The Dallas Stars are heading back to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 2000. And if they can get four more wins, they'll be celebrating their first Cup victory since 1999.
On Monday night, Dallas ended the Western Conference Finals with a 3-2 overtime victory over the top-seeded Vegas Golden Knights. After falling behind 2-0, the Stars scored twice in the final 10 minutes of regulation before Denis Gurianov scored a power-play goal 3:36 into OT. All four of Dallas' victories in the five-game series were decided by one goal.
The Stars could find out their Stanley Cup Finals opponents as soon as Tuesday, when the Tampa Bay Lightning will look to end the Eastern Conference Finals with a Game 5 win over the New York Islanders. However, if New York can continue to stave off elimination, it's possible the series won't end until Saturday, which is when a Game 7 would take place.
Here's a look at the full results/schedule for the conference-finals round, followed by a prediction for how it will end.
Conference Finals Picture
No. 2 Tampa Bay Lightning vs. No. 6 New York Islanders
Game 1: Tampa Bay won 8-2
Game 2: Tampa Bay won 2-1
Game 3: New York won 5-3
Game 4: Tampa Bay won 4-1
Game 5: Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network
Game 6 (if necessary): Thursday at 8 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network
Game 7 (if necessary): Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET, NBC
No. 3 Dallas Stars defeated No. 1 Vegas Golden Knights
Game 1: Dallas won 1-0
Game 2: Vegas won 3-0
Game 3: Dallas won 3-2 (OT)
Game 4: Dallas won 2-1
Game 5: Dallas won 3-2 (OT)
Tuesday Preview, Prediction
The Lightning haven't lost consecutive games yet this postseason. However, if the Islanders are going to keep their season going, they'll need to find a way to win three straight against them.
Each of the Lightning's series in the first two rounds (against the Columbus Blue Jackets and Boston Bruins) went only five games, and it's possible the Eastern Conference Finals will have the same fate.
The Islanders have mostly struggled to generate offense against the Lightning's defense, led by goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy. They scored five goals in their Game 3 win, but they've totaled only four goals in the other three games of the series, all Tampa Bay wins.
In Sunday's Game 4, New York scored first, but Tampa Bay had four goals in the final 28:12 to take a commanding 3-1 series lead.
In Game 3, the Lightning played without center Brayden Point, their leading scorer this postseason, due to an unspecified injury, and center Alex Killorn, who was suspended for boarding in Game 2. Both returned in Game 4, with Point tallying a point and an assist to lead the victory.
"He has been our best player, and he's a huge part of our team, and every time he's on the ice he's playing great," Tampa Bay left winger Ondrej Palat said, according to NHL.com's Tom Gulitti. "So we're very happy he could play [Sunday], and he was great."
And don't be surprised if Point is great again while leading the Lightning to a Game 5 win.
The Islanders have had an impressive postseason run, upsetting the Washington Capitals and top-seeded Philadelphia Flyers in the first two rounds. But they're not at the same level as the Lightning, who have showcased throughout the postseason what makes them the current top team in the Eastern Conference.
Through 17 games this postseason, Vasilevskiy has a .930 save percentage and a 1.93 goals-against average, and he'll continue his recent success with another strong showing, leading Tampa Bay to a Game 5 victory and into the Stanley Cup Finals.