Khudobin pulled, vows to be ready for Game 4

After he was pulled before the third period of the Dallas Stars‘ Game 3 loss Wednesday night in Edmonton, Alberta, goalie Anton Khudobin vowed he would be ready for Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final — if he gets the call to start.

Khudobin left the Stars’ 5-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning after giving up five goals on 29 shots, including two goals on eight shots in the first period. He was replaced by rookie Jake Oettinger, who made three saves in the third period.

It was the second time in the postseason Khudobin had been pulled; he also was yanked from the Stars’ Game 2 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights in the Western Conference finals.

“I don’t know what happened. We’ll figure it out. Talk about it tomorrow. Right now, we just keep moving forward,” Khudobin said of his team’s Game 3 effort, which put Dallas in a 2-1 series hole.

After the series opener, Khudobin looked as if he had the inside track for playoff MVP. He made 35 saves in a 4-1 win to improve to 13-6-0 with a .923 save percentage and a 2.54 goals-against average in the postseason.

But Khudobin and the team in front of him haven’t been as sharp since. In the goalie’s past five periods, Khudobin has an .867 save percentage, giving up eight goals.

Stars coach Rick Bowness said pulling Khudobin wasn’t necessarily for his performance, but for rest.

“The kid has battled so hard the whole playoffs. You just give him a breather. The back-to-back are coming up,” said Bowness, citing Games 4 and 5 on Friday and Saturday. “We gave the kid [Oettinger] more experience and gave Dobby a break.

“Look, he’s been a rock for us back there. We don’t get here without him. No one gets to the final without great goaltending.”

The Stars have been without starter Ben Bishop for most of this postseason; he has been limited to three games and is currently unfit to play, according to the team. Khudobin, who has started 21 games for the Stars in the playoffs, said he didn’t think he needed the break.

“I wasn’t thinking about it. Coach made a decision to shake it up or change something,” he said. “I didn’t feel like I needed to get rest. If he decides to play me in Game 4, I will be ready.”

Defenseman John Klingberg said the Stars have to play better in front of Khudobin.

“He’s been playing his best hockey. Obviously we want to let him do that. Tonight we made some errors. It’s hockey,” he said. “It’s 2-1. They’re up one. We’re going to even the series on Friday.”

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