Stars and DeBoer moving on after ousting Cup champ Vegas in tight 7-game series

DALLAS — Dallas Stars coach Pete DeBoer had so many emotions to process after a Game 7 victory over his former team.

There were those mixed feelings still from last year, when the Vegas Golden Knights beat Dallas in the Western Conference Final and that team for which he had such a great affection went on to win its first Stanley Cup. And there was just the tremendous joy of getting past them in his second postseason chance with the Stars.

“Obviously, really wanted to win this series. I mean, we wanted our turn,” DeBoer said after the series-ending 2-1 victory Sunday night. “We felt we did all the right things all year in order to get the first seed. And then you draw a team like Vegas, which I honestly think they’ve got a deeper team than they had last year. And to plow through the adversity of being down 2-0, there’s a lot there to unpack.”

After losing those first two games at home, the Stars came back to win a tight series. Both teams scored 16 goals, and the margin was never more than two goals at any point.

“I don’t think either team could sit here and say they were dominating the series, or were truly at their best the whole time,” said Bruce Cassidy, who two years ago replaced DeBoer as the Vegas coach. “I don’t think you saw either team truly get to its max. But some of that credit has to go to the opposition.”

The Stars now have a quick turnaround, though they get to stay home. Game 1 of their second-round series against Colorado is Tuesday night, a week after the Avalanche wrapped up their opening round with a Game 5 win over Winnipeg.

Vegas, which had 22 players back from its Cup-winning roster, goes into an offseason wondering what could have been without all of the injuries during the season. While the group was together at the end, captain Mark Stone didn’t even play until the postseason with three trade-deadline acquisitions that may not have able to get if he hadn’t been on the long-term injured reserve.

“We came out of the gate really well, our full team was together and then the adversity kind of kicked in. We had nine guys have surgery this year. Nine guys … two of them internal surgeries,” Cassidy said. “It takes a while to get back up to speed. That would be the unfortunate part. They came and did get healthy enough for the playoffs. That was the positive, and now you are trying to get a team up to speed in a hurry.”

Stone lacerated his spleen Feb. 20 and didn’t return to full-contact practice until two days before the series opener. Alex Pietrangelo had a non-COVID illness in late March, then had an appendectomy. Chandler Stephenson and William Carrier also missed games late in the season.

“I don’t think anyone in this room thought we weren’t going to have an opportunity to win,” Pietrangelo said.

“I really thought we could have done some damage going forward. I’m sure Dallas wasn’t thrilled to play us in the first round either,” Stone said. “It’s disappointing, but I guess for our organization, fuel the fire. We’ll be ready for September to be right back here next season.”

DeBoer is 8-0 in Game 7s in his career with four teams, including a second-round series with Dallas against Seattle last year before facing the Knights.

The coach has been part of all four of the Game 7s for the Knights, who are 2-2 in those games. DeBoer was their coach for the wins in 2020 and 2021, and on San Jose’s bench when the Sharks beat them in 2019.

“They wanted to go back-to-back, and I think they felt they had a team to do it,” DeBoer said. “There was a lot on the line for us too, I think just because of the season we had. … All the work that we’ve put in this year, and how well we’ve played over the course of the season to earn the No. 1 seed, to get that draw and get ousted would have been hard to swallow.”

Instead, DeBoer got to celebrate with a few beers and look ahead to another series.


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