The Tampa Bay Lightning win Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals over the Dallas Stars by a final score of 3-2. The Stars were leading 1-0 but now the series is 1-1 after an electric performance from Tampa. It was a gritty game that ultimately came down to what teams could do with the man-advantage. The Lightning struck early and often but Dallas clawed its way back with physical play.
Tampa Bay Lightning Win Game 2
Penalties Hurt the Stars Early
Anton Khudobin was a huge part of Dallas’s first victory but Tampa Bay aggressive early and scored the first goal of the game off the power-play. Brayden Point got past the veteran netminder off a terrific feed from Nikita Kucherov and Victor Hedman. It certainly didn’t help that Dallas took three penalties in the first period. The team needs to be far more disciplined if they want to stay on top of the dangerous Lightning. Ondrej Palat scored the second off a cross-ice pass that also featured Kucherov and Hedman as part of the setup. The Dallas penalty kill unit has been outstanding throughout much of the playoffs but their early play simply won’t do.
The two early power-play goals quickly transferred momentum to Tampa at even-strength. Kevin Shattenkirk snuck one by Khudobin off a turnover to make it 3-0 near the end of the first period. The Stars looked very slow and were lucky to escape down only 3-0 after the first period.
On the other end, Andrei Vasilevskiy was not challenged much in the first but held off the few chances he did see. Dallas didn’t have double-digit shot attempts until almost eight minutes had elapsed in the second period. The Lightning did a great job frustrating the Stars’ puck carriers and controlling the neutral zone. The team’s penalty killing unit was also fantastic, allowing very few shots in the first several times it was called into action.
Dallas Looked Slow but Found Its footing
The Stars recovered somewhat but they seemed unprepared to handle Tampa’s superior speed and skill. The penalties were crushing but the team also had uncharacteristic turnovers that led to several near-goals over the course of the game. However, they did manage to goad the Lightning into a few penalties while trying to close the scoring gap. Dallas just couldn’t break Vasilevskiy often enough until it was too late to matter.
It wasn’t all bad for Dallas, though. They scored on a classic power-play redirection from Joe Pavelski in the second and a tip-in from John Klingberg in the third. The team picked up the pace after the dreadful first period and eventually pulled ahead in shots for a good chunk of the game. It also got typical performances from some of its agitators. Corey Perry caused a scrum late in the second which created an interesting 5-on-4 penalty late in the period. His ability to frustrate opponents remains one of his best skills and prevents Tampa Bay from getting too comfortable.
What to Expect for Game 3
Dallas will need to get back to the physical play that made it such an effective squad against the Colorado Avalanche and Vegas Golden Knights. Khudobin should be the starter again behind a renewed team focus on effective defence that doesn’t draw penalties. The one question they might have is Comeau’s status. He took a huge hit late in the second period which may affect his status for Game 3. He is a big part of the Stars’ two-way efforts.
The Lightning remain the more talented team and should be fine going into the next game assuming everyone is healthy. Dallas’s physical style forced Kucherov into the locker room early before the scoring began. Tampa can’t afford to let the Stars push them around too much without smart retaliation. They may go back to seven defenders in an effort to keep people in front of Vasilevskiy fresh. This was a huge Tampa Bay Lightning win.