening 20 minutes — for Dallas, which was minus No. 1 centre Roope Hintz (lower-body injury) for a fourth straight game. Wyatt Johnston had two assists.

“I just don’t think we were good enough in the first,” said Marchment, whose team blocked 22 shots. “Jakey stood on his head and allowed us to get our feet wet.

“After that we took over and started playing our game.”

Connor Brown replied for Edmonton, which got 22 stops from Stuart Skinner.

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“They defend well,” Oilers captain Connor McDavid said. “They’ve been doing a good job of getting into lanes — passing lanes, shooting lanes.”

The Stars lost their seventh straight Game 1 some 48 hours earlier, but have rebounded with a Game 2 victory in five of those series.

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The best-of-seven matchup shifts to Edmonton for Games 3 and 4 beginning Monday.

“I guess that’s a positive,” McDavid said of heading home knotted 1-1. “We had a big opportunity tonight, and we didn’t capitalize.”

Marchment snapped a 1-1 tie at 3:41 of the third when he tipped a knuckling Ryan Suter point shot through the legs of Oilers defenceman Vincent Desharnais and past Skinner for his second goal of the post-season.

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Dallas Stars goaltender Jake Oettinger (29) blocks a shot by Edmonton Oilers centre Mattias Janmark, left, as Stars’ Ryan Suter (20) looks on during the second period in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals in the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs Saturday, May 25, 2024, in Dallas. Tony Gutierrez / The Associated Press

“They came with a big push,” Brown said. “We know we can be better.”

That breakthrough came shortly after Stars rookie Logan Stankoven sent a puck through Edmonton’s crease with Skinner down and out.

Ekholm had a couple chances late in the third — including a shot off the knob of Oettinger’s stick — before Lindell scored his second into an empty net with 2:03 remaining in regulation. There appeared to be a mixup moments earlier with Edmonton changing as Skinner headed to the bench for an extra attacker.

“It’s always difficult at the end of the game when to pull your goalie,” Knoblauch said. “You want to get your best players out there and have it set up, but you also don’t want to have too much time pass by without getting them out there.

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“We probably would’ve liked to wait just a little bit longer.”

Dallas opened the scoring at 3:39 of the opening period when Benn fired his fourth off a 2-on-1 on the Stars’ first shot.

Edmonton responded 44 seconds later when Brown slid a rebound past Oettinger for the second playoff goal of his career — and first since April 2018 when he was with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

“Really liked our start,” Oilers defenceman Mattias Ekholm said. “We knew they weren’t happy with the loss in Game 1. They were going to come out hot, but I thought we took that away from them.”

Skinner made a couple of big stops later in the period despite Edmonton holding a 16-4 shot advantage, denying Wyatt Johnson and two chances off the stick of Tyler Seguin.

He made another huge save on Evgenii Dadonov six minutes into the second as the Stars surged forward before the Oilers killed off their 20th straight penalty to improve to an outstanding 38-for-41 in these playoffs.

Oettinger then made a good stop on a Mattias Janmark wraparound chance to keep the score at 1-1 through 40 minutes before Marchment nudged Dallas ahead to even the series.

“It’s a little bit more bitter when you win the first one and lose the second,” Knoblauch said. “We’re just excited to go back to Edmonton and play on our home ice.”

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Henrique sits

The Oilers were once again without veteran forward Adam Henrique, who has played just once since suffering a suspected ankle injury in Game 5 of his team’s first-round series.

Faksa out

Dallas forward Radek Faksa (undisclosed) was scratched. Ty Dellandrea took his spot in the lineup.

Taking it in

Travis Kelce of the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs watched the game from a private suite along with professional golfer Bryson DeChambeau and former Major League Baseball pitcher Cole Hamels.

Kelce was booed when shown on the big screen in the second period.

&© 2024 The Canadian Press

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