A Lightning strike in nature can often start a fire. This is exactly what happened tonight as the Tampa Bay Lightning downed the Dallas Stars 5-2 to take a 2-1 series lead in the Stanley Cup Final. The big guns scored early and often and after a bit of a sloppy start, they would dominate the rest of the game.
For second game in a row the Lightning would jump out to a 2-0 lead after giving up the first goal in the previous six. Ondrej Palat forced Miro Heiskanen to the boards where he slipped and coughed up the puck. Nikita Kucherov picked up the puck and came in all alone. He wristed it into to back of the net to give the Lightning a 1-0 lead.
Less than two minutes later, on his first shot in nearly nine months, Steven Stamkos walked around a Dallas Defense at the blueline. Stamkos accelerated to the right circle and sniped it into the opposite corner to put the lightning up 2-0. Stamkos would play only a shift or so more before being sidelined for the rest of the game.
Despite the fantastic early start, the Stars would control the play for most of the first period. Especially after getting on the board at 11:19 of the first. Palat would turn the puck over at the Lightning blueline and it would end up in the far corner. Roope Hintz would dig the puck out and feed it to Jason Dickenson who one-timed it past Andrei Vasilevskiy. After getting the shorty, Dallas went to work. They would outshoot the Lightning 18-6 and spent a good amount of time in the offensive zone. Despite being sloppy with the puck for most of the first, the Bolts still went into the room with a 2-1 lead.
A Lightning strike starts a fire
Once again Tampa Bay would follow up a not so good period with a great one. Late in the first period Dallas would take a penalty and the Lightning power-play would get to work. 54 seconds into the second, the puck would squirt free from a scrum behind the net. A diving Anthony Cirelli would chip the puck to Hedman in the high slot. Hedman would take a quick look before firing the puck past the blocker of Anton Khudobin. The two goal lead now regained, the Bolts continued to step on the gas for the rest of the period.
The first line in this game was spectacular. They would combine for three goals and three assist in game three, including the next two goals in the second. Tampa would catch Dallas napping on a terrible change. Kucherov would catch a lead fed at the Stars blueline to set up a 3-on-1 rush. He would slip the puck to Brayden Point who would net his 11th of the postseason and give Tampa a 4-1 lead.
After taking a three goal lead, the Lightning never looked back. Their forecheck was relentless and caused a strong defensive team in Dallas to turn the puck over which fueled the Lightning attack. They would outshoot Dallas 21-4 in the second and limited the stars to little if no grade-A chances. Late in the second, they would add another. A hard working goal, Palat would stick would bang in a rebound on a shot from Point to give the Lightning a 5-1 lead and end Khudobin’s night.
One might expect Tampa Bay to cede most of the play to Dallas with a large lead in third. This was no where near the case. Despite giving up a goal in the third to make the score 5-2, the Lightning stuck to their game plan. They did an excellent job at exiting the the D-zone, and getting the puck deep into the Dallas zone forcing Dallas to skate 200 feet for the rest of the night. Even though the Bolts were not a threat offensively, they would give up only four shots in the third period. There would be no late barrage from Dallas this night. Kevin Shattenkirk said after the game “When we play our game we are hard to beat”.
Game Four will be Friday night at 8 pm and be the first of a back to back. Look for the Stars to come out firing trying to avoid going down 3-1 in the series. Expect a tight checking, low scoring game. Stamkos played only 2:47 in the first before heading to the locker room. He would return to the bench but not play the rest of the game. Stamkos said in his post-game presser that “Its too early” when asked about playing in game four.
Star of the game
There could have been many stars tonight, but one sticks out among them all. The captain, Steven Stamkos. Not only did manage to play in his first game in nine months, but he scored a big goal on his first shot to give the Lightning a 2-0. Brayden point said in his post comments ” He’s worked extremely hard to get to a spot where he could play… and seeing him score [was] pretty inspirational for our bench”.
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