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Graney: Golden Knights-Stars series deserves a Game 7

Updated May 4, 2024 - 8:25 am

Desperate teams play like this sometimes. Play up to their ability. Often beyond it.

Survival can be the greatest of motivators.

The Golden Knights aren’t done yet. There is still a Stanley Cup to defend.

It hasn’t gone anywhere.

The season continues after the Knights’ 2-0 win over the Dallas Stars before a crowd of 18,432 Friday at T-Mobile Arena.

What it means: There will be a Game 7 of the series Sunday at American Airlines Center. Winner takes all. Loser gets ready for things such as exit interviews and clean-out day and vacation plans.

What it also means: This series deserves a Game 7. It has been too closely contested for it not to be brought to the brink.

Has had the makings of a conference final instead of a first-round matchup.

“At the end of the day, just go play your game and be effective with what you’re doing,” Knights coach Bruce Cassidy said of an elimination game mindset. “We tell our guys to just stick with the process and stick to the details. Don’t abandon ship and get away from things just because you have a zero or a one by your goal scoring.

“Help the team win, and when it’s your turn to make a play, bear down and be prepared. If it doesn’t work out because they do something great, well, that’s part of hockey, too.”

Hanifin wins it

Knights defenseman Noah Hanifin made that play.

He was prepared when his time came.

He did something great.

And a trade deadline move paid off big time.

Hanifin broke up a scoreless game at 9:54 of the third period with his second goal of the playoffs. It turned out to be another game-winner, just like in Game 2. It turned out to save — at least for now — the season.

“More importantly, we got the win tonight,” Hanifin said. “It has been a really tight series, and they’re a great team. There’s not a lot of room out there. Looking forward to Game 7.

“It’s a veteran team in here, and all the guys know what it takes to win. This was a really good performance from everybody. That’s the way you have to play. They’re a hard team to play against.”

The Knights began as you might think a team facing elimination would. Pushing the pace. Lots of time with sustained offensive pressure. Just playing their skates off.

But goalie Jake Oettinger was up to the task for Dallas, turning away breakaways and shots in close and everything else the Knights threw at his net. The Stars simply survived the first period scoreless.

It went a similar way in the second period, but this time it was Knights goalie Adin Hill stopping Dallas and its chance after chance. Hill looked far more comfortable than his start in Game 5. Looked like shades of the guy who led his team to the title last season.

Stopped all 23 shots aimed his way Friday. This was the Hill of that magical two-month run that culminated in a parade down the Strip. The version of Hill that the Knights will badly need Sunday.

What up-and-down, back-and-forth action this game offered throughout. Playoff hockey for sure. It was a hold-your-breath type of existence until the Knights finally broke through on Hanifin’s score.

Which in large part was made possible by a Keegan Kolesar screen of Oettinger.

Not even sure the Dallas goalie saw the shot.

It meant the Knights, who lost Games 3 and 4 at T-Mobile Arena, wouldn’t go oh-for-home in this postseason.

A thin line

“You never want to be in the playoffs and never win at home,” forward Jonathan Marchessault said. “Our fans have been unbelievable since Day 1. It has been a thin line for two of the best teams going at it in the first round. Definitely a tough matchup.

“At the end of the day, it’s the playoffs and about winning, and if you lose you didn’t do enough. We have to find a way to be on top. We have a good team. I believe in this team. The whole situation has been really tight — two really good teams going at it. It’s about winning. Put the logo in front of you, and that’s the most important thing.”

They did so Friday and for it head back to Dallas.

They were desperate and played like it. Played to survive.

Man, what a game.

What a series. Sunday is Game 7.

So deserving of there being one.

Ed Graney, a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing, can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on X.

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