Stars aim to close door on Golden Knights in Game 5
The Dallas Stars are in an unlikely spot, but they don't doubt they're deserving to be one win away from reaching the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2000.
As the Stars ready to face the Vegas Golden Knights on Monday in Edmonton, it's with the opportunity to clinch the Western Conference final in five games. Dallas has been outshot and outplayed for most of the best-of-seven series so far, but thanks to timely goals and top-shelf goaltending from Anton Khudobin they lead the series 3-1.
"You can't play the shot clock," said Stars forward Joe Pavelski. "There is a big commitment in our locker room. Would we like better stretches at times? Absolutely. We understand where we're at, and we haven't done anything yet. We're one step closer, but nothing has been accomplished yet, so we'll just stay focused, try to play our best game of the series (in Game 5)."
Since the 1982 playoffs -- when the NHL adopted the conference format -- teams with a 3-1 lead in the conference finals have won 34 of 35 series. Teams leading 3-1 in any NHL best-of-seven series have won 91 percent of the time.
All of which leaves the Golden Knight in an uphill climb.
"There's no quitters in that locker room. I know we're going to battle till the end," vowed forward Jonathan Marchessault.
That said, the Golden Knights know all too well how a series can change. They held a 3-1 lead on the Vancouver Canucks last round, but ran into a red-hot goaltender and needed a seventh game to advance.
"We stuck with it, said Vegas coach Pete DeBoer. "This is a long way from over, and we're going to be a tough out."
Not if the Golden Knights can't solve Khudobin. The Dallas goaltender has stopped 119 of 125 shots in this series, although he's not willing to take that much credit.
"I just try to find the puck and react to it," Khudobin said. "I don't know if it's luck or whatever, but let's call it luck."
However, as the adage goes, "you must be good to be lucky," and Khudobin's luck has the Stars believing in their chances every game.
"We play with confidence," forward Corey Perry said. "Dobby made some big saves for us in timely situations and that's confidence. It starts with Dobby and goes all the way out."
It puts the onus on the Golden Knights to crack that confidence.
"Obviously, there's a sense of urgency right now, where we are in the series, but you have to stay positive," said Vegas forward Reilly Smith. "The more you get down on yourself, you kind of put yourself in the opposite direction.
"We just have to start finding pucks and do a better job making space for each other and clearing space in front of their net. It seems like the puck is bouncing every way but in the net. We've just got to find a way to change that."
"All we need is to finish," DeBoer said. "I think the effort's there. I think we're creating a lot of really good looks. I think defensively we've been really good. Their best player, Joe Pavelski, takes a backhand, rolls up the shaft of our stick and over our goalie's shoulder. We haven't gotten any of those. We've got to stick with it until we do."
Neither coach would provide updates on the status of players injured in Game 4 -- Roope Hintz of Dallas and Mark Stone of Vegas. Stone blocked a shot with his foot/ankle and finished the game but was in obvious pain. Hintz left midway through the first period. If he can't play, watch for Justin Dowling to skate.
--Field Level Media