Stars breathe new life into series with the Golden Knights entering Game 4

LAS VEGAS (AP) — An NBA adage is a playoff series doesn't genuinely begin until a home team loses.

The NHL first-round playoffs series between Vegas and Dallas might not truly start until a home team wins.

The defending champion Golden Knights appeared to take a stranglehold on the series by winning the first two games in Dallas, but the Stars responded with a 3-2 overtime victory Saturday night in Las Vegas.

It's possible the Stars found something that will benefit them going into Game 4 on Monday night in Las Vegas (9:30 p.m. EDT/ESPN). They were much more dominant than the score indicates, with 27 high-danger chances to the Knights' four. If not for Vegas goalie Logan Thompson's 43 saves, the Stars would've sealed the victory long before the end of regulation.

“It's not just winning, it's as important how you win,” Stars coach Pete DeBoer said. “I think we were building towards that game (in) parts of Game 1, larger parts of Game 2. I thought we got a complete effort. Obviously, they were off a little bit and that helped. You know they're going to fix that, but I think we're getting an idea of how we have to play in this series in order to have success.”

Both coaches gave their players a break Sunday. The Stars didn't practice and the Knights had a sparsely attended optional workout.

DeBoer said he expected Vegas coach Bruce Cassidy to make adjustments for Game 4, but Dallas' victory was as much about emotion as it was strategy. The Stars, knowing what was at stake, came out flying.

“We knew that was a must win,” DeBoer said. “I think we have the same desperation level. I think when you play a game like that, you feel this is a new series now.”

The displeased look on Cassidy's face when he met with the media Sunday told the story of the feelings on the other side.

Vegas had a chance to take full control — only four teams have rallied to win a series after being down 3-0. But the Stars have a chance to mimic what the New Jersey Devils accomplished just last season, dropping their first two games at home before rallying to beat the New York Rangers in seven games.

The Knights, having missed their opportunity to all but wrap up this series, have another chance Monday to put the Stars on the brink of elimination.

“We weren't prepared to play," Cassidy said. "I've said many times it's a coach's job to do that with the gameplan, which needed to be better. But the individual has to prepare to win his races and battles. So let's make sure we correct that for tomorrow and put this one behind us, but understand what we're up against here.”

LIGHTNING at PANTHERS, Panthers lead 3-1, 7 p.m. EDT (ESPN)

The Panthers get a chance to win a series at home for what would be only the fourth time in franchise history. Florida ousted Boston and Philadelphia on home ice in Rounds 1 and 2 of the 1996 playoffs, then eliminated Carolina at home in last season’s Eastern Conference finals.

And even though the Panthers let a chance to sweep slip away by losing Game 4 in Tampa, coach Paul Maurice said the mood in his locker room isn’t changing much.

“We did what we needed to do at home; we won the first two games. And then we did what we needed to do on the road; we split,” Maurice said. “Man, you want to win that fourth one, but it’s a pretty good team over there and they don’t want to lose that fourth one.”

The Lightning still have a steep hill to climb as only four teams (in 206 tries) has rebounded from a 3-0 deficit to win a series.

“I think the biggest thing for us is our emotions,” coach Jon Cooper said. “It’s a been a series of ebbs and flows. There’s times when they’re kind of all over us, and I feel like there are some times we’re all over them. So, it’s how each team handles those. When we’re emotionally engaged, as we definitely were (Saturday night), that’s a good thing for us.”

Captain Steven Stamkos scored two goals and defenseman Mikhail Sergachev returned from a broken left leg that had sidelined him since early February.

“It makes us bigger, stronger, heavier, more of a threat,” Cooper said of Sergachev. “He is a positive impact on our team. We're a better team if he’s in the lineup.”

MAPLE LEAFS at BRUINS, Bruins lead 3-1, 7 p.m. EDT Tuesday (ESPN)

Toronto star Auston Matthews, who led the league with 69 goals this season, is battling an illness as the Maple Leafs enter Game 5 against the Boston Bruins on Tuesday night hoping to fight off elimination.

Matthews was taken out of Game 4 in the second intermission of the 3-1 loss.

“Not one of those run-of-the-mill, everyday type of illnesses that sort of come and go,” Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said. “This one has lingered and the effects have lingered and gotten worse when he’s getting on the ice and asserting himself.”

There could be other concerns as well.

Matthews argued with teammates Mitch Marner and William Nylander on the bench during the second period. Marner even took off his gloves at one point and threw them down.

“That happens when things aren’t going well,” Keefe said Sunday at the Leafs’ practice facility following a team meeting. “In the past, quite honestly, that wouldn’t have happened. Guys wouldn’t have talked it out … that wouldn’t have happened. I look at that as progress. Those guys care. I don’t look at it as frustration.

“I look at them being upset and pissed off that they didn’t deliver for the team. They’re pushing and challenging each other to get it right.”


AP Sports Writers Fred Goodall and Tim Reynolds and The Canadian Press contributed to this report.


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