Jack Eichel scores on the empty net to secure Knights win
Jack Eichel scores on the empty net to secure Knights win (Credit: )

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DALLAS -- — Jack Eichel and defending Stanley Cup champion Vegas got exactly what they anticipated, and withstood that early hard push in Game 2 by the desperate Dallas Stars. The Golden Knights didn’t settle for a split while starting the first-round series on the road. “We expected them to come out and push hard that first five, 10 minutes and they did,” Eichel said. “We responded. We were able to come in here after the first period and it’s all tied. ... They gave us all we could handle.” Eichel assisted on the tying goal by Jonathan Marchessault late in the first period before adding an empty-netter late, Noah Hanifin scored the tiebreaker with unassisted goal late in the second period and the Knights won 3-1 on Wednesday night for a 2-0 series lead. Game 3 is Saturday night in Las Vegas. “We’re in a good spot, but there’s still a lot of hockey left to be played,” Hanifin said. “We’re happy to get back into our building and have that momentum on our side. ... Just got to keep doing what we’re doing, chipping away at it and play our game.” Hanifin was one of the three trade-deadline acquisitions for the Knights, the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference. Marchessault’s second goal of the series was his franchise-record 36th in the postseason while appearing in all 90 of Vegas’ playoff games. Logan Thompson had 20 saves in his second career playoff start, though Dallas didn’t get a shot to him in the final 5:37 of the game. In the Western Conference Final last May, the Knights were the top seed when winning the first three games against Dallas and eventually taking the series in six games. After falling 4-3 in the opener of this first-round series, the Stars came out intent on setting a hard-hitting tone before the series shifted West. Mason Marchment took defenseman Zach Whitecloud off his skates with a jarring hit behind the Vegas net only 2 1/2 minutes into the game. Knights captain Mark Stone ended up on the ice midway through the first period when it appeared that he was going to take a shot at Jason Robertson, who instead bowed up and delivered a body blow instead. In the end, Dallas still couldn’t take down the Knights. “Loved our first period. We make one mistake at the end of the first, probably deserved to be up. That was probably a critical point in the game,” Stars coach Pete DeBoer said. “Eichel, the wrong guy gets behind us at the wrong time. And that’s what they do, they make you pay. So you come out of the first after playing a great period and you have nothing to show for it.” Hanifin’s go-ahead goal with 1:07 left in the second period came after defenseman Esa Lindell blocked two shots in a row. Robertson put Dallas up 1-0 with his second goal of the series, on a power play with 3:13 left in the first period. His 10th career playoff goal was his eighth against Vegas. After Eichel’s shot went in the empty net late, Robertson broke his stick when he slammed it against the post. The goal by Robertson came soon after Marchment whiffed at a loose puck that had popped off Thompson’s glove, and another scramble in front of the goalie when Roope Hintz was denied twice. The Knights got even with 1:51 left in the first period on a charge when Eichel made a move that Jake Oettinger bit on. The goalie slipped down and Marchessault had an open side of the net after getting a nifty pass. “We settled in eventually. You don’t want want 1-0 to turn into 2-0, so we did a good job with that,” Vegas coach Bruce Cassidy said. “Go into the intermission 1-1, we haven’t been our best, but we got through it.” Oettinger had 23 saves, including a sequence in the second period when he knocked away three successive shots by Shea Theodore. After his first shot was blocked, Theodore gathered the loose puck and tried a backhander on which Oettinger made a sprawling save, lunging to knock away the puck with his extended glove. The Knights defenseman got the puck again, skated around a couple of Stars and his third shot went off the goalie who was still laying on the ice at the edge of the crease. That was during a 4-on-4 period after a scuffle in front of Oettinger when his teammate Ryan Suter threw Anthony Mantha down and both got roughing penalties. Thomas had a couple of close-range saves right after that. ------ AP NHL playoffs: https://apnews.com/hub/stanley-cup and https://apnews.com/hub/nhl