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2015-16 Pre-season game 6: Bolts win a physical contest against the Dallas Stars, 3-2

The Lightning were looking to rebound from a poor performance at the Kraft Hockeyville USA game against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday. They did just that, defeating the Dallas Stars, 3-2 in a matchup that proved to be very physical.

Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Dallas Stars, 3-2, in the final preseason home game at Amalie Arena on Thursday night.

Many of the Bolts' top players - including Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman and Anton Stralman - were absent in favor of some of the guys still not guaranteed to make the opening night roster. But the home team started quickly in what looked like a complete shift from its poor performance in Johnstown, Pa. at the Kraft Hockeyville USA game against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Nikita Kucherov quickly got things started for the Lightning, scoring only 33 seconds into the contest with a puck off his skate while parked in front of the net. The lone assist went to Ondrej Palat, who fed Kucherov from the left half boards.

Carrying a one-goal lead throughout the first period, the Bolts showed off a more physical mindset, dropping the gloves without hesitation. Lightning forward Brian Boyle was the first to get in a scrap, picking up a fighting major along with Stars forward Antoine Roussel. Mike Angelidis then picked up the team's second fighting major of the night roughly three minutes later.

"Sometimes it happens. Didn't go into it thinking it was going to happen, but it just kind of happened," Boyle said of the chippy contest.

Unfortunately for the Lightning, that physical play seemed to cost them a key forward, at least temporarily. Early in the first period, Nikita Kucherov took a heavy hit along the boards. He sustained a lower body injury and would not return to the game.

During the second period, the Dallas Stars played a more solid game, outshooting the Bolts 12-4. Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop, who played the entire game, was stellar. He would go on to stop 23 shots in the win.

The Stars were finally able to tie it up, however on a goal scored by forward Curtis McKenzie at 15:47, with assists to Vernon Fiddler and Jason Demers. After the goal, a scrum broke out in front of the Stars bench. Luke Witkowski and Brian Boyle would each pick up penalties for the Lightning, while Fiddler and Travis Moen served matching penalties for the Stars.

Less than a minute later, Valtteri Filppula would respond with a goal of his own, scoring on a feed from Killorn in the slot at 16:31. Nikita Nesterov picked up the secondary assist.

The third period was better, as the Lightning only allowed five shots, something Coach Jon Cooper called a "definite positive." Stars forward Valeri Nichushkin did, however, tie it up at 2-2 at 4:51 of the third period, capitalizing off a defensive breakdown in the slot.

J.T. Brown picked up his second goal of the preseason, scoring off a wicked slap shot that went just underneath the crossbar to make it 3-2. A remarkable desperation save late in the third period by Bishop sealed the 3-2 win.

"A little desperation. Just trying to get a stick on it. Sometimes you save them, sometimes they go in. So, obviously it's nice not to have to go into overtime," Bishop said.

The Bolts will play their final preseason game in Sunrise, Fla. against the Florida Panthers on Saturday.

Game Notes:

  • The Bolts were an abysmal 0-4 on the power play tonight, but they were a perfect 4-4 on the penalty kill.
  • Jonathan Marchessault played 5:11 of power play time and had a team-high four shots in the game.
  • Nikita Kucherov could play the final preseason game Saturday against the Panthers, but it is likely he won't see game action until the regular season opener on October 8 against the Philadelphia Flyers.
  • Luke Witkowski continued to show his physicality tonight with a team-high four hits.