Even good teams need their goalie to steal a few points every once in a while. On Tuesday, the Tampa Bay Lightning managed a season-low 19 shots on goal and spent large portions of the game in their own zone against the Dallas Stars. They still emerged with their fifth win in a row thanks mostly, no thanks totally, to netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy. The Bolts goaltender stopped all 28 shots he faced on his way to his third shutout in a row.
Ondrej Palat provided the only offense needed with a first period power-play goal while Yanni Gourde sealed the victory with a late empty-net goal. In between the two tallies for the Bolts, the Stars pushed most of the play as they had the upper hand in just about every stat except for goals scored.
While the Lightning will take the two points, they left plenty of room for improvement.
After Dallas had a golden opportunity thirty seconds into the game, things settled down a little with a lot of perimeter play from both teams through the first eight minutes. That chance for the Stars? It belonged to Jamie Oleksiak on an oddman rush that was stopped by Andrei Vasilevskiy.
The Lightning picked up the first power play of the game after Blake Comeau was sent off for interference. It didn’t take long for them to capitalize. Ondrej Palat smoked a one-timer past Anton Khudobin on the short side to open up the scoring. It was the second game in a row that Palat has recorded a power play goal and his team-leading sixth with the extra attacker this season. Victor Hedman’s nifty little shoulder fake seemed to freeze Khudobin long enough for Palat to sneak the puck through.
Ondrej Palat (Victor Hedman, Steven Stamkos)
Shortly after the goal, Blake Coleman wrapped his stick around Oleksiak and sent him tumbling to the ice. In the eyes of the official (who obviously has it out for NHL players named “Blake”) that was an infraction of the rules and the Lightning spent the next two minutes shorthanded. After going 0-for-6 and giving up a short-handed goal in their last minute, the Stars came out with some revamped power play units. The changes did not help as the home team failed to register a shot on net.
While they didn’t look great with an extra skater, the Stars did pressure the Lightning throughout the rest of the period at even strength. Jamie Benn, Joel Hanley, and Roope Hintz all had good looks at the net, but Vasilevskiy stopped them all.
The NHL’s number one star of the week committed petty larceny with just over a minute to go as Andrew Cogliano was wide open in front of the net with the puck. It didn’t matter a Vasilevskiy went down and smothered the shot. Not scoring against Vasilevskiy is something the Stars are getting used to:
Going back to Game #6 of the SC Final, Vasilevskiy has 140 consecutive shutout minutes against the Stars— Bruce LeVine (@BruceLeVinePuck) March 3, 2021
While the Lightning dominated the special teams battle in the first period, the Stars had the better of the play at even strength with 54% of total shot attempts, 73% of the shots on net, and 75% of the high-danger chances. That’s the type of period that frustrates a team stuck in a slump. Meanwhile, the Lightning had to feel a little lucky to be up after the opening 20 minutes.
The Stars came out for the second period with a similar game plan as the first. While Brayden Point did have a really good opportunity chested away by Khudobin, most of the play for the first four minutes was in the Lightning zone. The Bolts assisted in keeping themselves in trouble with a couple of turnovers and failed clearings.
Following a lengthy delay as the officials tried to determine if the Lightning shot the puck out of play (inconclusive) the Lightning tilted the ice in their favor a little. A shot from Mathieu Joseph rolled just wide of a sprawled out Khudobin, though it likely wouldn’t have counted since a collision with Ross Colton was the reason the Dallas goaltender was laid out on the ice without a stick. Erik Cernak almost snuck in front of the goal but couldn’t finish off the move.
Even when the Stars beat Vasilevskiy, they couldn’t score a goal. Jamie Benn snuck past Ryan McDonagh and snapped a shot from the right circle. Vasy caught just enough of the puck with his blocker to deflect it onto the far post.
At the other end, Nick Caamano prevented a prime scoring opportunity by Hedman. Unfortunately for the Stars he did it by slashing the Big Swede’s hands and it put the Lightning back on the power play. Hedman (off the post), Gourde (just wide), and Stamkos (stopped by Khudobin) all had chances, but the Star finally managed to kill a penalty against the Lightning.
They were so happy to have success that they went down a man quickly a few minutes after returning to even strength. This time it was Jason Dickinson being sent to the penalty box for holding. There weren’t many chances for the Lightning outside of a Stamkos one-timer that Miro Heiskanen risked life and limb to block.
Neither team found the back of the net in the period and the Lightning played a lot better than they had in the first. Even before the two power plays, they were spending more time in the Dallas zone. With most of the action in their own zone the Stars managed only one shot on net over the last ten minute of the period. Thanks to their early pressure Dallas still had the advantage on shot attempt at even strength (18-14), but the teams were even with shots that actually made it to the goaltender (6-6).
The Lightning wanted to play a nice clean third period and force the Stars to work the entire length of the ice to generate any offense. Early on the fourth line almost made the job easier when they came close to doubling the lead. Mathieu Joseph blocked a shot and made a nice cross-ice pass to Patrick Maroon who was able to rumble in on net. The Big Rig had the top, far corner open but put his shot wide.
A rare penalty by Brayden Point should have given the Stars a little momentum, but the Lightning killed off their lethargic power play rather easily. Following the penalty, Point decided he didn’t want a Lady Byng nomination this season as he went after Cogliano following the veteran’s decision to check Point along the boards a little high and a little elbow-y. The two were assessed fighting majors following their quick scrap with Cal Foote picking up an additional slashing penalty.
The Lightning almost pulled off a shorthanded goal against the Stars after Khudobin came out to challenge a cross-ice pass from Tyler Johnson to Blake Coleman. The goalie chipped the puck to the boards, but Coleman quickly recovered the puck and spun a shot on net that Khudobin had to kick away. For the ninth time in their two games so far this season, the Lightning killed off a penalty.
After some pressure from Miro Heiskanen and his Stars teammates, Jan Rutta took one for the team. As in he took a crosscheck to the mouth for a four-minute, double-minor penalty from Caamano. It wasn’t a great power play for the Lightning as a Tyler Johnson one-timer was their best chance, but they did manage to bleed four minutes off of the clock.
Killorn had a couple of good looks at an empty net as time dwindled down. One he sent just wide and the other was kicked just wide by Heiskanen. It was Yanni Gourde who finally put it home after the Lightning’s forecheck kept the stars pinned back in their own zone for the last 30 seconds of the game.
The Lightning will need to step up their play a little as they continue their road trip in Chicago on Thursday.