DALLAS — The Golden Knights no longer control their playoff destiny after losing to a team they had beaten 11 straight times.
So with three road games remaining, here’s what the season has come down to: Win and pray for help.
The first stop is Tuesday against the Dallas Stars, who lead the Knights by three points for the final wild-card spot.
A win keeps the Knights’ fleeting playoff hopes alive. The dream of a fifth straight trip to the postseason won’t be within their grasp, but it also won’t be out of reach.
A loss means the opposite. The Knights’ 5-4 shootout defeat Sunday to the rival San Jose Sharks, a team they hadn’t lost to since November 2019, means they can be eliminated from the playoff race with a regulation loss. An overtime or shootout loss won’t mathematically end their season but will be almost impossible to recover from.
A few days ago, the matchup looked like a potential launching point to the postseason for the Knights. Now it represents the edge of a cliff.
“We’ll get back on the saddle and try to get this group energized for Tuesday night in Dallas,” captain Mark Stone said after Sunday’s loss in the final home game of the season. “Because if we lose that one …”
Stone shook his head.
“You guys know what happens if we lose that one,” he said.
The Knights’ goal was to win out after a 3-2 loss to New Jersey on April 18. Now, the best they can do is pick up six points and hope for the best.
The Knights have 90 points from 79 games and can get a maximum of 96 in their fight for one of the final three playoff spots in the Western Conference. Los Angeles (96 points) needs one point from its final two games in Seattle on Wednesday and Vancouver on Thursday to clinch its spot in the top three of the Pacific Division. The Kings also will qualify if the Knights lose in any fashion in one of their final three games.
Nashville and Dallas are in strong positions for the two wild-card berths. The Predators have 94 points with three games remaining. Three more points will guarantee them safety, but they might only need two because of tiebreakers. Nashville leads the Knights 35-33 in the first one, regulation wins, and 41-38 in the second, regulation and overtime wins.
The Predators will be safe if they win any of their final three games in regulation against Calgary on Tuesday, Colorado on Thursday or Arizona on Friday. The same is true if the Knights lose any of their final three in regulation. One overtime win also could be enough for Nashville. It would just need the Knights to win one of their final three games in overtime or a shootout.
That leaves Dallas. A regulation win against the Knights locks up a playoff berth. The Stars still will control their destiny even with a loss to the Knights. They have 93 points and need four to qualify if the Knights win out. After Tuesday, Dallas hosts Arizona on Wednesday and Anaheim on Friday.
“We have a game against a team we’re chasing (on Tuesday),” left wing Max Pacioretty said. “We win that game and anything can happen. Everyone has these scenarios of teams winning out, but we just lost to a nonplayoff team, and if we take care of business, the same can happen to the teams we’re chasing.”
Who: Golden Knights at Stars
When: 5:30 p.m. Tuesday
Where: American Airlines Center
TV: AT&T SportsNet (Cox 313/1313, DirecTV 684, CenturyLink 760/1760, U-verse 757/1757)
Radio: KKGK (98.9 FM, 1340 AM)
Line: Stars -119; total 5.5