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May 2, 2024 8:51 pm

Hot Stars aim to eliminate defending champion Golden Knights

golden knights

The defending Stanley Cup champion Vegas Golden Knights head into Friday night’s Game 6 in Las Vegas against the Dallas Stars in their Western Conference first-round series needing a victory to keep alive their hopes of repeating as champs.

Vegas never found itself in an elimination contest en route to series wins over Winnipeg, Edmonton, Dallas and Florida while capturing the first Stanley Cup in franchise history last season.

It’s the first time since June 24, 2021, when they lost at Montreal, 3-2 in overtime in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup semifinals, that the Golden Knights have played in an elimination game. Their coach? Peter DeBoer.

DeBoer, fired by the Golden Knights after Vegas failed to make the playoffs during an injury-riddled 2021-22 season, will try to guide the Stars into a second-round matchup against Colorado.

Game 7, if necessary, would be Sunday night in Dallas.

“It’s always the toughest game to win is the elimination game,” DeBoer said. “It’s always the toughest to win to put a team away and send them home for the summer. So, we know that going in, especially in that building.”

The Golden Knights fell 3-2 in Dallas in Game 5 on Wednesday.

“We’ll hang our hats on the fact we’re the defending Stanley Cup champions, so there’s a lot of resolve in that room,” Vegas coach Bruce Cassidy said. “A lot of pride in that room. We’ve got to go home and win one game in the playoffs.

“That’s something we’re certainly capable of. Will it happen? Dallas is going to have a say in that, but it’s not this obstacle that we can’t overcome.”

The Stars, the top seed in the Western Conference after finishing with 113 points, rebounded from back-to-back home losses to start the series to win three in a row.

Dallas has thrived on the road after finishing with an NHL best 26-10-5 mark away from home during the regular season.

“We’ve got a great group for going on the road and winning,” DeBoer said. “A real mature group. Great leadership. They understand how we have to play on the road. No one is overwhelmed in these moments.”

That includes goaltender Jake Oettinger who stuck out his right pad to deny Chandler Stephenson’s breakaway try with 2:40 to go in Game 5. Oettinger also turned away a pair of shots after Vegas pulled goalie Adin Hill for an extra attacker and has stopped 89 of 95 shots over the past three games.

“He’s rising to the occasion at the most important time of the year,” DeBoer said. “That (Stephenson’s breakaway) was a critical moment. Those are the kinds of moments that you look back at hopefully at the end of a really long playoff run and a championship and go that was a defining moment in our playoff run.”

Vegas defenseman Alec Martinez, who has won three Stanley Cups including two with the Los Angeles Kings, says his team still has what it takes to rebound and win the series. After all, the Golden Knights had defeated Dallas five consecutive times before entering their current losing skid.

“You rely on experience,” Martinez said. “It’s not the first adversity that this team has faced. To expect to get to a Stanley Cup Final or win a Stanley Cup and not have your back against the wall is fairly unrealistic. This is what the playoffs are all about.”

-Field Level Media

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