Golden Knights’ control playoff fate in race with Dallas Stars

Vegas Golden Knights center Jonathan Marchessault (81) celebrates after his teammate scored dur ...

Left wing Jonathan Marchessault said 6 p.m. is normally a “buzzing time” at his house — four children will do that — but he still made sure to have Dallas’ game against Calgary up on his phone.

He liked what he saw. The Stars lost 4-2 to finish their three-game Canadian road trip 0-3-0. That means the Knights, in their quest for a fifth straight playoff appearance, control their own destiny the rest of the season.

If they win out and defeat Dallas on the road in regulation Tuesday, they’ll at least earn a wild-card spot in the Western Conference.

“We’ve got an opportunity now if we run the table, we’ll get in,” said defenseman Brayden McNabb, who said he watched a little bit of the game. “But we’ve got to stay focused on the task at hand.”

The Knights’ 15-15-2 record since the All-Star break put them in a position where they needed help to reach the postseason. They haven’t gotten much in the races for the conference’s final four playoff spots.

Edmonton is 9-1-1 in its last 11 games and needed two points from its final five entering Friday to secure second or third place in the Pacific Division. Los Angeles, which has won three straight and four of five, will do the same by getting at least four points out of its final three games against Anaheim, Seattle and Vancouver.

Nashville is in the lead for the first wild card and needs at least five points from its final five games to guarantee a playoff spot. The one team that has slipped is Dallas, which finishes the season with a four-game homestand.

The Stars’ lead for the second wild-card spot is two points over the Knights, who have a 33-29 lead in the regulation wins tiebreaker. Dallas can still get in if it wins out.

Even if the Stars lose in overtime or a shootout to the Knights, they will stay ahead in the standings if they win their other three games against Seattle, Arizona and Anaheim.

That makes Tuesday a potential season-deciding game. It’s a scenario the Knights will gladly sign up for.

“Listen, it could be a lot worse, where we were sitting even a month ago,” coach Pete DeBoer said. “It hasn’t been perfect, but I’ll tell you what: Our group’s hearts are in the right place. We’re battling every night. Even the games we’ve lost we’ve been right in it. I wouldn’t bet against this group.”

Carrier returns

Knights left wing William Carrier, who hasn’t played since March 26 against Chicago with an undisclosed injury, returned to practice Friday. Left wing Jake Leschyshyn was sent to Henderson.

Moving Leschyshyn to the Silver Knights gives the Golden Knights enough salary-cap space to activate Carrier off long-term injured reserve.

“(He’s) getting closer for sure,” coach Pete DeBoer said. “Great sign that he was out there with us today.”

Marchessault at 29

Marchessault has been held without a goal the last three games, leaving him one shy of scoring 30 for the second time in his career.

He would be the third player in Knights’ history to hit that mark behind center William Karlsson and left wing Max Pacioretty. Right wing Evgenii Dadonov is the only other player on the team with 20 goals this season.

“I would be happy with it (if I got 30),” Marchessault said. “I don’t necessarily give myself goals in the beginning of the season or even at that point right now. Just focusing on Sunday. Bring my best effort and see what it brings us. Whatever I need to do to win a hockey game.”

Contact Ben Gotz at bgotz@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BenSGotz on Twitter.