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Burns: Three things we learned from dominating Dallas

Lightning beat writer Bryan Burns recaps Tampa Bay's 6-1 win over the Dallas Stars

by Bryan Burns /

Steven Stamkos said Thursday morning it's "a myth" that teams returning from a long road trip usually struggle in their first game back home.

Then Stamkos went out later that night to prove the fallacy of that thinking.

The Lightning, paced by Stamkos' two goals, pulled away from Dallas in the second and third periods, scoring five unanswered goals in a 6-1 demolition of the Stars.

Goaltender Ben Bishop made his first return to Tampa in an opposing sweater. The Lightning organization marked the occasion with a touching tribute video, and the fans responded with a rousing standing ovation for their former netminder.

"It means a lot to me, these fans mean a lot to me," Bishop said after the game. "I had some great years here, and it holds a big place in my heart."

The Lightning, however, spoiled the festivities with one of their more complete wins of the season to move to a franchise- and NHL-best 15-2-2.

How were the Bolts able to collect points Nos. 31 and 32 on Friday?

We'll break down the beatdown in Three Things we learned from dominating Dallas.

Nikita Kucherov has grabbed much of the headlines this season when it comes to scoring goals, and with good reason. The Russian right wing scored his NHL-best 17th goal of the season in the third period against Dallas and is on pace for 73 goals on the season.

But Steven Stamkos knows how to score goals too.

And early in the second period, he went to work in his office to net the game's first goal.

With the Lightning on a power play to start the middle frame after a penalty on Dallas' Greg Pateryn with nine seconds left in the opening period, Stamkos posted up in his preferred spot in the left circle. Victor Hedman swung the puck his way, and Stamkos blistered a one-timer that totally fooled former teammate Ben Bishop, beating the Stars goalie high over the glove to the far post with Bishop expecting the shot to come low to his glove.

Video: DAL@TBL: Stamkos pots scorching PPG on one-timer

Later in the game with the Lightning holding a 3-1 lead and pushing for more, Stamkos effectively sealed Dallas' fate. Nikita Kucherov, behind the net, spotted Stamkos down low and zipped a pass to the Lightning captain. Stamkos picked his spot and beat Bishop for a second time to make it 4-1 just four minutes into the final period.

"It was nice to get a couple but I'm sure when the dust settles here I'll give Bish a text and thank him for letting me grab a few tonight," Stamkos said, grinning after the game.

Stamkos netted his ninth and 10th goals of the season and finished with four points on the night, tying a career high for points in a game set nine times previously.

Stamkos entered Thursday's game ranked No. 1 in the NHL for scoring.

And he continues to pile up the points to put even more distance between himself and those chasing him.

Dallas came into Tampa with the NHL's top power play having converted on 30.2 percent of its opportunities.

The Lightning penalty kill had been sensational of late, going six-straight games without allowing an opponent power-play goal and killing off 15-consecutive power plays.

Make it seven games and 18-straight power plays following another standout performance by that Bolts' special teams unit.

Dallas had three power-play opportunities against Tampa Bay but could do nothing with any of them, even with about 30 seconds of a 5-on-3 midway through the second period.

Instead, it was the Lightning penalty kill that lit the lamp, Brayden Point capitalizing on John Klingberg's misplay behind his own goal to intercept the puck and wrap around a shorthanded goal, the Bolts' third of the season.

Video: DAL@TBL: Point capitalizes on turnover for SHG

"That was the game," Stamkos said. "It gives us all the momentum and sucks the momentum from them. They get a 5-on-3 and they have the best power play in the League. Our penalty kill is sliding under the radar. It's one of the best units we've had since I've been here."

Tampa Bay won the special teams war against Dallas, scoring a power-play goal, a shorthanded goal and not allowing any goals or momentum from the Stars' power plays.

"To get that shorthanded goal, ultimately in these games, you look at special teams and look at the team that won the special team war and more often than not, that's the team that won the game," Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. "Especially with the power play as dangerous as theirs, they did a phenomenal job to get through that five minutes."

During the three-game sweep of the California road trip, the Lightning broke out to big leads against San Jose and Los Angeles in the second period but played more conservatively in the third and gave their opponent opportunities to get back in the game.

Against Dallas on Thursday, holding a 3-1 lead after the second period, the Lightning coaching staff emphasized the need to push for more goals between periods.

The message was heard loud and clear.

Starting with Stamkos' second goal of the night at 3:57 of the third, the Bolts continued pouring it on in the third period and didn't give the Stars any semblance of hope in a completely dominant final 20 minutes.

"We had a game plan and we stuck to it," Stamkos said. "We emphasized that we wanted to keep our foot on the gas and keep pressing. When you can do that, it sucks the life out of the team and gives them no hope to come back."

Once Stamkos scored his second, what little hope the Stars had of rallying vanished. The Lightning continued their assault on the Dallas goal, and Jake Dotchin and Nikita Kucherov each found the back of the net to continue the onslaught.

"You look back from the Columbus game and we gave up the lead and even on that Western trip where we had leads, and not that we let the team back in, but play might have been in our end a little bit more than we would have liked," Cooper said. "We didn't generate a ton of shots, but we scored goals (tonight) and we really didn't give that much in the third. You want to see that out of your team, that let's not sit back and protect the lead, let's keep going and that's what we did."

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