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'They’ve got everyone figured out:' Top-seeded Stars in 0-2 hole against Golden Knights

Jonathan Marchessault celebrates vs. Dallas Stars Jonathan Marchessault celebrates vs. Dallas Stars - The Canadian Press

After finishing atop the Western Conference in the regular season, the Dallas Stars are in a 0-2 hole as they head on the road in their first-round series against the Vegas Golden Knights.

The Golden Knights, who won the Stanley Cup last spring, limped into the playoffs as the final wild-card team, but have quickly been buoyed by the return of captain Mark Stone.

Stone, who scored less 90 seconds into Game 1, was held off the scoresheet Wednesday as trade-deadline addition Noah Hanifin scored the game-winner in Vegas’ 3-1 win. 

“They’re the Stanley Cup champions, they’ve got everyone figured out," Dallas coach Pete DeBoer said. "They figured out everyone last year too, so we’re not alone in that boat. 

"I thought Game 1 we probably deserved better, but you have to find a way to win that game. Tonight, the margin is [thin], it’s a 1-1 game most of the game. They found a way to win both those games.”

The Stars, who posted 52 wins in the regular season, are in a familiar spot after being eliminated by the Golden Knights in the conference final last year. The Stars dropped the opening two games of that series in overtime and then trailed 3-0. Dallas forced a Game 6 with two straight wins but ultimately couldn't complete the comeback.

Vegas head coach Bruce Cassidy pointed to Dallas' late charge last year as motivation for his team to stay focused with a possibility of sweep on the table. 

“I’ll go back to as recently as last year; they were down 3-0 [in the series] and made it 3-2 in a hurry. I don’t think they’re going anywhere,” Cassidy said. “Our focus is more we’re going to talk about ourselves and not worry about how Dallas may or may not respond. They’re a good team, they’ll come ready to play. They’re a great road team. They may have the best road record in the NHL. If not, they’re right there.

"There’s going to be no gimmies in that regard, so it doesn’t matter where we play. We’re getting a strong opponent. We’ve just got to keep building our game.”

Dallas' 26 road wins were tied with the Florida Panthers for the most in the NHL this season. Despite their strong play over 82 games, though, the Stars have their backs up against the wall heading into Game 3 on Saturday.

“You’ve got to start with one. They played some good road games and we’ve been a good road team all year, and we’ve got to do it again,” forward Tyler Seguin said. “Maybe we’re almost being frustrated by last year, knowing how good of a team we are, especially at 5-on-5. We’ll take the day tomorrow, reset, and get excited for this challenge ahead of us.”