By Arnie Leshin
The stars at night are big and bright, deep in the heart of Texas,” an ideal lead-in for the Dallas franchise that iced the top-seeded Las Vegas Golden Knights in five games to represent the Western Conference in the National Hockey League playoff final for the prestigious Stanley Cup.
It’s the first time in two decades that the team has gotten this far, but it still hasn’t hoisted the Cup. Now it awaits the winner of the Eastern Conference final, with the 2nd-seeded Tampa Bay Lighting up 3 games to 2 after losing to the 6th-seeded New York Islanders in game five played at the Rogers Place Arena in Edmonton, Alberta.
But since the conference formula was introduced in 1982, teams up 3-1 have gone on to win 97 percent of the time and are 34-1, but the Islanders cut the deficit to 3-2 and are like the cockroaches of the bubble, they won’t go away. They got to the conference finals for the first time in 25 years by getting past the 3rd-seeded Washington Capitals in five games, and then the top-seeded Philadelphia Flyers in seven, while the Lighting disposed of the Boston Bruins in five games.
While the Isles survived on Jordan Eberle’s goal in the second overtime that brought a tough 2-1 win, the 4th-seeded Dallas Stars won game five 2-1 on Denis Gurianov’s ninth goal of the restarted shortened playoffs contested north of the border, with the Eastern Conference having played the earlier rounds at the Soliatbank Arena in Toronto, as did the Western Conference at the Rogers Place Arena, where the conference finals are being played along with the finals where the Stanley Cup will be the prize for the winner.
As for Eberle, he played his first seven years in the NHL with the Toronto Maple Leafs, but the game-winner against Tampa Bay was no doubt the biggest of his career, although his heroics at the World Juniors are still a big deal with the Canadians. So while New York will be trying to hang around by forcing a game seven tonight, the Lightning will be in quest of closing this out and clashing with the Stars.