Game 53 recap: Tampa Bay Lightning don't play well, win anyway 5-3 over the Dallas Stars

The Tampa Bay Lightning put out a considerably worse effort than on Tuesday in St. Louis, but come out with the better result, capitalizing on their chances for a 5-3 win over the Dallas Stars.

Process or results?

Which matters more? The process on Tuesday in St. Louis was near-perfect, as the Lightning dominated play at even strength and deserved a better fate than a 2-1 loss in overtime. On Thursday in Dallas, the Lightning's process was much, much worse -- but they got the result they were looking for, a 5-3 win in regulation.

Unlike two days ago in St. Louis, the Lightning capitalized on a couple of early chances to build a quick lead. Steven Stamkos chopped at a loose puck in front of the net for a 1-0 lead and Victor Hedman made it 2-0 with a blast from the point moments later a Dallas spotted the Bolts a quick lead that wasn't really earned.

Also unlike two days ago in St. Louis, however, the Lightning were dominated at 5v5, with Dallas controlling play and testing Andrei Vasilevskiy early and often with shots and chances from all over. The Bolts were fortunate to make it into the second period still nursing the 2-0 lead they fell into in the first, but Dallas continued to have their way with the Lightning in the middle frame, finally breaking through with a pair of goals just seconds apart. The first came off the stick of John Klingberg, who out-waited a sprawling Brenden Morrow and sniped a shot top corner to bring the Stars within a goal. Dallas followed up by converting on a 3-on-1 off the ensuing faceoff to tie the game.

Dallas continued to press their advantage, drawing a few power plays with undisciplined penalties by the Lightning, but the Stars were unable to convert up a man.

A power play with 8 minutes remaining gave the Lightning the opportunity to sneak out of Dallas with two points -- and, in spite of earlier power play futility, they converted. A nifty slap pass through the slot by Nikita Kucherov set Tyler Johnson up with a mostly empty net that he did not miss to give the Bolts a 3-2 lead with time winding down in the third.

Unfortunately, this lead wouldn't hold either as Trevor Daley beat Vasilevskiy cleanly on the rush to bring the score to 3-3.

Brian Boyle, taking a shift on defense after an injury to Jason Garrison, helped break the tie, taking the puck away from Jamie Benn (perhaps getting away with one there hauling the Stars' captain down) and firing the puck on net from the left wall. Tyler Johnson deflected it past Kari Lehtonen to put the Lightning up 4-3. Nikita Kucherov added an empty-netter for the 5-3 final score.

Game Notes
  • I'm not certain on the reputation of the ice in Dallas, but it certainly looked problematic for the Lightning at least. Steven Stamkos, Anton Stralman, and Victor Hedman all took notable tumbles, some of them leading directly to goals against. It's no excuse, of course, but still worth pointing out.
  • Jason Garrison left in the third period with a lower-body injury and did not return to the ice. An update on his status was not immediately available post-game, but it leaves the Lightning in another tight spot if he's going to miss time, already down two regular defensemen (Radko Gudas, Matt Carle) as it is.
  • The Lightning defense was not nearly as stout as it has been all year, ceding 36 shots to a potent Dallas forward group. Andrei Vasilevskiy, drawing in for his first game since being recalled, stopped 33 of those shots (.917 SV%) and looked outstanding doing so.
  • With the defense pairs jumbled up following Garrison's injury, no pair was set in stone, but it's interesting to note that Mark Barberio finished second on the team in total ice time with 23:42. He recorded 1 assist and was leaned on heavily by head coach Jon Cooper.