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There is no beyond. Not in time or place. The universe will shrink to one arena. No past or future. Only the here and the now. And for three periods or more within a modern-day coliseum the outside world ceases to exist. Time stops but for the game clock.

It’s Game 7 and there is nothing else.

The Vegas Golden Knights and Dallas Stars have set their stage. Three wins apiece in a race to four with just one chance left.

Both opportunity and finality loom. After the handshakes, one team and its city will look forward to a new horizon. The other will be left to consider its rubble.

A champion staggered but able to right itself and throw a knockout blow? Or a group bent on revenge finally getting to eat a dish served on ice?

The players will determine the outcome. The rest of us will sweat and squirm. It’s one of the most hopeless feelings in life. All one can do is cheer. And wait.

"It's the consequences, right? It's win or go home. I think everyone loves the challenge of that. I mean, these guys are very competitive on both sides,” answered Vegas coach Bruce Cassidy when asked why Game 7s are so unique. “Usually when you get that far, you've built up mutual animosity on this side but respect on the other, right? Because hey, you're going toe to toe with good athletes. So, I think it's just that competitive nature. I beat you, we win tonight, we advance and that's it. Most of the best athletes are highly driven people, so I think that motivates them even more.”

Dallas coach Pete DeBoer has a remarkable Game 7 record of 7-0 in the Stanley Cup playoffs. He shook off the disappointment of a Game 6 loss in Vegas on Friday night and immediately started looking towards Sunday’s Game 7.

“We know each other well. Now it’s about rest and recovery. And get ready. This is what it’s all about. This is exactly the spot you want to be in. Playing to advance. One game at home. And let it fly,” said DeBoer. “There’s nothing better than Game 7s. It’s what you grow up dreaming about. The best thing is playing in them and the second best is coaching. I’m just excited. Excited for our group and for our fans in Dallas. Let’s get home and drop the puck.”

Vegas won the first two games of the series and then Dallas reeled off three straight victories. The Golden Knights snapped back with their best game of the series and won Game 6 by a 2-0 score. Vegas has scored 15 goals in the series while the Stars have managed 14. For more than 87 percent of the games, the score has been within a one-goal difference. There’s very little to pick between the teams.

“This is probably one of the most even series in terms of the score. No one has been able to stretch out a lead. People have taken a, I don't want to say a stranglehold of this series because that's not the right way to put it, but we had a 2-0 lead. They had a 3-2 lead, right? It has swung, but the games were still close while it was swinging,” said Cassidy. “And it's funny to hear these people say ‘if you had told me we'd be in Game 7, I'd be pleased and all that.’ I think for both of us it’s like we were up 2-0 and we weren't thinking about Game 7. They're up 3-2 and they're not thinking about Game 7. Neither one of us is pleased necessarily how it ended up playing out. I think we're both pleased that we're here. It is both sides of it. So that's the other part of this series, it has been a real entertaining and interesting series with the swings and here we are. It's probably apropos that it is a Game 7 and my guess is it’ll be very close and if we can make the right plays again at the right time, then I like our chances. We had a template and our Game 6 has been the closest of the six games to how we want to play and hopefully we can stick with that.”

Both teams have had high moments in the series. Dallas was excellent in Games 3, 4 and 5. For Vegas, who limped through the regular season and finally got its full roster together for Game 1 of the playoffs, it’s taken a while to get into their groove.

Game 6 wasn’t perfect for the Golden Knights but it was much closer to how they want to look.

“I think getting our guys to stay patient with what’s available offensively was key,” said Cassidy, when asked about his team’s performance in Game 6. “So, I think if we can accept and ask ourselves ‘can you win a 1-0, 2-1 game when that’s what’s in front of you?’ and get that messaging across. Last night, we were able to do it. We stuck with it. We didn’t get out of our game. I think in the second period, there were a couple of times, there’s always going to be a little bit of helter skelter so to speak, but some of that’s going to be what happened in the previous play up and down the ice. You can’t control that but in terms of not taking the available option, I think we got away from that a bit, but we got back on the rails. But that would be the biggest challenge, I think. Getting our team to just stay the course in a very low scoring game. Last night, we were good at it and hopefully they saw the value in that and we’re able to do that tomorrow.”

Both teams now know what they must do to beat the other. And it’s likely going to require a near perfect game from the winner. One mistake could make the difference. Game 7 playoff hockey is akin to walking a tightrope. Slip and it’s over.

Who can be perfect is Sunday’s question. The answer is absolute and final.

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