EDMONTON, Alberta — Kevin Shattenkirk scored in overtime on a questionable power play, Brayden Point had two goals and the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Dallas Stars 5-4 Friday night to take a 3-1 series lead in the Stanley Cup Final and move to the cusp of winning the title.
With Game 5 Saturday night, Tampa Bay is potentially 24 hours away from its second championship in franchise history. The Lightning won the Cup in 2004, but this core has so far been unable to get over the hump despite being one of the best teams in the NHL for much of the past decade.
They’re on the verge thanks to Shattenkirk’s goal 6:34 into OT. The veteran defenseman said he signed with the Lightning in the summer of 2019 after being bought out by the New York Rangers because he felt they had a similar chip on their shoulder after winning the Presidents’ Trophy and getting swept in the first round.
“I still feel like we have something to prove,” Shattenkirk said. “We have one more to go.”
It was another dominant performance by top players who looked like they wouldn’t be denied after getting this far. Point, the Lightning’s top center, scored consecutive goals at the end of the first period and start of the second, creating and sustaining the kind of momentum that has been so important in the playoffs.
The Lightning got the winning power play when Dallas captain Jamie Benn was called for tripping Tyler Johnson on a play where Benn’s skates never made contact with Johnson’s as the trailing referee called it.
“Tyler Johnson steps in front of Jamie, and it has no real effect on the play,” said Stars veteran Joe Pavelski, who scored twice. “Jamie breathes on him and the guy calls it.”
Victor Hedman, perhaps the Conn Smythe front-runner as playoff MVP showed why in the third period by saving a goal. With the puck slowly sliding in the crease toward the goal behind Andrei Vasilevskiy, Hedman swept it out of harm’s way.
Instead of the plucky Stars reclaiming the lead, Alex Killorn put the Lightning ahead a few shifts later with a play that was half hard-working power and half sublime skill. He won a puck battle behind the net, cruised to the right faceoff circle and fired a perfect shot into the top left corner.
There wasn’t much Stars goaltender Anton Khudobin could do on that one, and Vasilevskiy was the victim of two bad bounces that almost allowed Dallas to even the series. John Klingberg’s goal that opened the scoring came after his initial shot went off Tampa Bay’s Jan Rutta and through Hedman’s legs, and Pavelski’s second that tied it in the third pinballed in off the goalie and Shattenkirk.
Lightning teammates were thrilled for Shattenkirk to get the winner after being on the wrong end of the Stars’ fourth goal. On the winning power play, Shattenkirk told Hedman to get him the puck and he’d find a lane. The shot got through, setting off a raucous celebration as Lightning players hopped off the bench to swarm Shattenkirk.
Even before OT, The Lightning carried the play for much of the night and showed the depth and talent that has made them a Cup contender for several years. Their core players are closer to the Cup than they ever have been, five years after taking a 2-1 series lead in the final and losing in six to Chicago.
It would take an impressive comeback by a suddenly beaten up Stars bunch to keep Tampa Bay from another sunshine state title, this time won in the NHL’s northernmost city with no fans in the stands.ADVERTISEMENT
The Lightning came in with more important players fighting through injuries, including Point and No. 2 center Anthony Cirelli. But the Stars lost another key piece in forward Roope Hintz, who was injured when Johnson’s stick got stuck in his left skate and he crashed hard into the boards.
Penalties remain Dallas’ undoing. The least disciplined team in the playoffs took five more in Game 4 and allowed three power-play goals.
The Lightning survived a penalty kill of their own minutes early in OT after defenseman Mikhail Sergachev was whistled for holding Tyler Seguin.
NOTES: Pavelski’s two goals give him 60 in his playoff career, tying him with Joe Mullen for the most by an American player. ... Stars forward Corey Perry became the first player in NHL history to score a regular season and a Stanley Cup Final goal in the month of September. ... With captain Steven Stamkos unavailable again because of injury, the Lightning stuck with 12 forwards and six defensemen, inserting Carter Verhaeghe in his place.
Game 5 Saturday night marks the first back to back in the final since 2009 and just the second since the 1950s.