NHL: Out to avoid 3-1 hole, Oilers try to halt Stars’ road success

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The pressure is on the Edmonton Oilers as they prepare to host the Dallas Stars for Game 4 of the Western Conference final on Wednesday.

Trailing 2-1 in the best-of-seven set and coming off a 5-3 home loss on Monday, the Oilers are aware of the importance of this clash and how their odds of advancing will drop significantly if they are put on the verge of elimination.

As the Oilers prepare to resume the series, however, they are doing their best to see the possibility lying ahead of them.

“There’s nothing to be upset about. There’s nothing to sulk about. We’ve been in this position before,” forward Zach Hyman said after Tuesday’s practice. “We have a great opportunity, Game 4 at home to send it to a best-of-three. I think that’s the mindset everybody should have.”

“Dwelling on things in the playoffs is not the way to go,” forward Leon Draisaitl added. “We have a great chance to tie this series at home. That’s the way we’re looking at it.”

The first three games have delivered what was anticipated. The Oilers and their high-octane offense have dominated games at times, but the Stars and their depth have weathered storms and flexed their muscles.

The last two games in particular have followed a similar script: Edmonton dominated the first period but couldn’t pull away completely before the Stars regrouped and eventually found the third-period game-winning goal. Dallas has outscored Edmonton 5-0 in third periods.

“I think we’ve had our plays, had our opportunities,” Oilers coach Kris Knoblauch said. “I think we can just maybe bear down a little more on the scoring chances.”

The Stars are staring at opportunities of their own, namely to take a stranglehold on the series. Working in their favor is the road success that has brought them to this point.

Dallas has won six of seven games away from Texas during this playoff run and is on a four-game road winning streak.

“It goes back to the leadership group,” 21-year-old rookie forward Logan Stankoven said. “A lot of older guys on the team have played big games over their careers and there seems to be no panic in the room no matter the score or how many games we’re down in a series. I think everyone looks to those guys.”

That calmness has been a huge part of the Stars’ success, whether game to game or in-game. Ask why Dallas has been able to regroup in the middle of games or upon losing the series openers, and players all will say it stems from belief in themselves and taking a cue from the veterans.

“We have the patience, the confidence,” said forward Wyatt Johnston, also 21. “We definitely haven’t started the way we wanted, but we have done a really good job all year, especially in the playoffs, if we don’t have a great period of taking that intermission to regain our thoughts, settle down and make sure we’re coming out strong.”

In turn, the Stars are taking in stride their position, not getting caught up in the moment but looking at the process along the way. Coach Pete DeBoer believes having the experience of reaching last year’s conference finals, which they lost to the Vegas Golden Knights, has helped his team stay even-keeled.

“I felt last year in the Western Conference (finals), we were hoping that everything lined up and we could win,” DeBoer said. “I feel this year, we feel we should win.”

–Field Level Media

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