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The Golden Knights aim for a final victory;  The return of the stars in Game 5 of the Western Finals

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Alec Martinez was part of the 2014 Los Angeles Kings team that erased a 3-0 first-round deficit and defeated Joe Pavelski and the San Jose Sharks in Game 7.

Pavelski and coach Pete DeBoer were the centerpiece of a 3-1 Sharks comeback in the first round of the 2019 playoffs to knock out the Vegas Golden Knights.

And now the Dallas Stars are trying to repeat history behind 3-1, though the odds remain strongly against them at plus-750 at FanDuel Sportsbook entering Game 5 of the West Finals on Saturday in Vegas. The Stars, however, gave themselves a chance by winning 3-2 Thursday on Pavelski’s power-play goal in overtime to stay alive.

If they beat the Knights and force a Game 6 in Dallas, it could shift the pressure in this series to Vegas.

“We’re going to rest and we’ll look to do it again and keep trying to put some doubt in their minds,” Pavelski said.

Pavelski knows what it’s like to be in the position of the Knights. In 2014, the Sharks won the first three games of their series against the Kings. Then Los Angeles won four straight, including a 5-1 Game 7 win at San Jose, to become the fourth team in NHL history to rally 3-0 in a series.

Martinez said he didn’t value that experience as much when trying to prevent Dallas from doing the same with the Knights. Instead, it’s the experience of closing out a series that he thinks would serve him best.

And the Knights, until at least Thursday, have been on a roll in closing games. They had won four in a row, all by at least three goals, including two this year.

“It’s about finding that balance between knowing what’s at stake and approaching it like another playoff game,” Martinez said. “I think you better focus on the process, knowing that if you play a good game… if you stick with your game, the end result will take care of itself. I think the guys did a good job coming into games with this opportunity.

Martinez was not part of the 2019 Vegas squad that allowed a big lead to slip away. Vegas took a 3-1 series lead before San Jose came back to force a Game 7. But the Knights looked to have the victory well in hand with a 3-0 lead midway through the third period.

Then Vegas’ Cody Eakin was called in for a major crossover that bloodied Pavelski, and the Sharks fought back with four goals in 4:01 to stun the Golden Knights. Vegas tied the game late before the Sharks won in overtime.

It was a questionable decision by officials to call a major, so much so that the outcome of the game led the NHL two months later to require all majors to undergo a video review. It was too late to help the Knights, but for the handful of players still on the roster from this game, seeing Pavelski and DeBoer on the other side might be a little unsettling if Dallas builds on their Game 4 win. .

“I don’t think anyone expected anyone to be swept to one side or the other,” Martinez said. “It’s playoff hockey. Punches are thrown one way, then reciprocal. They threw in a good one (Thursday) night. It’s up to us to come back (Saturday) and be ready for it, play our A-game and try to dictate our pace at home.

The Stars will again be without captain Jamie Benn, who will serve the last of a two-game suspension for cross-checking Vegas captain Mark Stone, who was lying on the ice Tuesday night. Forward Evgenii Dadonov, who played for the Knights last season, is missing the trip due to a lower-body injury that DeBoer says is worse than initially thought.

If the Stars won to send the series back to Dallas for Game 6, they would get Benn back and inject even more intensity into that game.

And maybe give yourself a real chance to go down in history.

“Three out of four overtime shows you how tight these two teams are,” Dallas goaltender Jake Oettinger said. “Hopefully (Thursday’s victory) gives us the belief that we can beat these guys.”


AP Sports Writer Stephen Hawkins in Dallas contributed to this report.


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