Golden Knights Aim For Closeout Win; Stars Eye Comeback Entering Game 5 Of Western Final

May 27, 2023, 3:21 PM

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Alec Martinez was part of the 2014 Los Angeles Kings team that erased a 3-0 first-round series deficit and beat Joe Pavelski and the San Jose Sharks in Game 7.

Pavelski and coach Pete DeBoer were the centerpiece of a Sharks comeback from 3-1 down in the opening round of the 2019 playoffs to knock off the Vegas Golden Knights.

And now, the Dallas Stars are trying to repeat history trailing 3-1, though the odds remain heavily against them at plus-750 at FanDuel Sportsbook entering Game 5 of the Western final on Saturday at Vegas. The Stars, however, have given themselves a chance by winning 3-2 on Thursday on Pavelski’s power-play goal in overtime to remain alive.

Should they beat the Knights and force a Game 6 in Dallas, that could shift the pressure in this series to Vegas.

“We’ll get some rest and we’ll look to do it again and keep trying to put a little doubt in their minds,” Pavelski said.

Pavelski knows what it’s like to be in the Knights’ position. In 2014, the Sharks won the first three games of their series against the Kings. Then, Los Angeles rolled off four victories in a row, including a 5-1 victory in Game 7 at San Jose, to become the fourth team in NHL history to rally from 3-0 down in a series.

Martinez said he doesn’t put as much stock in that experience in trying to prevent Dallas from doing the same to the Knights. Instead, it’s the experience of closing out series he said would serve him better.

And the Knights, until Thursday at least, have been on a roll in closeout games. They had won four in a row, all by at least three goals, including two this year.

“It’s finding that balance between knowing what’s at stake and also approaching it as another playoff game,” Martinez said. “I think you’re better off focusing on the process, knowing that if you play a good game … if you stick to your game, the end result will take care of itself. I think the guys have done a good job of going into games with that opportunity.”

Martinez wasn’t on the 2019 Vegas team that allowed a big lead to get away. Vegas took a 3-1 series advantage before San Jose came back to force a Game 7. But the Knights seemed to have victory well in hand with a 3-0 lead midway through the third period.

Then, Vegas’ Cody Eakin was called for a cross-checking major that bloodied Pavelski, and the Sharks stormed back with four goals in 4:01 to stun the Golden Knights. Vegas tied the game late before the Sharks won in overtime.

It was a questionable decision by the officials to call a major, so much so that the result of the play led to the NHL two months later to mandate all majors undergo video review. That was too late to help the Knights, but for the handful of players still on the roster from that game, seeing Pavelski and DeBoer on the other side could be a little unsettling if Dallas builds on its Game 4 victory.

“I don’t think anyone anticipated anyone getting swept on either side of things,” Martinez said. “This is playoff hockey. Punches are thrown one way and then reciprocated. They threw a good one (Thursday) night. It’s up to us to come back (Saturday) and be ready for that, play our A-game, and try to dictate our pace at home.”

The Stars will again be without captain Jamie Benn, who will serve the last of a two-game suspension for cross-checking Vegas captain Mark Stone, who was prone on the ice Tuesday night. Forward Evgenii Dadonov, who played for the Knights last season, is not on the trip because of a lower-body injury that DeBoer said is worse than originally thought.

Should the Stars win to send the series back to Dallas for Game 6, they would get back Benn and inject even more intensity into this matchup.

RELATED: Pavelski Scores In OT, Stars Beat Golden Knights 3-2 To Avoid West Sweep

And perhaps give themselves a real chance to make history.

“Three out of four games in overtime shows you how tight these two teams are,” Dallas goalie Jake Oettinger said. “Hopefully, (Thursday’s victory) gives us belief we can beat these guys.”

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Golden Knights Aim For Closeout Win; Stars Eye Comeback Entering Game 5 Of Western Final