Wholesome Hockey: Tampa opens flood gates to take the series lead!
After watching this 5-2 Tampa drubbing, one can only believe two explanations. Either Tampa has finally found their rhythm to take the series or Anton Khudobin needs a night off. The latter can explain why the Stars still have a chance in this series. The former only hints to Tampa controlling and running away with the series.
Tampa Bay scored two goals in the first period and three in the second. The game was one-sided from the moment the puck was dropped and the Lightning have returned to their scoring ways. The 5-2 victory gave the Lightning the 2-1 series lead and all the momentum in the series. The resounding conclusion from the blowout is that Tampa capitalized on some Dallas errors but also proved the sheer ability to create and capitalize on opportunities.
The first goal was a clear example of a Dallas error resulting in an easy goal. The Stars were pressured into a careless turnover on their own blue line. This became problematic when you saw who had the puck with a breakaway. Nikita Kucherov is one of the best players in the NHL and with a breakaway, it was a given he would score (he did).
Steven Stamkos's goal was pure joy. In his first game back, Stamkos found a golden opportunity to score and hit an incredible slapshot into the top shelf by the pad side. It was part of a series of incredible scores from Tampa. Aggressive play lead to a turnover in the Dallas zone, leading Victor Hedman to his 10th playoff goal. Nikita Kucherov fed Brayden Point on a 3 on 1, giving Point an open net and easy goal. Ondrej Palat reminded us of the importance of crowding the net, after a few Lightning hacks, Palat found a loose puck and put it in the back of the net.
Anton Khudobin was benched for the third period, essentially throwing in the towel on game three. One has to wonder whether Khudobin just needed the night off. It would be the viable option that would give the Stars fans hope. It could be that Khudobin has hit his wall or Tampa has figured out how to score on him. If either of these explanations is accurate, Tampa all but have the series and the Cup. Anton Khudobin brought the Stars to the Cup but the downfall could be starting. Let's not forget the Vegas Golden Knights in 2018, Marc Andre Fleury carried the Knights to the cup but once he hit his wall the Knights lost four games straight and the series.
The next two games are pivotal for a bounce back. This doesn't only apply to Anton Khudobin, the entire team looked complacent in this crucial game. The defense made a few too many errors. Jason Dickinson had a shorthanded goal in the first to cut the lead in half. He also had a goal in the third but it was too little and too late, it also raises the question of where the attack was coming from the entire night.
The Dallas Stars entered this series as underdogs and we see the struggles starting to appear. The Stars have to look back to Vegas series for their blueprint for success. In order for them to come back in this series they need to keep games lower scoring, they won't beat Tampa in a shootout. Moreover, the Stars need to play physical and attack the Lighting when they are on the attack. The Stars would swing the momentum if they wore down the Tampa scorers, they have failed to do so. Dallas needs the game to slow down, the tempo has currently fed right into Tampa's comfort zone.