Scott Wedgewood’s shutout blanked the Tampa Bay Lightning 1-0 Tuesday night for the Dallas Stars. Roope Hintz had the lone goal in the game, Dallas (42-27-4). While Tampa’s offense was not to be found (44-21-8). Wedgewood made 25 saves for the Stars, while Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 28 for the Lightning.
A rematch of the 2020 NHL playoff final found both teams trying to find that version of themselves from what they were two years ago, and to qualify for a playoff spot in 2022.
Tampa (3rd in the Atlantic) was looking to take advantage of both their divisional rivals, the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Boston Bruins, losing earlier in the night to gain ground. Also, with two points they would clinch a playoff spot.
The game picked up pace after Joel Hanley’s big hit on Alex Killorn, the Lightning veteran would retaliate with a two-minute infraction for tripping. Though nothing would come of it, the game’s physicality was established.
Nick Paul and Jamie Benn had a tilt, after another Hanley hit on the new Lightning forward.
The Lightning continued a lackluster entry period as they have the past while Vasilevskiy had to come up with a few big saves early.
On a man advantage for Tampa they had three shots with one from Nikita Kucherov, but none were very threatening. Their speed and transition game showed signs of life, but Dallas’ truculence controlled much of the tempo.
The way of the first period echoed the way of the Tampa Bay’s play of late.
More of the same.
Neither team looked to want to take a hold on the game in the middle frame. You would think with both of them not having an X next to their names in the standings there would be a little more urgency to their play.
On a Bolts power play, Dallas looked to be in control with the Big Cat having to come up big two times to keep the game scoreless.
Tampa Bay just had one of the worst power plays I've seen recently, and that's saying something— Saad Yousuf (@SaadYousuf126) April 13, 2022
The tenaciousness from Dallas in the first didn’t continue as much, but they took more control of the second period.
Fans in the crowd, and even online seemed to be falling asleep with the Stars style of game play.
Since this game is kind of plodding along here is a photo of Vinny from the All Star game in Dallas. pic.twitter.com/psedIX8FWq— Raw Charge, a Champa Bay Lightning web site (@RawCharge) April 13, 2022
A 3-for-20 power play for the Lightning completed the period with the Stars again getting the only real opportunity being down a man. Dallas pushed around the Lightning in the entry period, and owned the puck in the next. (even on the two time Stanley Cup champions man advantages)
“The power-play there was frustrating in his eye and not getting it settled,” veteran Pat Maroon said about coach Jon Cooper’s anger on the bench during the intermission “play simple hockey, and our skill will take over the rest.”
Would Tampa wake up in any matter?
A bright spot for Tampa’s game has been their goaltending and defense. Over the past 3 games they’ve only allowed two goals in regulation (Bruins second needing overtime).
Vasilevskiy and Brian Elliott have kept their share of the bargain above par. So have the penalty kill units who’ve played to perfection in those games.
Luke Glendening couldn’t take advantage of a Mikhael Sergachev turnover in the final regulation period. Vasilevskiy stood tall to keep the score a snoozer, 0-0.
Wedgewood had to make a right kick save from a nifty point shot from Erik Cernak.
The puck just went wide after more pressure from the team wearing victory green. After a solid save by the Conn Smythe goaltender the rebound was knocked back towards the gaping net off Cernak’s skate.
Finally, a crack in the armor. Hintz scored on a rebound of a rebound from the slot, 1-0 Dallas. A dominating possession by the Stars top line, (who own 44% of the Dallas offense this season) forced Vasilevskiy to make a stellar save but he wasn’t able to cover the puck and Dallas cracked the scoresheet.
Even with Vasilevskiy pulled, the Lightning couldn’t find the equalizer and Dallas emerged exhausted with the 1-0 win.
We know what Lightning can do. They have skill, offense, pedigree, and tenaciousness. The question is can Coach Cooper and their core find it for the playoffs?
There are only nine games remaining for the Bolts to find that playoff team we’ve seen the last two years.
Lightning will return to action Thursday evening versus the Ducks at 7 pm EST.
Peter’s 3 Charged Rocks and 3 Stars:
Powerplay, (0/3, Dallas had the chances)
Nikita Kucherov, (did he play)
Steven Stamkos. (invisible)
Andrei Vasilevskiy, (45 saves)
Nick Paul (stood up for himself with a fight)
Pat Maroon (Only 9:31 ice-time of icetime, but threw the body around)
How to get the Powerplay on track?
This poll is closed
Put Hedman in front
Switch up Kucherov, Point, Stamkos
Put in Perry or Paul on PP1
Notes: Wedgewood had his third career shutout, he started for the first time since making 37 saves in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs last Thursday. Cal Foote was back in the lineup for Tampa. Zack Bogosian was a healthy scratch. Ross Colton played in his 100th career NHL game. Old friend Vladislav Namestnikov for Dallas did not return due to a lower body injury (looked like a from a shot block).