The Stars are facing their second elimination game of the playoffs Sunday in Edmonton.

But this one feels much heavier.

Dallas had to win a Game 7 against Vegas in the First Round and did so with a very strong performance at home. They have also faced “need-to-win” games on the road against the Golden Knights in Game 3 and 4, against Colorado in Game 3 of the Second Round, and at home against Edmonton in Game 2. Overcoming adversity has sort of been the trademark of the 2023-24 Stars.

“We’ve been in this situation before,” Stars forward Matt Duchene said. “We had a Game 7 already. This team, we’re never out of it. We have a great hockey team and a lot of character in this room, and there’ll be no quit.”

The Stars have a lot they can use to gain confidence back after consecutive losses. One, they are tied with Florida for the best road record in the playoffs at 6-2. Two, DeBoer is 8-0 in Game 7s if they can win on Sunday and shift the series back to Dallas. That’s helpful, but it’s also something they probably can’t think too much about.

“Everyone knows what’s going on, but it’s just another game,” said defenseman Miro Heiskanen. “There’s no panic, just go out and play our best game.”

That’s important, because their past two games have not been their best. Dallas started Game 4 with a bang, taking a 2-0 lead early and seemingly headed for a 3-1 lead in the series. However, Edmonton came roaring back, suffocating the Dallas attack and giving goalie Stuart Skinner all the scoring support he needed. That led to a run of eight unanswered goals for the Oilers across Game 4 and 5 and a 3-2 lead in the series. DeBoer said he didn’t think the Stars were that far off. He said they created some good chances and just didn’t finish. Then, the Edmonton power play cashed in twice, and that was the difference in Game 5.

“I still think that’s a winnable game,” DeBoer said. “It’s a lot closer game than it felt. I know how it felt to everyone, there was frustration there, I get that, but it’s closer than that feels.”

One of the reasons for encouragement is the strong play away from home. Dallas is 6-2 on the road vs. 4-6 at home. It averages 3.13 goals per game vs. 2.60 at home. It allows 2.13 goals against on the road vs. 2.90 at home. It puts five more shots on goal per game on the road, and maybe most importantly for the current situation, the penalty kill is night and day. The Stars are at 57.1 percent on the penalty kill at home. On the road, the kill is 92.9 percent.

DeBoer was asked if it’s easier to play on the road, because you don’t worry about matching the opposition and just concentrate on your game.

“I think there is something to that, for sure,” he said. “And it’s not just that, it’s the distractions. You’re in the Conference Finals, there’s a lot of people in town, a lot of friends and family want tickets, you’re getting pulled in a lot of different directions. On the road, you’re in a bubble in the hotel, and I think all of those things come into play.”

To do that, there are some technical changes that can help. Edmonton has been effective at imposing its will, and Dallas needs to change that. The Stars would like to control the puck more, get it deep, and keep it in the offensive end of the ice. If it can do that, it will create more pressure on Skinner and also keep Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl from buzzing around the ice.

“We didn’t set it up well enough in the O-zone,” Duchene said after Game 5. “Give them credit. They’re doing a good job. They blocked a lot of shots tonight, but we have to be better. We just have to trust ourselves and go after them. I think we’ve been a bit tentative at times. Obviously, they have some world-class talent and we can go after them a little more and trust our game.”

If they do, then momentum can surely change.

“We haven’t had a full game yet where we have been happy with how we have played,” said Sam Steel.

So the task can be pretty simple.

“We’re concentrating on winning one road game,” DeBoer said. “We’ve been the best road team in the league all year and the best road team in the playoffs, so you have to go and win one road game.”

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.

Mike Heika is a Senior Staff Writer for DallasStars.com and has covered the Stars since 1994. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHeika.

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