NHL: Stars, Oilers both confident entering Game 3 of West finals

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The Edmonton Oilers wrestled away home-ice advantage from the Dallas Stars in the Western Conference finals.

Now, the onus is on the Oilers to keep hold of that edge when they host the Stars on Monday for Game 3 of the best-of-seven Stanley Cup playoff series that is tied 1-1.

“We’re back in our barn. It’s going to be exciting,” defenseman Mattias Ekholm said. “We’re going to try and use the energy from our fans and keep building our game. We … got our split and we feel good about that, but now it’s time to raise our level when we get home and dictate the game.”

Edmonton won the series opener 3-2 in double overtime, but the Stars drew even with Saturday’s 3-1 victory. The Oilers dominated the first period on Saturday, outshooting Dallas 16-4, but could not gain a lead. The Stars were the better team the rest of the way, especially in the third period as Mason Marchment broke the 1-1 tie early in the final frame.

After Marchment’s eventual game-winning goal, the Oilers managed only four shots on net over the final 16:19 and had a stretch of more than 11 minutes without putting a puck on goal before a furious effort fell short.

Even so, the Oilers return home confident in their game.

“They just got one more bounce than us,” forward Connor Brown said. “They’re a good team. They came with a good push. We know we can be better, so we’re just going to gear up for Game 3.”

Edmonton, which has snuffed 20 consecutive short-handed situations over the past half-dozen games, boasts a 4-2 home record.

The Stars arrive in Edmonton not only with the emotional boost of earning a victory to draw even in the series, but also with confidence away from home.

Dallas has surprisingly won only four of nine home playoff games but boast an impressive 5-1 road record. The Stars won all three road games against the Colorado Avalanche in the second round, surrendering only one goal in each of those victories.

The key in those victories, as well as Saturday’s home win, has been goaltender Jake Oettinger, although he is quick to point out the work of his teammates containing a bevy of offensive standouts. Against the Avalanche, the Stars did a masterful job of limiting Colorado stars Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Cale Makar. Edmonton’s dynamic duo of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl were held off the scoresheet last game.

“Just doing things the right way,” Oettinger said. “Those 50-50 battles for pucks, I think guys are just choosing to be on the (defensive) side. When you have the best player of all-time probably (McDavid) on the other side, those are the decisions that can make or break him scoring or not. It’s a group effort to defend a guy like that, and we all did that. Those blocks, the sticks in lanes, all that stuff that we did, that’s what you need to win.”

And what the Stars need more of, especially in a hostile environment.

“Is it any crazier than Vegas on the road or Colorado on the road?” coach Peter DeBoer mused. “It’s another really tough rink with great fans with a great team. We’ve got a formula that works for us, but we’ve got to go up there and do it again.”

DeBoer said top-line center Roope Hintz is expected to play in at least one of the next two games. Forward Adam Henrique returns for the Oilers after missing seven games with a suspected ankle injury.

–Field Level Media

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