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Stars will play Lightning in Stanley Cup Final; Game 1 is Saturday

Dallas in championship round for first time since 2000; Tampa Bay made it in 2015

by David Satriano @davidsatriano / NHL.com Staff Writer

The Dallas Stars will play the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Stanley Cup Final.

Game 1 will be Saturday in Edmonton, the hub city for the Cup Final (7:30 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVAS).

"Obviously it's going to be a really good matchup, and we've got to find ways to slow their back end down and just play our kind of hockey," Lightning forward Pat Maroon said. "They're playing really good. They're playing with a lot of confidence right now, so it's going to be a fun series, so we're looking forward to it."

Tampa Bay defeated the New York Islanders 2-1 in overtime in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final on Thursday to advance to the Cup Final for the first time since 2015.

"It's a quick turnaround, but as we've approached every series, we obviously make the adjustments we need to in our game plan," Lightning defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. "But at the end of the day, we focus on what we're putting out there, and we feel like our best effort is all we can ask for in the locker room and see how it plays out at that point."

Dallas defeated the Vegas Golden Knights 3-2 in overtime in Game 5 on Monday to win the Western Conference Final and reach the championship round for the first time since 2000.

"We've got a great team," Stars captain Jamie Benn said. "Everyone's bought into their role. … Probably one of the best teams, if not the best team I've played on. We just jell as a group. It's fun in that locker room, and we're going to try and keep this thing going."

Dallas entered the Stanley Cup Playoffs as the No. 3 seed in the West after the round-robin portion of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers. It defeated the Calgary Flames in six games in the first round and the Colorado Avalanche in seven games in the second round.

"It's a feeling you can't describe," Stars coach Rick Bowness said. "… You only get so many cracks at going to the Stanley Cup Final. You've got to take advantage of it. For me as a coach, it's just gratifying for the players. They've worked so hard. They've come together. We've been resilient all year."

Tampa Bay was the No. 2 seed in the East and eliminated the Columbus Blue Jackets and Boston Bruins in five games each.

 

[RELATED: Stanley Cup Final schedule]

 

This is the first time a coach has faced a former assistant in the Stanley Cup Final, according to the NHL Coaches' Association. Bowness was an assistant under Lightning coach Jon Cooper for five seasons in Tampa Bay (2013-18).

Defenseman Miro Heiskanen leads the Stars with 22 points (five goals, 17 assists) in the postseason. Benn has 18 points (eight goals, 10 assists), Denis Gurianov has 17 (nine goals, eight assists), and John Klingberg has 16 (three goals, 13 assists). Anton Khudobin is 12-6-0 with a 2.62 goals-against average and .920 save percentage in 19 games (18 starts).

"They're obviously playing a great team game right now, a great team game," Shattenkirk said. "There's a lot of speed up front as well as a lot of size. Their [defense] corps can obviously lock it down but at the same time they have a couple of guys there that can join the rush and make you pay offensively. We know Khudobin's been playing really well."

Nikita Kucherov leads the Lightning with 26 points (six goals, 20 assists), and Brayden Point has scored 25 points (nine goals, 16 assists) this postseason. Victor Hedman has scored 15 points, and his nine goals are tied with Point for the Tampa Bay lead. Andrei Vasilevskiy, who has played every minute, is 14-5-0 with a 1.82 GAA and .931 save percentage.

The Stars won two games against the Lightning in the regular season, each in overtime (4-3 on Dec. 19; 3-2 on Jan. 27). Tyler Seguin scored three points (one goal, two assists), and Benn scored two goals. Alexander Radulov (one goal, one assist), Gurianov (one goal, one assist) and Klingberg (two assists) each scored two points. Khudobin made 45 saves on 48 shots in the 4-3 win. Ben Bishop made 23 saves on 25 shots in the 3-2 win.

Kucherov led the Lightning with three assists against the Stars, and Steven Stamkos, who has not played in the postseason because of a lower-body injury, scored two goals. Ondrej Palat (one goal, one assist), Mikhail Sergachev (one goal, one assist) and Hedman (two assists) each scored two points. Vasilevskiy was 0-0-2 allowing seven goals on 55 shots (.873 save percentage).

The Stars have never played the Lightning in the playoffs.

It is the fifth time the Stars/North Stars have advanced to the Stanley Cup Final, including three times since relocating to Dallas from Minnesota before the 1993-94 season. The Stars defeated the Buffalo Sabres in six games to win the Cup in 1999 and lost to the New Jersey Devils in six games in 2000.

The North Stars lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games in the 1991 Cup Final.

The Lightning won the Stanley Cup in 2004, defeating the Calgary Flames in seven games, and lost a six-game Final to the Chicago Blackhawks in 2015.

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