Tampa’s Fast Start Evens up the Cup

            The Tampa Bay Lightning needed a strong start on Monday evening in Edmonton if they were going to knot the series up at one. The Bolts have not scored the first goal of the contest since Game 1 against the Islanders in which they potted eight goals. Let’s just say the Lightning got the start they wanted. After Jamie Benn drilled Kucherov in the neutral zone, Mattias Janmark’s stick caught Kucherov’s face sending him to the box. Jon Cooper inserted Alex Killorn on the top power play unit giving the Lightning a 4 forward, 1 defenseman look as opposed to the 3 forward, 2 defenseman approach they used in game 1 (Sergachev was the second defenseman). The Lightning immediately were interested in finding Killorn below the net to give Dallas a different look. The first powerplay was dominated possession wise by Tampa but they did not threaten scoring wise.

            Not long after Joe Pavelski slashed Anthony Cirelli sending the Bolts right back on the man advantage. Again, Killorn was found down low and attempted a power move to the front of the net that was answered by Khudobin. The puck cycled around to Hedman who found Kucherov who slid it to Point who buried a one timer from the slot just over halfway into the first. A couple minutes later Jamie Oleksiak was caught holding Tyler Johnson away from the puck and he was sent to the box. Oleksiak should know better not to get caught up in emotions, especially if the consequence is giving a power play to two of the most creative players in the world. On this man advantage, Hedman faked a shot and got it to Kucherov who faked a one timer and threaded the needle across the ice to Palat who settled the puck and deposited it into the open net. The middle of the ice was wide open because Dallas seemed to be concerned about Killorn down low. This allowed Kucherov to be creative and find Point and Palat to give Tampa a two-goal lead.

            After a sloppy turnover by Joel Kiviranta the Lightning netted their third of the night as Shattenkirk threw a shot that found the back of the net. Dallas was foraminate to get out of the period down 3-0 as Jordan Dickinson and Mattias Janmark turned the puck over which lead to quality chances for Palat and Maroon. This game had a blowout written all over it as Tampa led 14-6 in shots after the first period.

            Each team traded penalties and killed them off rather easily early in the second period. Dallas was starting to get physical, doing anything they could to create a spark. Jamie Oleksiak drilled Blake Coleman into the boards and Yanni Gourde retaliated by cross checking Oleksiak. This resulted in another powerplay for the Stars who failed to cash in. Shortly after this man advantage, Roope Hintz was noticeably flying up and down the ice. It took a while for his teammates to catch on but when they did it was a whole different game.

            Andrew Cogliano stormed through the neutral zone splitting the Lightning defense and got stoned by Vasilevskiy on a breakaway. Tyler Seguin slid a pass to Mattias Janmark who missed the net on a one timer. Dallas was clawing back but it seemed like it wasn’t their night. Then, Palat slashed Pavelski putting the Stars on the power play. Radulov slid the puck to Klingberg who walked the line and flung a shot that was tipped in by Pavelski with under five minutes to play in the second. Pavelski displayed great hand-eye coordination by tipping the puck after getting hit by McDonagh. Soon after, Pavelski found himself all alone in on Vasilevskiy who stoned him twice on one breakaway. The Stars got another power play shortly after and Tyler Seguin who has not scored in 11 straight games saw two loud one timers be answered by Vasilevskiy.

            The line of Point, Palat, and Kucherov came out flying dominating the first shifts of the third period. About five minutes in, the puck was being battled for on the half boards in the Dallas zone. Janmark found the puck and hit a flying Tyler Seguin who found Alexander Radulov entering the Tampa zone. Radulov spotted Klingberg soaring on the right wing looking poised to put a wrister past Vasilevskiy. Instead he shocked everyone watching, by sliding a pass to Janmark who flew to the net easily tipping in the puck. Dallas was within one and had nearly three quarters of a period to get an equalizer. Sergachev seemed to give Tampa a 4-2 lead halfway through the third, however Blake Coleman beat the puck into the zone. Throughout the closing minutes the Lightning did a fine job of making the neutral zone difficult for the stars to maneuver through. Although they didn’t have a lot of chances to tie, Jamie Benn slapped a bouncing puck from in close that was denied by Vasilevskiy. Other than that, it was a textbook way for the Lightning to hang onto a lead as Khudobin was only able to come out with 1:09 left.

            After a dream start for the Eastern conference champions, the Stars battled back and had multiple opportunities to complete the comeback. But the stellar play of Andrei Vasilevskiy and veteran defenseman Victor Hedman, Ryan McDonagh and Kevin Shattenkirk sealed the victory. Dallas did a good job of eliminating the penalties as the game wore on and this eventually led to them dominating Tampa in the second period. A stat worth noting is Tampa has outshot the Stars 34-9 in the third period through the first two games. Anton Khudobin deserves credit for his rebound play in the final two periods after a shaky first period. However, the winning streak when he faces 30 shots or more stops at nine. All in all, each organization had their moments tonight but perhaps it is too difficult to comeback from 3 down against a talented Tampa team with one of the best netminders on the planet. Look for both teams to come flying out of the gates in game three. Dallas plays great with the lead and Tampa will try and prevent that from happening at all costs. Does Rick Bowness make any changes for game 3? Expect Mattias Janmark to get more ice time as he was skating with Seguin and Radulov in the third period.

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