Both of these teams were coming off disappointing losses in their previous game, so one would expect they would be hungry to bounce back. But in this game, the Dallas Stars were simply hungrier than the Lightning. That much was evident in the third period, a frame in which the Stars outshot the Lightning, 17-4, and rallied from a 3-2 deficit with two goals. But it was also true at points earlier in the game. The Stars were quick to close on Lightning puck carriers, which led to a number of disrupted clearing attempts out of the Tampa Bay defensive zone and “one and done” sequences in the offensive zone. When the Lightning did possess the puck in the offensive zone, the Stars were effective in blocking shots – they blocked 20 in the game. Dallas was also hungry to respond after the Lightning took leads of 1-0 and 2-1 – the Stars tied the game within two and a half minutes both times. And while they didn’t tie the game as quickly after the Lightning went up, 3-2, they did decisively grab momentum and hold onto it through the end of the game.
Having written that, the first 25:42 of the game was not especially lopsided. The Lightning took two separate one-goal leads, but made costly mistakes shortly after each tally. After Nikita Kucherov scored the game’s first goal, the Lightning had a failed pinch in the offensive zone. That led to a Dallas two-on-one counter rush that tied the game at one. And following Steven Stamkos’ power play goal early in the second, a disrupted clearing attempt resulted in an in-alone chance for Jamie Benn, who tied the score at two.
After that, the Stars began enjoying the majority of the puck possession. They made it difficult for the Lightning to make plays up ice. There was one notable exception. On one of the Lightning’s most dominant, impressive shifts of the entire season, they retook the lead. The unit of Stamkos, Kucherov, Alex Killorn, Victor Hedman and Braydon Coburn held the puck in the Dallas end for nearly a minute. They won repeated puck battles and consistently retrieved pucks. Eventually, Killorn set up Stamkos in front of the net and Stamkos tallied his second goal of the game.
But the Lightning couldn’t build on that excellent shift. Instead, they found themselves back on their heels for much of the rest of the game. The Stars kept up their intensity even after Stephen Johns and Benn had scored the tying and go-ahead goals in the third period. Up 4-3 with 8:10 left, Dallas shut the Lightning down for the rest of the game.
The Lightning head to Arizona for the final game of the road trip knowing that their lead over Detroit is down to four points and their advantage over Philadelphia – the Conference’s ninth seed – is down to five points. Stamkos described the Lightning as a “fragile” team right now – and it’s clear that the Bolts are not playing nearly as confidently as they were less than two weeks ago. But they need to find a way to regain that confidence on Saturday in what could be one of their most important games of the season so far.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game:
Jamie Benn’s GWG in the third period.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game:
1.Jamie Benn – Stars. Two goals and assist.
2.Cody Eakin – Stars. Three assists.
3.Steven Stamkos – Lightning. Two goals.