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Gallant, Maurice took long road to lead Golden Knights, Jets

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WINNIPEG, Manitoba (AP) — Gerard Gallant and Paul Maurice do not know each other well despite having their NHL coaching careers overlap for several years.

The men behind the benches for the Vegas Golden Knights and Winnipeg Jets, though, both have led their teams into the Western Conference final after following long, winding paths.

”It’s quite a story for both of them,” Hall of Fame coach Scotty Bowman said in a telephone interview.

Gallant was fired by the Florida Panthers with a winning record just 21 games into the 2016-17 season, leaving him to catch a cab outside the arena in Raleigh, North Carolina, after his belongings were unloaded from the bus.

Maurice was fired by the Carolina Hurricanes twice. The second time was after just 25 games of the 2011-12 season.

They will match wits Wednesday night in Game 3 when Vegas hopes home ice gives it an advantage in the deadlocked series.

Gallant was infamously relieved of his duties with the Panthers, a season after being a finalist for coach of the year, because of philosophical differences between analytics-minded management and the old-school coach.

”He was left on the curb,” Golden Knights forward James Neal said.

Vegas center Jonathan Marchessault was on the bus when news broke that Florida had fired its coach.

”It was kind of out of nowhere,” he recalled.

And it worked out very well for Gallant and a team that also came out of nowhere.

The coach discarded by the Panthers has led a collection of castoffs to a stunningly successful expansion season.

”It’s a perfect fit,” Marchessault said.

If the straight-shooting coach can help Vegas win three more games, he’ll join Scotty Bowman as the only coaches to lead a first-year expansion team to the Stanley Cup final. Bowman did it 50 years ago with the St. Louis Blues, and the Hall of Famer is rooting for Gallant.

”It’s a nice story because he deserved a better fate in Florida,” Bowman said. ”People felt bad for him the way it happened in Carolina. I know there were some teams thinking about hiring him before Vegas did.”

Gallant won a career-high 51 games this season, his seventh in the league.

Likewise, Maurice had his best season with what he said has been his best team. He won a career-high 52 games in his 20th year as an NHL coach. He’s three wins away from advancing to the Stanley Cup final for a second time. In 2002, the Bowman-led Red Wings beat Carolina and hoisted the Cup.

Maurice broke into the league as a coach in 1995 with the Hartford Whalers, who moved to Carolina two years later. After he was fired the first time by the franchise, he lasted just two seasons and was 10 games over .500 in a pressure-cooker job with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Winnipeg hired him to lead its franchise with 35 games left in the 2013-14 season. The Jets were patient enough to let him guide a young team he took to the playoffs only once – without winning a game – before their breakout performance this season.

When Winnipeg opened the postseason with a win over Minnesota, it was Maurice’s first victory in the playoffs since 2009 during his second stint with the Hurricanes. It reinforced a perspective he gained with two decades in the world’s top hockey league, knowing very well how hard it is to win in a league that may have more parity that any other in North American professional sports.

”What I’ve learned – the short answer is – it’s special,” Maurice said.

Maurice is as much of a student as a teacher, evolving as a communicator after having language barriers with players while coaching in Russia and learning to show perhaps 10 video clips to his players instead of 100 after coaching in the World Cup of Hockey.

”He’s intense in games, but when we aren’t playing he’s pretty laid-back,” Winnipeg forward Andrew Copp said. ”He’s been in a pretty good mood, cracking some jokes in meetings lately. It shows his confidence in our team. It’s nice to have a coach behind the bench who doesn’t panic. He has an air of confidence and we carry that mentality, too.”

More AP hockey: https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey

Follow Larry Lage at https://twitter.com/larrylage

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Conference Finals schedule, TV info
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The Buzzer: Huberdeau shootout hero for Panthers; Saros to the rescue

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Three Stars

1. Jonathan Huberdeau, Florida Panthers

A pretty eventful game against the Washington Capitals came to an end thanks to Huberdeau’s winner in the fourth round of the shootout. After the Panthers stormed out to a 4-1 first period lead, the Capitals clawed back in the second to even the score. But it was Huberdeau’s second of the season that gave Florida its lead back. After a Nicklas Backstrom goal late in the third tied it up, we were off to a shootout where Huberdeau ended things to cap off a three-point night in a 6-5 victory.

2. Devan Dubnyk, Minnesota Wild

The Wild netminder stopped 33 shots, including 24(!) in the second period during a 3-1 win over the Dallas Stars. Matt Dumba and Ryan Suter scored 3:17 apart midway through the third period to erase a Dallas lead and put Minnesota in front for good.

