DAL game 2 TONIGHT bug

DALLAS -- When Pete DeBoer watched a replay of Game 1 of the Western Conference Final against the Edmonton Oilers, the Dallas Stars coach said Friday that one aspect stood out the most to him.

"One team kind of came into the game with a Game 7 mindset -- them," DeBoer said of the 3-2 double-overtime loss at American Airlines Center on Thursday. "And I thought we looked like we had kind of a five-day-off mindset.

"It's just thin margins. So we have to get that fixed."

They'll look to do so in Game 2 here Saturday (8 p.m. ET; MAX, truTV, TNT, SN, TVAS, CBC).

As tight as things were and as close as the Stars got to winning Game 1, forward Sam Steel said, "We don't think we played nearly our best." 

The Stars want to have better puck management in the neutral zone. They want to cut down on the turnovers that an opportunistic team like Edmonton will feed off.

There are two other areas of focus going into Game 2 that weren't as sharp as they could’ve been in Game 1: be better on the power play and keep the opportunities for Oilers stars Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl to a minimum.

The Stars went 0-for-5 with eight shots on the power play in Game 1. Part of that is the Oilers' penalty kill, which is the best in the Stanley Cup Playoffs at 92.5 percent (37 for 40). 

Four of their power-play shots came during the four minutes of man-advantage time they got after McDavid was assessed a high-sticking double-minor 17 seconds into the first overtime.

That's when that Game 7 mindset the Oilers had was in full effect for the Stars.

"We had a shooting mentality," said Stars forward Logan Stankoven, who was on the second power-play unit. "Just even from the bench, I could see the guys were hungry to get pucks on net and yeah, a couple of posts back to back. Just so close. Would've been nice to end it right there, but yeah, just going to make adjustments and make sure we bear down next game."

Bearing down on McDavid is another concern. The Stars did well on that front for most of Game 1, but as the second overtime began, McDavid found himself open in the slot and scored the game-winning goal.

"We got kind of a broken breakout where our forward on the winning goal, we ended up with both defensemen and a forward below the goal line [in the Oilers end]," DeBoer said. "Jamie Benn got tangled up up the ice in kind of a collision. I think it was Wyatt Johnston and one of their defensemen [Mattias Ekholm] got tangled up 200 feet away.

"So he was late getting back and [Oilers defenseman Evan] Bouchard, to his credit, kind of recognized that and got down the wall, made a good play. Those things, those kinds of breakdowns happen. Just the wrong guys on the ice when it happened."

This is hardly new territory for the Stars. The last time they won a Game 1 in a playoff series was against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2020 Stanley Cup Final.

But they've done well bouncing back. After losing Game 1 in their previous six playoff series, they rebounded to win Game 2 four times, including in the second round this year against the Colorado Avalanche. They lost the first two games of the first round against the Vegas Golden Knights before winning that series in seven games.

It's going to take more urgency and perhaps that Game 7 attitude to do it again against the Oilers.

"I mean, seven in a row. It's one of those things that's happened," Stars forward Joe Pavelski said. "We're in this position. We were ready to go, kind of get that win the other night. Didn't happen.

"I think the biggest thing, there's good character in this room and then the understanding of, it's not over. We have to go do a job and you're in a little bit of desperation mode right away. You want to go. This next game's important."