It was a short but memorable return for Steven Stamkos as the Tampa Bay Lightning downed the Dallas Stars, 5-2, to win Game 3. Tampa’s captain needed only one minute, 26 seconds of ice time to score his first Stanley Cup Final goal of his career. He didn’t score in the 2015 Final against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Tampa takes a 2-1 series lead with Game 4 coming at 8 p.m. ET Friday night in Edmonton.
Steven Stamkos Returns
Tampa got a big boost when its captain played for the first time since February. The Lightning came out flying and forced the Stars into a mistake when Ondrej Palat forced a Miro Heiskanen turnover. Nikita Kucherov cashed in on the giveway to give Tampa a quick 1-0 lead.
Stamkos got on the scoreboard for the first time in a Final as he slipped past Esa Lindell and beat Anton Khudobin just 6:58 into the opening frame. The goal extended Stamkos’ point-streak to 16 games. He didn’t take a shift in the second or third period, but Tampa’s big lead will help coach Jon Cooper rest his star. Stamkos only played 2:47 during Game 3.
Dallas got on the board with a shorthanded-marker from Jason Dickinson after Tampa was sloppy on their power play. The Stars got the momentum for the rest of the period, but an Alexander Radulov hooking penalty gave the Lightning a power play to start the second period.
Victor Hedman Keeps Rolling
Tampa’s revived power play scored just 54 seconds into the second period after a point shot from Victor Hedman. The Swede has 10 goals in the post-season, which is the most by a defenceman since Brian Leetch in 1994.
Tampa kept up the pressure and was rewarded with three goals in the period. Brayden Point, Palat and Kucherov accounted for three goals and three assists as the Lightning mowed down the Stars. Palat, Hedman and Point all have double digits in goals this post-season for the Lightning.
The barrage of goals chased Khudobin from the nets and Jake Oettinger was between the pipes in the third period.
A Testy Third
Things got physical in the third period as Dallas and Tampa Bay got a little testy with the game being a blowout. Heiskanen got a goal to pull the Stars to within three goals on a shot that rattled around the crease. Dallas tried getting even closer with a couple of power plays, but came up empty.
Tampa hit hard to start the game and Dallas tried to answer in the third. Radulov took a nasty fall after Blake Coleman narrowly avoided a check from the big Russian. He went to the locker room to stay after trying to come out at the start of a man advantage.
The Lightning get a big advantage with this being the first game of three in four nights. Games 4 and 5 will be on back-to-back nights on Friday and Saturday.