The Dallas Stars find themselves one win away from advancing to their first Stanley Cup Final since 2000 and their third overall in franchise history. Meanwhile, the Vegas Golden Knights are fighting to do the unlikely; overcome a 3-1 deficit and advance to their second Cup Final in three seasons.
Here is a preview for Game 5 of the Western Conference Final, set to drop the puck at 6:00 p.m. local time in Edmonton. Currently, FanDuel Sportsbook has Vegas as a sizable favorite to extend the series, listing them at -175.
Game 1 was a matchup between two teams who were rolling offensively heading into the series. So naturally, just one goal was scored, as defenseman John Klingberg’s wrist-shot only two and a half minutes into regulation was all that was needed for the Stars to take a 1-0 lead in the series. Veteran goaltender Anton Khudobin stopped all 25 shots that came his way to record his first career playoff shutout, while Vegas’ Marc-Andre Fleury was 24-of-25 in net.
Two nights later, it was Vegas’ turn to blank their opponents. With Robin Lehner drawing the start over Fleury, the trade deadline acquisition made 24 saves to shutout the Stars and helped lead the Knights to a 3-0 win.
After a scoreless first period, Vegas finally got on the board in the second, exploding for three goals in a span of 10 minutes. Center Paul Stastny, center William Karlsson, and left-wing Tomas Nosek all beat Khudobin, with Karlsson’s tally coming on the power play.
Game 3 was the first game this series that saw both teams find the scoresheet, eventually requiring overtime to decide a winner. But once the puck was dropped in OT, it was over in a flash, as right-wing Alexander Radulov’s snipe 31 seconds in gave the Stars a 3-2 win and a series lead.
Dallas found a way to despite getting out-shot 40-23 and also having just one power-play opportunity, which they failed to score on. Defenseman Jamie Oleksiak and left-wing Jamie Benn also scored for Dallas, while d-man Shea Theodore and right-wing Mark Stone answered for Vegas.
With two strong games already this series, Khudobin had another excellent performance in Game 4, making 32 saves on 33 shots as the Stars won 2-1. For the third straight game, both teams were held scoreless before scoring opened up in the second.
Vegas defenseman Alec Martinez converted on the power play to put the Knights up by a goal, but center Joe Pavelski netted the equalizer roughly four minutes later. With about a minute left in the period, Dallas scored their only power-play goal of the series, as Benn delivered the clutch go-ahead goal that would serve as the game-winner. The Stars won despite being heavily out-shot once again, this time 33-20.
Keys to Victory
Dallas will win if the defense continues to excel at even strength. The second-round series against the Avalanche notwithstanding, the Stars lead this series thanks to dominant defensive play, especially during five-on-five action. Through four games, they have held the Knights to just three goals at even strength.
Granted, Vegas is continuing to out-chance them and out-shoot them, but Khudobin and the Stars are continuing to do an excellent job of limiting their scoring. The Stars might bend, but we haven’t seen much breaking from this reliable team through four games.
Vegas will win if the power play breaks through. It might seem odd to say this is a pressing adjustment the Golden Knights need to make considering they’ve scored on the power play in three straight games. But the number of chances they’re getting with the extra attacker could’ve made this a whole different series.
Vegas is 3-for-19 with the man advantage this series, having gotten no fewer than four power-play chances in a game. Considering all three losses for the Knights this series have been by a single goal, a little more from their power play can go a long way into Vegas extending the series.
Despite being down 3-1, oddsmakers still love the Golden Knights at -175, the same line they closed at before Game 1. Meanwhile, the Stars are +150. Considering how this series has fared, it only makes logical sense from a betting perspective to ride with the Stars at those odds and ride the hot goaltending of Khudobin.
Additionally, the Over/Under has been set at 5.5. The scoring has been few and far between, with the five-goal mark reached just in one time in Game 3, which required overtime. The Under is set at -155, but it once again seems like the right play,
Pick: Stars +150, Under 5.5 goals -155