On March 1, 2018 Anthony Cirelli made his NHL debut against the Dallas Stars in Dallas. He marked the occasion by scoring his first NHL goal. Nearly five years later, he scored the game-winning goal with under a minute to go to propel the Tampa Bay Lightning to a 3-1 win over the top team in the Western Conference. It was Cirelli’s second goal of the game and provided all of the offense the Bolts needed as Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 28 of 29 shots for his second win in a row.
The Lightning ran their winning streak to two games in a row and started an important four-game road trip with an entertaining victory over the Stars. Jamie Benn had the lone goal for Dallas as Scott Wedgewood made 28 stops for the home team. Brandon Hagel capped things off with an empty net goal as time expired.
The game kicked off with solid chances at both ends. Andrei Vasilevskiy had to be sharp on a Wyatt Johnson shot from the slot just a minute or so into the game. After that it was old friend Scott Wedgewood, who hadn’t played in about three weeks, that was faced with a flurry of shots that he kept out of the net.
All period long the teams traded really good looks with the Dallas Stars almost tapping one in on the backdoor on a power play, but Joe Pavelski bunted it just wide. At the other end, Brayden Point had the puck on his stick in the slot but zinged it just over the net. With 8 minutes to go in the period, Natural Stat Trick had already counted 6 High Danger Chances between the two teams.
By the end of the opening frame that number would grow to 9 with the home team counting for 7 of them. The only reason the Dallas Stars goal total didn’t grow was because of Andrei Vasilevskiy. His best moment came right after Roope Hintz banged one off of the far post. The puck came right to Jani Hakaanpaa who had split the defense. Vasy’s left pad kicked out as if it had a mind of it’s own to deny the ensuing shot.
Hintz rings one off the post and Vasilevskiy makes a huge save on Hakanpaa to keep it 0-0. pic.twitter.com/uUn3xN8xJJ— Chris Krenn (@Chris_Krenn) February 11, 2023
After a rest in the locker room, the two teams were right back at it. Steven Stamkos slipped behind the defense and had nothing but Wedgewood between him and his 506th career goal. The Captain tried to wait out the veteran back-up, but Wedgewood sealed off the bottom of the net and denied him.
It looked like the Lightning would be able to build on the early push as MIro Heiskanen went to the box for hooking, but Victor Hedman had to hug Luke Glendenning to prevent him from touching off an odd-man rush and that evened things up. Vasilevskiy made a ho-hum save on Hintz as the penalty was called.
After the power plays and four-on-four settled down, Anthony Cirelli was open in the slot and fired off a one-timer that Wedgewood kicked out. That sparked a rush to the other end with Vasilevskiy kicking out a Pavelski shot. That led to yet another rush as Brandon Hagel sent Cirelli in on a straight path to Wedgewood. Cirelli went forehand, backhand to tuck it into the net.
Anthony Cirelli (Brandon Hagel, Alex Killorn) 1-0 Lightning
The hockey gods felt this game should be level so they had the puck roll off of Ross Colton’s stick in the offensive zone. That allowed the Stars to break out on a two-on-one. Mikhail Sergachev didn’t give Jamie Benn a passing option so Benn called his own number and sniped one past Vasilevskiy.
Jamie Benn (unassisted ) 1-1
After the goal, the Stars had a few sustained shifts in the Lightning zone, but the Bolts were pretty good at keeping the area in front of Vasilevskiy clean. There weren’t too many second chances or players open for deflections. Stamkos would have the best chance for the Lightning as the period dwindled down as he had the puck and time in front of the net. Unfortunately he couldn’t tuck it under the left pad of Wedgewood.
The ice tilted in favor of the Stars in the middle frame as they had the 13-10 edge in Scoring Chances and 6-3 edge in High Danger Chances at 5v5. Dallas was pumping the shots at Vasy as they had a 43-29 edge in shot attempts through 40 minutes. The Lightning did block 10 of them, so credit to the players in front of Vasy for getting in front of the puck.
Early in the third period the teams had a full two-minute four-on-four that didn’t product any goals, despite an excellent chance for Nikita Kucherov. Point found him down low and it looked like Kucherov had a tap in, but Wedgewood deflected his stick just enough to push the shot into the post.
The Lightning had to kill off their fourth shorthanded opportunity of the day as Mikhail Sergachev was sent to the box for tripping. A call that the veteran defenseman, the Lightning bench, the announcers, and pretty much the world did not agree with.
Weak tripping call on Sergachev. pic.twitter.com/HncMyfx8AA— Chris Krenn (@Chris_Krenn) February 11, 2023
Dallas wasn’t able to capitalize on the gift, but Vasilevskiy had to be sharp on a chance by Dennis Gurianov who had slipped behind the defense a few moments later.
As the clock ticked under 5 minutes, Stamkos once again found himself alone with the puck in front of Wedgewood. Once again the puck did not not matriculate across the goalline as Benn was able to lift his stick and disrupt the backhand attempt.
After getting denied room in front of Wedgewood all day long, the Lightning finally got a chance and capitalized. With 45 seconds to go, Hedman crept in and made a move behind the net, Wedgewood over-committed a bit and left the net open. Cirelli fought threw Hintz to get his stick on the ice and was able to tap it into the net for the 2-1 lead. For Hedman, the helper was the 500th of his NHL career.
Anthony Cirelli (Victor Hedman, Alex Killorn) 2-1 Lightning
Brandon Hagel finished it off with an empty net goal just as the buzzer sounded to make the final score 3-1.
Brandon Hagel (Nikita Kucherov, Anthony Cirelli) Empty Net, 3-1 Lightning
The Lightning have two days off before heading to Colorado for a rematch against the Avalanche on Tuesday.