The Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Dallas Stars 5-0 in the team’s first meeting since the Stanley Cup Final. The Lightning weathered a determined Stars team early, scored on the power play, and then opened up the game in the second and third to cruise to a comfortable win.
Anthony Cirelli and Steven Stamkos scored in the young center’s first game back after two weeks. Brayden Point scored an absolute beauty that I broke down in detail. Ondrej Palat and Pat Maroon both found the back of the net on the power play with goals from in front.
Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped all 14 shots he faced through two periods, finishing the game with a perfect 20/20 for his second shutout of the season, and second shutout in a row. You’ll remember he blanked the Carolina Hurricanes on Wednesday night.
The Lightning struggled to find much offense in the first period as the Stars basically lined up five players behind their blueline every time the Lightning tried to advance. About halfway through the period Ryan McDonagh took a tripping penalty — whistled down after Pat Maroon and Jamie Oleksiak had a fight. The Lightning did a great job killing the penalty and Yanni Gourde got a couple great chances on the passive power play defense.
With Jason Robertson in the box, the Lightning scrambled the offensive zone faceoff, Palat and Alex Killorn converged on the front of the net, and Palat somehow got the puck through Khudobin and into the back of the net. There’s really not much to say beyond Palat and Killorn worked really hard off the faceoff to create a bobble, and that Stamkos didn’t even get to do his fast-swoosh-thingy from the wing.
The Lightning were behind on the shot clock after one period, but took advantage of a couple bursts of offense, and a beneficial power play to come out with a lead in goals and 5v5 chances. At 5v5, shot attempts were 7-9, shots 3-5, but scoring chances 4-3. Taking in the power plays, the shot margins for attempts, on goal, and scoring chances were consistent.
Basically, the Lightning weathered the storm well and made the most of the gaps in the armor when they went the other way. Killorn had a great period, getting a shot and being very effective along the boards in defense. I thought Mathieu Joseph drove his line well and earned a shot for his troubles as well. Gourde, Palat, Mikhail Sergachev, McDonagh, and Erik Cernak all blocked shots.
Overall, the period was quite low-event. Both teams did a really good job of smothering chances and slowing the game down. It was harder to move forward because someone on the other team was always pushing back. The Stars have a big defense and they were able to poke pucks into the corner when the Lightning tried to drop their shoulder and drive to the net.
I’ve noticed in the past Brayden Point measuring up his opponents in the first period before finding ways to break them down. He had a couple movements in the offensive zone but was swallowed up quite quickly.
Anthony Cirelli returned with a shorthanded goal. Welcome back to the lineup! Just like the call from Dave Randorf, the Lightning found a way to kill a 5-on-3 penalty with Victor Hedman and Gourde in the box. Vasilevskiy made a key save from the slot to make it happen. As the Lightning were killing the Gourde penalty, a puck that was kicked around the boards bounced to Stamkos and he took off with a head of steam. He pushed the defense back and sprang Cirelli for a brilliant, highlight-reel goal.
The broadcasters made a great observation following the goal that Cirelli had come so close to the goalie on his move because he was weary of getting back-checked. That’s also why he made the deke rather than shooting, to make it more difficult for the defender to hook his stick. When the goal happened I was worried of exactly that, and to see him understand what was behind him and how to adapt is one of those hockey things that is astonishing.
“I’ll follow-up at the end.”
OK, I guess I’ll follow up here!! With a solo rush, Brayden Point extended the Bolts lead to three over the Stars. As I mentioned at the end of the first period, Point seemed to be evaluating the Stars defense for holes in their defense. On this goal, I saw a couple key differences from his play in the first to this goal in the second.
First, he cut across from the attacking left to the right (Point’s strong side) as he skated over the blueline. This switch put left-shot Andrej Sekera on Point. With Sekera keeping his stick is in his right hand, he couldn’t poke-check Point while the forward attacked from the defender’s left. Second, Point sniped the puck past Khudobin while still skating. I’ll say that again. While Still Skating. I can’t tell you how difficult that is, and Point does it regularly.
What an immense talent, what a smart player, 3-0 Lightning.
With John Klingberg in the box for tripping Cirelli, Johnson and Maroon connected on the power play for a fourth Lightning goal. You could see the play coming as the Stars were in a pretty wide box, and Maroon had gotten on the inside of Pysyk. The passing around the outside was quick and once Johnson had the puck moving to Maroon, Pysyk could do nothing to move Big Rig. A perfectly-executed play that I honestly the Stars to have seen coming, especially with the second unit out there and Johnson not being much of a well-known shooter.
Throughout the period, the Lightning pushed harder through the neutral zone and the Stars just gave them more and more space. On the Point goal for example, you can see the gap Sekera and Pysyk gave him, which he took to full advantage by skating across the ice as he came into the zone. Heck, even at the end of the period, Cernak burst through for a solo rush that nearly ended spectacularly.
I don’t think the Stars tried to go for more offense and thus created more holes behind them, it seems more likely the Stars gave a motivated push to start the game, saw themselves down nonetheless, and didn’t come back with the same energy. Once in that predicament, it was a self-perpetuating cycle where the Lightning got faster and the Stars got slower.
The numbers backed this up as well. The Lightning were up in 5v5 shot attempts (10-8), shots on goal (7-2), and scoring chances (7-6).
It was Stamkos to Cirelli in the second period, this time Cirelli returned the favor with a beautiful rush before setting up Stammer for a one-time blast past Anton Khudobin, knocking him out of the game. I really liked Cirelli’s rush. He showed his agility by juking past a sliding Dallas player coming back, cutting to the middle and drawing the attention of both defenders, and finally teeing up Stamkos perfectly. For Stamkos, what more can you say about his shot that you don’t already know.
As mentioned, this goal got Khudobin pulled from the game. Jake Oettinger stepped in with 19 minutes to go in the third.
The Stars had a power play later in the period, but the Lightning shut the door like they had been all night. There wasn’t much need to push for offense at this point, but the team took chances when they got them.
The Lightning gave themselves the opportunity to win by killing several key penalties early in the game. The Lightning weren’t creating sustained pressure in the offensive zone, but by keeping the sheet clean in their end and finding a lucky goal, they were able to build on those moments and break out in the second. Once Stamkos scored the fifth goal in the third period, the game was over. The Lightning had it locked down and the Stars didn’t have the oomph to push against them.
The Lightning and Stars will now fly to Texas to play each other again on Tuesday. Puck drop at 8:30pm ET.