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Friday looms large as Canucks, Stars try to move on in Stanley Cup playoffs

Vegas and Nashville face elimination in Game 6 showdowns vs. Dallas and Vancouver
Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Adin Hill (33) leaves the ice after the team’s 3-2 loss to the Dallas Stars in Game 5 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series in Dallas, Wednesday, May 1, 2024. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Home sweet home ice? For Vegas, maybe. Nashville, not so much lately.

The defending Stanley Cup champion Golden Knights return home to their “Fortress” on the Strip looking to avoid being eliminated in the first round of the playoffs after losing three in a row to Dallas. The Predators are back in “Smashville” trailing Vancouver 3-2 in that best-of-seven series.

Vegas went 9-3 at home on its title run last year. Nashville hasn’t won at home in the playoffs since 2021. The challenge for each team is the same: win Friday night and force a deciding Game 7 this weekend.

“That’s something we’re certainly capable of,” Golden Knights coach Bruce Cassidy said. “It’s not this obstacle that we can’t do. It’s a home win, so let’s get after it.”

CANUCKS at PREDATORS, Vancouver leads 3-2, 7 p.m. EDT (TNT)

The Predators have lost five in a row in the postseason at Bridgestone Arena dating to a first-round exit four years ago against Carolina. They blew a two-goal lead in the final three minutes of Game 4 this series, despite fans bringing and slinging catfish in the Music City hockey tradition.

“We’ve got a great opportunity to win a big game at home here,” first-year coach Andrew Brunette said. “That’s kind of all I’ve been looking at here.”

The Canucks haven’t won a series away from the Edmonton bubble since their run to the final in 2011. This season, they won 23 of 41 games on the road. Vancouver is already just the third team in NHL playoff history to get wins from three different goaltenders in the same series: All-Star Thatcher Demko in Game 1 before going down with injury, backup Casey DeSmith in Game 3 before he was unexpectedly unavailable; and rookie Arturs Silovs winning his playoff debut in Game 4.

Nashville bounced back in Game 5, which forward Michael McCarron believes gives him and his teammates some momentum.

“We got to win to stay alive again,” McCarron said. “We’re going to need the same effort and the same mindset going into the game on Friday. I think keep the same mindset that we had last game I think will give us the best chance to win.”

STARS at GOLDEN KNIGHTS, Dallas leads 3-2, 10 p.m. (TNT)

This has been a weird series, with the road team winning each of the first four games. Vegas took a 2-0 lead in Dallas, then gave it right back with two losses to the Stars at T-Mobile Arena, considered by players around the league the most difficult place to play as a visitor.

Cassidy expects his team to lean on Stanley Cup-winning experience.

“It’s not the first adversity that this team has faced,” said veteran defenseman Alec Martinez, who won it all last year and twice before with Los Angeles in 2012 and ‘14. “To expect to win or get to a Stanley Cup Final or win a Stanley Cup and to not ever have your back against the wall, I think that’s probably fairly unrealistic. This is what playoffs are all about. Learn from this (Game 5) and go home and see what we’re made of.”

One lesson: Cut down on undisciplined penalties. Vegas was whistled for four Wednesday night, and Dallas went 2 for 4 on the power play, including Jason Robertson’s game-winning goal.

“We let our emotions get the best of us in the second there, obviously penalty trouble,” Martinez said. “We’ve just got to handle the emotional side of it.”

So, too, do the Stars from the perspective of not getting too ahead of themselves with Colorado waiting in the second round after rolling over Winnipeg. No team in the NHL had more road wins during the regular season than their 26, and Dallas already has a couple of victories at Vegas this series to draw from.

“They’re the Stanley Cup champs from last year,” longtime center Tyler Seguin said. “They won on that ice. It’s a hard place to play. The rink is loud. Play simple. Follow the thought process we’ve had the last few games in there and see what happens.”

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