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Return of the King: Bolts take Game 3 with dominant performance

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Stamkos did one thing, and that was enough.

NHL: Stanley Cup Final-Tampa Bay Lightning at Dallas Stars Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Steven Stamkos scored on his first shot, on his third shift, in 210 days, giving the Tampa Bay Lightning a 2-0 lead in the first period. They would hold on for a 5-2 victory in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final. The Bolts now lead the series 2-1 thanks to goals from Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, Victor Hedman, Brayden Point, and Ondrej Palat. Basically all the real stars came out for this one to crush the Dallas Stars on the scoreboard.

Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 22 of the 24 shots he faced in 60 minutes of work. At the other end, Anton Khudobin was pulled after giving up five goals on 29 shots in 40 minutes of work. Rookie Jake Oettinger came in for the final period and didn’t allow a goal, but by then the damage had already been done.

First Period

1-0

Miro Heiskanen gave the puck away and Nikita Kucherov scored on the breakaway. Ondrej Palat did a great job of forcing the turnover at the blue line along the boards and Kucherov buried the chance with a great low shot to the left side of Anton Khudobin. This goal came minutes after Victor Hedman saved a goal with a perfect stick check while a Stars player was on a breakaway.

2-0

STEVEN STAMKOS!!!!! The captain extended his point streak to 16 games (dating back more than 210 days!) with an absolutely perfect snipe on Khudobin from the wing. He burst down the side, head up, flow flapping, and whipped a shot that was inch perfect to the top left-hand corner of the net.

2-1

Jason Dickinson scored a frustrating shorthanded goal during the Lightning’s first power play. Roope Hintz won a puck battle behind the net in the Lightning zone and sent the puck to the high slot where Dickinson scored. The Bolts were just too passive and Vasilevskiy in particular was way off on the shot.

After One

The Lightning were way too passive after the second goal, especially on the power play that put the Stars back in the game. They gave up eight shots and ended up trailing 9-14 in shot attempts at 5v5. Shots were 7-9, and scoring chances were 6-8. Close, but a good start worryingly diminished due to the poorer second half.

Second Period

Stamkos didn’t return for the second period, but after having scored in the first, he pretty much did above and beyond what the team could ask of him. The Lightning are used to playing with eleven forwards, I’m sure it was something they were prepared for.

3-1

Hedman extended the lead back to two goals on the power play with his 10th of the summer. The goal was similar to the Kucherov goal in the first period in that it found a hole on the low left side of Khudobin, just above the pad. Anthony Cirelli made a great pass from behind the net to Hedman, after he had snuck down to the heart of the slot as the scramble occurred. If he had been passive at the point, the puck would not have gone in.

4-1

Another one for the big guns! This time, Brayden Point completed a lightning-quick 2-on-1 with Kucherov feeding him a cross-ice pass. Hedman got the secondary assist after he fed the duo (plus Palat trailing) for the breakaway. Rutta made the first play in front of the Stars net, winning the puck and bouncing it to Hedman right near him. Underrated, but extremely important part of the play, a classic Rutta!

5-1

Palat added to the onslaught with his 10th goal of the playoffs, tying Victor Hedman for second in playoff scoring (in the league!), one goal behind Point, who scored his 11th a few minutes earlier. Kevin Shattenkirk put the original puck on net, but there was a rebound out in front. Point bounced out of the scrum, spun, and put it back on where Palat was open on the back door to tap home the secondary rebound.

After Two

The Lightning were completely dominant in the second period and if there was one word to describe why, it’s “speed.” They came out of the break fast and tenacious and with a high tempo when it came to their puck movements. The Stars had no response. At 5v5, the shot attempts were an absurd 23-4 in favour of Tampa Bay, shots were 17-2, and scoring chances 10-1. Alan tweeted the expected goal share being 96% in Tampa Bay’s favor. Dallas basically didn’t have anything going.

Third Period

Jake Oettinger, making his second ever appearance in the NHL, started the third period. Khudobin got pulled after giving up five goals on 29 shots. An .828 save percentage.

5-2

Seven minutes into the period, Dickinson got the Stars moderately back in the game after a scramble in front of the net beat Vasilevskiy. Heiskanen got a rebound shot from near the right faceoff circle which he shot off Vasilevskiy’s blocker. Shattenkirk was trying to clear the puck, but it bounced off Dickinson’s skate and trickled into the net. Vasilevskiy was a tad overzealous on the goal, pushing way out and leaving the whole top half of the net open. That was the main reason the rebound from Heiskanen got loose.

Tampa Bay responded with a great penalty kill on the Stars after a run of players headed to the box. Speaking of runs, Alexander Radulov tried to run Blake Coleman from behind while he was streaking off on a shorthanded rush. Radulov, who had been reckless and dangerous all game (and series), missed Coleman (who cut in towards the net) and smashed hard into the boards. He ended up leaving the game as a result.

Things continued to get chippy as the clock ticked down in the final minutes. Joe Pavelski gave Barclay Goodrow a cheap shot to the right arm/shoulder and put his team down with 1:55 left in the game.

Takeaways

Scoring from the Stars

No, not those Stars! These stars!

Lightning players now hold the top three spots in NHL playoff goal scoring. Brayden Point leads with 11 goals in 20 games, with Victor Hedman and Ondrej Palat tied for second with 10 goals in 22 games each. Nikita Kucherov has been the playmaking beneficiary of all that offense with a playoff-leading 23 assists and 31 points in 22 games played.

Stamkos

Stamkos only ended up skating for five shifts in the game, all in the first period. His first shift was 33 seconds and a quick forechecking run to get his legs going. With those going legs, he scored that beautiful goal on his third shift. He got two more before the 14 minute mark of the first period and he didn’t play again, his time on ice was 2:46 after one. He was talking to the trainers a lot in the second half of the period. The second period saw him not start on the bench, but he joined the team five minutes in and hung out to provide morale support for the rest of the game.

I’ll defend the decision to both have him play and shut him down early because for one, they got a goal from him at a key point in the game (anytime you score it’s a key point in the game). The Lightning got what they needed out of their captain, and he didn’t need to exert himself as the team coasted for 20 minutes to a win.

Regardless of his number on the time on ice sheet, Stamkos provided leadership on and off the ice and there’s a good chance he’s fresh and healthy enough to come back for another game to finish the series. And if he doesn’t get to come back, at least he can hold his head up high, holding a Stanley Cup (hopefully), and say he contributed in the Finals. He was injured, but he got to be there and he got to produce. If that’s his choice, I respect that, and hope he takes all of next season off.

Nastiness

It was a pretty prehistoric third period once the Stars realized they were out of it. Jamie Benn was ejected, Alex Radulov all but ejected himself with a dangerous run on Coleman, and Pavelski should’ve been ejected for his cross check late in the game. Unfortunately, it was just the one as both Rutta and Maroon were ejected in the third period.

I expect the bad blood to continue, as each team looks for its pound of flesh to slow down the other team.

Upcoming

Game 4 is on Friday at 8pm, the first half of a back-to-back in the series. Come join us for that one! Two more wins.