Wholesome Hockey: Tampa's three-goal first-period ties series!
To say that a game can end in the first period is folly. Yet the first period looked to be just that. The Lightning scored three goals in less than four minutes and two on the powerplay. In a game in which Tampa was seeking revenge, the hot start was the antidote with the first period having everything go right for Tampa and conversely everything go wrong for Dallas.
The power play reminded us that Tampa Bay has one of the best passing attacks in the game. Brayden Point received a beautiful feed from Nikita Kucherov. Ondrej Palat also was found with an incredible cross-ice pass from Kucherov that left Stars goalie Anton Khudobin out of place for the save. Both goals can be blamed on the Dallas Stars for giving the Lightning early power plays yet many would note that it is difficult to capitalize on the power play, Tampa Bay was able to master their technique in back-to-back opportunities.
The final goal in the first period was a reminder of the importance of crowding the net. We have seen countless times, the ability of the Stars to crowd the net for shots and subsequent goals. Yet, Kevin Shattenkirk's slapshot from the point gave the Stars a taste of their own medicine. Shattenkirk didn't have a great shot per se, but Anton Khudobin couldn't see the puck with all the traffic created by the Lightning attack.
The three-goal lead was all Tampa needed. Dallas would make the game close but unfortunately, it would be too little too late. John Klingberg would set up a Pavelski deflection into the net in the second. Klingberg would also set up Mattias Janmark with another beautiful pass for the second Stars goal in the third period. The Lightning suddenly were on their heels in the third, this is when having one of the best goalies in Andrei Vasilavskiy comes in hand. The Stars' last desperation was halted and the Lightning held on and won 3-2.
So far the series has shaped up to be one we anticipated. There is a rarity of goals, plenty of hard hits, and the few mistakes have lead to costly goals. The series can go either way and we look to have a long series, unlike many who initially thought Tampa Bay would dominate the Stars (needless to say, the Stars were underestimated by the public). After the first game, we almost were certain Stamkos would play in the series but now doubt lingers again. The top line for Tampa was superb, and it's hard to see Stamkos on playing much of that ice time, potentially taking away time from a fully healthy skater. We might have to see Stamkos on a later line but after tonight, we might see Tampa wait it out once again before pulling the trigger on Steven Stamkos.
One would think that this should insight panic for the Stars. Anton Khudobin might be getting tired and it looked that way in the first period. This loss isn't putting Dallas on the ropes, rather it was expected. Tampa is considered the better team and the Stars were trying to steal two games. Tampa was going to break even but the Stars are entering Game Three with the series tied, something they were hoping to have to enter the series initially. The Stars have the Lightning where they want them and a Game Three win will swing back the momentum to thier side.