3. Juuse Saros, Nashville Predators

Pekka Rinne left the game with 14:51 left in the third period and Saros would stop all nine shots he faced in relief to help secure a 5-3 win over the Calgary Flames. Zac Rinaldo snapped a 3-3 tie 6:31 into the third period for his first of the year. Saros was tested immediately after entering the game, denying Elias Lindholm in tight.

Highlights of the Night

Ryan Suter went with the bank shot for the game-winning goal against the Stars:

Aleksander Barkov continues to be ridiculous in the shootout:

Factoid of the Night

Scores
Panthers 6, Capitals 5 (SO)
Wild 3, Stars 1
Predators 5, Flames 3

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Dubnyk leads Wild during 3-1 win over Stars

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The Dallas Stars did what they could to try and solve Devan Dubnyk Friday night but only could beat the Minnesota Wild netminder once during a 3-1 defeat.

After a quiet first period, the Stars used the second period to test Dubnyk frequently. They fired 24 shots on the Minnesota net but were denied each and every time. Dubnyk would finish with 33 saves to earn his third victory of the season.

“You’ve just got to work as hard as you can,” Dubnyk said afterward. “I know if I can hold the fort down as long as I can, we’ll get there.”

The third period was a different story and where the game flipped. Jason Spezza deflected a Miro Heiskanen shot to finally give the Stars their first goal, but after that it was all Wild in a period where they outshot Dallas 14-4. Nine minutes after Spezza’s goal Matt Dumba would put home a loose puck in front of Ben Bishop to even the score.

Three minutes later the Wild would grab the lead for good as Ryan Suter‘s shot from below the goal line deflected in off of Stars defenseman Esa Lindell for a 2-1 lead.

Suter’s goal and assist helped him hit 500 points in his career, making him the 11th U.S.-born defenseman in NHL history to reach the milestone.

Dallas had no answer for Dubnyk as they dropped their third in a row and fourth in their last five games.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Coyotes’ Dvorak sidelined indefinitely by torn pectoral

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GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Arizona Coyotes center Christian Dvorak is sidelined indefinitely after having surgery Friday to repair a torn pectoral muscle.

“We looked at our options and decided that surgery was our best option to get him back as soon as possible,” Chayka told reporters on Friday. “He had the procedure this morning and it went very well. Now it’s the road to recovery and it’ll be a number of months.”

Dvorak was injured last week during a rehab skate for an unrelated injury.

“The doctors told us it’s a fairly unique injury, especially for hockey players, and then the severity of the tear, it differs from person to person,” Chayka said. “You hope it’s not the season, but it’s not out of the question.”

The 22-year-old Dvorak has yet to play this season, his third with the Coyotes. He had 15 goals in each of his first two seasons.

WATCH LIVE: Wild visit Stars on NBCSN

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NBC’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Friday night’s matchup between the Minnesota Wild and the Dallas Stars at 8 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app and by clicking here.

As the Stars look to get back to winning ways they likely will be without Alexander Radulov Friday night. A lower-body injury could keep him out against the Wild, which would see Roope Hintz bumped up to the top line, according to head coach Jim Montgomery. Connor Carrick remains out after not showing enough during his time in the lineup, opening the door for Roman Polak to state his case.

Making a return for the Wild will be captain Mikko Koivu after he missed Tuesday’s game for the birth of his son Oskar. Marcus Foligno will also be back.

Meanwhile, it was last April in Dallas where Wild defenseman Ryan Suter suffered a broken ankle. As he once again eats major minutes (26:12 per game) on a nightly basis, he still has some hesitatation when it comes to plays near the boards.

“At different points going back for pucks I try not to put myself in that situation quite yet,” Suter said via the Star Tribune. “That play probably happens five or 10 times [per game]. It’s hard to get around it. You’re a little more hesitant. You think about it a little bit more. Hopefully soon that won’t be on my mind.”

WHAT: Minnesota Wild at Dallas Stars
WHERE: American Airlines Center
WHEN: Friday, October 19th, 8 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
LIVESTREAM: You can watch the Wild-Stars stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

WILD
Jason ZuckerEric StaalMatt Read
Zach Parise – Mikko Koivu – Mikael Granlund
Nino NiederreiterCharlie CoyleJordan Greenway
Nate ProsserEric FehrJ.T. Brown

Ryan Suter – Matt Dumba
Jonas BrodinJared Spurgeon
Nick SeelerGreg Pateryn

Starting goalie: Devan Dubnyk

[WATCH LIVE – 8 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

STARS
Jamie BennTyler Seguin – Alexander Radulov/Roope Hintz
Devin ShoreJason SpezzaTyler Pitlick
Mattias JanmarkRadek FaksaBlake Comeau
Jason Dickinson – Roope Hintz/Gemel SmithBrett Ritchie

Esa LindellJohn Klingberg
Marc MethotMiro Heiskanen
Julius Honka – Roman Polak

Starting goalie: Ben Bishop