Vegas bound: Stars win, set up series vs. Knights

    Greg Wyshynski is ESPN’s senior NHL writer.

DALLAS — The Dallas Stars eliminated the Seattle Kraken with a 2-1 win in Game 7 on Monday, thanks to a strong defensive effort in front of goalie Jake Oettinger.

Forwards Roope Hintz and Wyatt Johnston had the goals for the Stars, who face the Vegas Golden Knights in the Western Conference Final beginning Friday night in Las Vegas.

Dallas and Vegas previously met in the 2020 conference final, when the Stars eliminated the Golden Knights in five games. Current Dallas head coach Peter DeBoer was the coach for the Golden Knights in that series. He was fired in 2022 after three seasons and took over the Dallas bench last summer.

With the win over Seattle, DeBoer moved to 7-0 all-time in Game 7. He became just the third coach in NHL history to win a Game 7 with four different franchises — New Jersey, San Jose, Vegas and Dallas.

After six games that saw a total of 49 goals scored between the teams, Game 7 was an intense goalie duel at American Airlines Center.

Oettinger (21 saves) improved to 24-2-3 this season in games after a loss. Oettinger was pulled in the Stars’ Game 6 loss at Seattle that pushed the series to seven games.

“He has an elite mindset,” said DeBoer before Game 7. “He doesn’t let last game bleed into the next game.”

Kraken goalie Philipp Grubauer was also outstanding, making 26 saves that included several high-danger chances from the Stars.

Hintz put the Stars up late in the second period. Defenseman Esa Lindell lobbed the puck from the Dallas defensive zone to the Seattle blue line, where Kraken defender Jamie Oleksiak tried to play it. But Hintz flew in and swiped the puck away, skating in unabated and snapping the puck over goalie Grubauer for the 1-0 lead that the Stars carried into the intermission. It was the ninth goal of the postseason for Hintz at 15:59 of the second period.

It remained that way until rookie forward Johnston scored a brilliant goal at 12:48, skating in quickly on the forecheck and then flipping a backhand shot off the mask of Grubauer and into the net for the 2-0 lead.

While Johnston was born on May 14, 2003, fans in the upper deck sang “Happy Birthday” following the goal scored on May 15.

Seattle’s Oliver Bjorkstrand scored with 17.6 seconds left and the Kraken net empty to end Oettinger’s shutout bid.

For the Kraken, the loss ended the first postseason run for the two-year-old franchise. They upset the Colorado Avalanche in the first round before pushing Dallas to the limit.

“Both teams have had the ability to rise to the occasion at the right time in this series,” said Seattle coach Dave Hakstol before the game. “It’s Game 7 with everything on the line. I would expect nothing less from both teams.”

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