The Dallas Stars were bound to be desperate Friday in Tampa Bay. They needed a point to keep their dwindling playoff hopes alive. The Lightning had just beaten them 6-2 in a game that Stars coach Rick Bowness admitted his team “beat themselves.” Friday, he was longing to see his team beat the Lightning, who were playing a game in hand on the Florida Panthers.
The Bolts, entering action, were tied with the Cats in the Central Division standings, 75 points apiece. This game their only one before the two teams close out the regular season with a two-game set in Sunrise. The Stars recipe, while complicated, involves one key ingredient: winning hockey games consistently. They knew they had to set the tone early in this one in order to gain do-or-die points in the standings.
Stars break the ice
While the Bolts had a quick start, the shots quickly turned in the Stars’ favour, an 11-3 advantage early on. Jamie Oleksiak, amidst a sequnce of Stars pressure, banged home a juicy rebound to make it 1-0 for the road team.
Tampa Bay turns the tide to end the period
Despite the fact that the score remained 1-0 Dallas after one, the Bolts had a push to close out the first. They were boosted by a power play, in which Anthony Cirelli found iron. He wired it right off the face-off and hit the crossbar. The shots ended up 11-6 Dallas after 20 minutes.
Aside from a Blake Coleman goal on the rush, the second period boiled down to two things: Joe Pavelski and poor defensive coverage by the Bolts. Pavelski netted two in the frame. One of them was a breakaway out of the box. The second was bad defensive play by the Lightning in front of their net.
Stars add crucial fourth in dying moments
While a two-goal comeback is difficult in the third, a three-goal comeback feels insurmountable. Roope Hintz made that the situation as the Stars got another clear-cut breakaway with seconds to go in the period. The breakaways were an ugly theme that cost the Lightning in this one. It was 4-1 Dallas after forty.
Be it chippy ice or a structured finish from Dallas, not a lot went on in the third. The teams traded goals in the period. Alex Barre-Boulet scored for Tampa and the Stars easily held on for a 5-2 win.
The loss confirms that the Lightning will take on the Florida Panthers in a postseason series for the first time ever. The Sunshine State foes will face off twice to determine home ice, entering action tied in the standings.
Our three stars of the game
- Joe Pavelski: Four point night.
- Roope Hintz: The back-breaking goal as a part of a three point effort.
- Joel Kiviranta: Goal and an assist.
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