2020 NHL Playoffs Today: Dallas Stars need one more win to reach Stanley Cup Finalby Emily Kaplan
The Dallas Stars are one win away from advancing to their first Stanley Cup Final since 2000. Eliminating the Vegas Golden Knights won't be easy, as Vegas is claiming the Western Conference finals are "a long way from over." Can Dallas close out the series on its first try?
Meanwhile, the Tampa Bay Lightning took a commanding 3-1 series lead in the Eastern Conference finals Sunday, as they welcomed back their leading scorer, Brayden Point, on the same day the New York Islanders announced they had sent two injured players home from the bubble. Can the Isles fight back?
Check out ESPN NHL Playoffs Today every day of the postseason until the Stanley Cup is handed out in October.
Game 5: No. 1 Vegas Golden Knights vs. No. 3 Dallas Stars (DAL leads 3-1) | 8 p.m. ET
The Stars have been among the most adaptable teams this summer. At first, they won because of their defense. Then coach Rick Bowness freed his team to open up offensively against an undermanned Colorado Avalanche team. Now, they've adjusted yet again, clamping down defensively against the Golden Knights. It's working, especially with goalie Anton Khudobin playing some of the best hockey of his career, including a .944 save percentage in this series. Mind you, Khudobin has made 17 starts in the past 35 days. The Stars might be without Radek Faksa and Roope Hintz for this game. Could Bowness call upon one of the team's top prospects, Ty Dellandrea, who is in the bubble as a "black ace"?
As for the Golden Knights, they still have confidence that they are the better team. "We've been here before," Vegas coach Peter DeBoer said. "We were in the same exact situation with Vancouver, with a goalie and a team playing like this. We stuck with it. This is a long way from over and we're going to be a tough out."
About last night ...
Tampa Bay Lightning 4, New York Islanders 1 (TB leads 3-1)
The Isles' anguish is real. They let this one slip away. It was heading toward another tight, defensive battle Sunday when Brock Nelson broke open the scoring in the second period. But Blake Coleman scored 15 seconds after the Isles took the lead, and Ondrej Palat scored the go-ahead goal just 12 seconds after that. "The most important shift is the shift after a goal," Isles defenseman Scott Mayfield lamented. "And we failed at it twice." Added Nelson: "That was the difference: really just 30 seconds there. If you hang on there for a bit, it's a different game."
The Lightning welcomed back leading scorer Brayden Point, who scored in the third period and also had an assist. The Islanders, meanwhile, announced that forwards Casey Cizikas (a huge part of the fourth line) and Tom Kuhnhackl both left the bubble with injuries and will not return this postseason. Full recap.
Brayden Point, C, Tampa Bay Lightning
The 79th player drafted in 2014 has been a treat to watch this summer. Point, who is tied for the team lead with Nikita Kucherov with 25 points, missed Game 3 with an injury. And in his first game back, he scored a goal and an assist.
"I'd go as far as far to say he's the most dangerous guy in the playoffs this year," the Lightning's Blake Coleman said. "He's a special talent. He tilts the ice every time he's out there."
Ondrej Palat, LW, Tampa Bay Lightning
Not only did Palat score an important goal in the second period, but he also set up this beauty for Point in the third:
Brock Nelson, C, New York Islanders
The second-line center scored his ninth goal this postseason, and second in as many games, with this beautiful wrister. Nelson, a heart-and-soul player, has elevated his game when his team needed it most.
Question of the day: Can either the Golden Knights or the Islanders overcome a 3-1 deficit?
On paper, Vegas has a better shot. The Golden Knights were favored in their series against the Stars. The games in that series have been tighter. And while the Golden Knights have never overcome a 3-1 deficit, their coach has. (And DeBoer did it last year against the Golden Knights while coaching San Jose.)
The Islanders -- the only team to emerge from the qualification round -- were series underdogs against the Lightning. Their defense has not been impenetrable against Tampa Bay (the Isles have now allowed 17 goals in four games), and their biggest stars have been largely quiet offensively in this series.
Both teams could use a big boost from their top forwards. New York's top line of Mathew Barzal, Jordan Eberle and Anders Lee have scored only one goal so far in this series. The Golden Knights could also use more from Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith (both goalless since Game 1 against Vancouver) and Max Pacioretty (seven games without a goal).
One quick fix for both the Golden Knights and Islanders to boost their confidence? Any sort of proficiency on the power play.
Quote of the day
"It's hard to judge. They may only have one goal, but they're still a pain in the ass to play against." -- Lightning coach Jon Cooper discussing the Islanders' top line.
Bubble moment of the day
Hey, we're all just trying to make this postseason seem as normal as possible.
NHL Awards Watch
Calgary Flames defenseman Mark Giordano was awarded the Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award on Sunday.
"This is a huge honor for me and my family," Giordano said on a Zoom call with Messier on Sunday. "To have my name on an award, the Mark Messier award -- I grew up idolizing you as a player and as a person, and I remember in the '90s you playing with the Rangers, and just looking up to you as the ultimate leader."
The Flames captain was awarded for his work in the Calgary area, including Team Giordano -- an initiative aimed at promoting improved physical fitness and academics, as well as leadership development, at high-needs schools. Giordano is also involved in the Flames' literacy program as well as the You Can Play Project. "Also, knowing that Jarome Iginla won this award as well, a guy that when I came into the league was my captain and my leader -- I learned so many great things from him, on the ice but more importantly off the ice, the way he treated people and acted in the community," Giordano said.
Up next: The remaining awards -- the Calder, Hart, Norris, Ted Lindsay and Vezina -- will be announced during the Stanley Cup Final.