The grind-through-it portion of the season has arrived. On Tuesday, the Tampa Bay Lightning slogged through a 2-1 victory against the Dallas Stars for their fifth win in a row. Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 16-of-17 shots to pick up his twelfth win in a row, setting a new franchise record. After Roope Hintz opened the scoring with a goal for Dallas, Steven Stamkos and Yanni Gourde scored in the second period to give the Lightning the lead they would not relinquish.
It was a stout defensive effort for a team missing it’s most rugged blueliner, Ryan McDonagh. During the game both Mikhail Sergachev (puck to the face) and Erik Cernak (puck to the foot) would be shaken up but return. Despite the injuries, the Lightning held the Stars to just one shot on net in the second period and seventeen overall.
No one on the Stars was feeling sorry for the Bolts as Dallas was without Joel Kiviranta, Tyler Seguin, and Alexander Radulov on offense. With all of their injuries (including one to old friend Ben Bishop who has yet to play this season) the Stars are neon-clad shells of their former Stanley Cup Finalist selves.
The Dallas Stars and Texas Rangers, brought to you by [lists 15 medical institutions].— Saad Yousuf (@SaadYousuf126) March 23, 2021
Andrei Vasilevskiy’s first save was a good one as Andrew Cogliano created a turnover on the forecheck and Jason Dickinson picked up the loose puck in front of the net. His shot was left wanting as Vasy shrugged it away with indifference.
Erik Cernak built a little rest into his night (he would still play 23:56) by tripping up a Stars player in the Lightning zone and spent the next two minutes in the penalty box. Well, 59 seconds anyway. Roope HIntz took advantage of a little space due to the missing player, and stickhandled around a Vasilevskiy poke check to tuck a backhander inside the far post. 1-0 Stars.
Roope Hintz (Jason Robertson, Joe Pavelski)
Things got a little mucky following the goal. Both teams are pretty good at suppressing shot attempts and that usually means not much action. The Lightning did have a few chances in the Dallas zone but couldn’t really get clean shots on Anton Khudobin as the Stars got their sticks and bodies in the way.
Following a TV timeout, the ice seemed to open up for the Bolts a little as they had an excellent shift in the Dallas zone followed by a really nice transition play with Brayden Point and Steven Stamkos that forced Khudobin to make a tough save.
Mathieu Joseph took a Cal Foote shot off his hand and was wincing in pain as he headed back to the bench. A little Sergy shuffle resulted in one last chance for the Lightning before the end of the period, but the resulting shot was knocked aside.
The Lightning dwarfed the Stars in even strength shot attempts by a 20-7 margin, but Dallas blocked 8 of those shots and 4 more went wide. Dallas hockey - get excited!
It was a rough start for Mikhail Sergachev as he took a Vasilevskiy clearing attempt square in the face (be thee warned, there is a bit of blood at the end) just ten seconds into the period. He went back to the dressing room to clean up his face and the Lightning were down another left-side defender. They held the line fairly well despite the loss and he would return midway through the period.
The Stars didn’t bend on their end either. The home team did an excellent job over the first five minutes of preventing the Lightning from getting their offense flowing in the neutral zone. If the Bolts did make it into the zone, Dallas broke up their cross-ice passes and dumped the puck out.
A Jamie Oleksiak penalty gave the Lightning a chance to operate with a little more space. Stamkos almost snuck a snapshot short-side, but the paddle of Khudobin’s stick deflected it just wide. That would be the one glorious opportunity for the league’s second best power play as Dallas successfully defended the rest of their time shorthanded.
It wasn’t long until the Lightning had another chance with an extra skater as Jamie Benn was whistled for holding Andreas Borgman, who was in the game due to McDonagh’s injury. This time the Lighting would be successful. After a couple of booming shots from Victor Hedman, it was scuffed shot that deflected off of a defenseman’s stick that beat Khudobin. Steven Stamkos will take it.
Steven Stamkos (Victor Hedman, Ondrej Palat)
Stamkos almost potted another as he scampered into the Dallas zone with Ondrej Palat. Palat had to wait to clear a sliding defender and Stamkos’ deflection was consumed by Khudobin.
It was Yanni Gourde who gave the Lightning the lead. He just outworked two Stars’ players. First he beat Radek Faska to a loose puck, then he collected his own rebound before Jon Klingberg could recover and rifled it past Khudobin.
Yanni Gourde (doesn’t need any help)
The Stars really didn’t have much going for them offensively for most of the period. Their best chance came with about three minutes to go in the period when Miro Heiskanen was all alone in front of Vasilevskiy (well, Borgman was there but he was stickless), but the dynamic defenseman chuffed his shot and it fluttered past the net harmlessly.
It was a pretty good period defensively for the Lightning as they allowed all of one shot on net over the twenty minutes. The Stars only managed ten shot attempts all period long as the Bolts just didn’t allow them time with the puck. Through 40 minutes of play, the Lightning led on the score board, 2-1, but by a much wider margin in all of the other stats. At times, Dallas looked like an exhausted boxer who was just hanging on trying to get to the end of the fight.
It was Dallas’ turn to start a period with an injury. Their lone goal scorer, Roope Hintz was pushed by Sergachev and fell awkwardly on his right leg. Hintz headed to the locker room barely able to put any weight on it.
The Lightning kept knocking at the door with Barclay Goodrow almost converting a two-on-one with Gourde. Hintz returned to action, but still couldn’t spark any successful offense for Dallas. The Lightning were in their own zone a little more this period, but kept the Stars away from the dangerous areas.
A Lightning power play six minutes into the period ended quickly, but not in a good way. Shortly after Radek Faska was sent off for holding Borgman, Hot Alex Killorn slashed Andrej Sekera’s stick into kindling. There were a few rushes during the four-on-four but neither team could really gain an advantage.
Vasilevskiy was forced to make a few solid saves while Sergachev came gliding across the ice to deftly break up an odd-man rush. With the game solidly in the second half of the final period, Sergachev knocked Pavelski down behind the net a little too emphatically and thus earned an interference penalty (he also got a solid crosscheck in that wasn’t called) and the Stars, despite being dominated on the stats sheet, had another chance to tie the game.
The first shot of the power play toppled Erik Cernak as Hintz’s effort appeared to catch him flush on the inside of the knee. The Lightning cleared the puck but Blake Coleman was called for hooking, and the Lightning were in the deep water.
The Lightning held serve down two players despite a flurry of shots from the Stars. A few were directed wide and Vasilevskiy stopped those that weren’t. Time expired on both penalties with Tampa Bay maintaining their 2-1 lead.
Dallas’ forecheck led to a quick shot from Robertson, but his shot was deflected up and over the net. The Lightning weren’t exactly clean clearing the puck out, but they kept at it and their secondary efforts were good enough to get the job done. If we wanted to extend the boxing metaphor, the Stars went from an exhausted fighter hanging on to an outclassed one firing haymakers in hopes of landing a lucky shot.
With ninety seconds to go, the Stars pulled the goalie for the extra attacker. Sergachev sent a wedge shot down the ice that Klingberg swept off the line just in time. Unlike their meeting last week, the additional skater wasn’t enough to tie the game and the horn sounded on a Lightning 2-1 victory.
The two teams return to the ice on Thursday.