New on Sports Illustrated: Stars seek knockout blow vs. Flames

August 20, 2020 at 07:22AM

Do or done. That's the reality facing the Calgary Flames when they face the Dallas Stars on Thursday in Edmonton.

The Flames trail the opening round Western Conference playoff series by a 3-2 count, and they need a win to extend the best-of-seven affair or else their season comes to an inglorious conclusion.

"Just making sure that we're ready to play at puck drop," veteran Calgary forward Milan Lucic said. "We can't change anything up until this point, other than what we can control with what's ahead of us. All our focus, all our energy has to go into what we need to do to give ourselves a chance to win on Thursday night.

"We can't overthink the result, either. If we're sitting in our hotel rooms or change room before we go out there thinking, 'We've got to win, we've got to win, we've got to win,' that's when you don't leave it out there. It's about the process and thinking about doing the things you need to do to get the win. That's when you come out on top."

The Flames, who dropped a 2-1 decision on Tuesday, were a dozen seconds away from taking a commanding 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series, leading the Game 4 clash before surrendering a late, game-tying goal and then falling in overtime. Now it's up to them to rally.

"It's a really close series, an even series," Calgary center Mikael Backlund said. "I believe in this group. The guys feel it's time now -- especially the core guys that have been here a lot of years -- to have some success in the playoffs. I feel it's a different mindset than in the past."

The Stars, who struggled in the early going after returning to action at the start of the month, are looking to reach the second round of the playoffs for a second consecutive year.

"You don't want to be down 3-2, so I think we're in the right spot," Dallas forward Andrew Cogliano said. "We have guys in our room that have been there before and know what it takes, and we have young guys that are learning as well.

"For us, we approach the next game, we get ready to play a good one and come out hard like we did (Tuesday) and that's it. You've got to go one game at a time. We'll leave this behind after today and go from there."

Helping their cause has been the emergence of key veterans such as Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin who have struggled to find their offensive form but are now heating up and contributing.

"We're going to move forward pretty quick," said Benn, whose short-handed marker opened the scoring on Tuesday. "To win a fourth game in any series is obviously the hardest. We expect Calgary to bring their best."

The message of preparing for a push is the message the Stars have been telling themselves ever since they took the series lead.

"The toughest game to win is that knockout win, that fourth win," Dallas coach Rick Bowness said after Game 5. "That's the best game they've played against us this series, so give them credit. We're going to see that kind of game for 60 minutes on Thursday."

--Field Level Media

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