The Dallas Stars have another lead to work with, this one when it matters most.
Taking full advantage of the extra rest it earned from the last round, Dallas forced the issue from the start in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final versus the Tampa Bay Lightning, and withstood a strong push down the stretch to secure another early-series lead with a 4-1 victory.
Joel Hanley, Jamie Oleksiak, Joel Kiviranta, and Jason Dickinson had the goals, the latter in an empty net, while Anton Khudobin made 35 saves for the Stars, who have now won six of their last seven games — each with their No. 2 netminder between the pipes.
Yanni Gourde notched his sixth of the postseason for the Lightning, and Andrei Vasilevskiy made just 16 saves in only his fifth loss in 17 postseason games.
Game 2 is scheduled for Monday night.
Shoe (briefly) on the other foot
The Stars were certainly full value for their win in the Western Conference Final, but for moments in the series, maybe more specifically early on, it seemed as they were only just holding on as the Vegas Golden Knights poured on the volume shift after shift.
Only in rare cases it seemed the Stars were commanding the action, so it was a bit of a surprise to see them clearly dictate terms in the first two periods of Game 1 versus the Lightning, and in the process run up a massive 28-11 advantage in scoring chances.
What was less of a surprise was the fact that taking initiative isn’t always reflective in the score. In fact, it almost seemed as though they were embodying the Golden Knights, in some respects, when Gourde scored an equalizer off his skate on one of the Lightning’s few chances in the first period with his body turned in the opposite direction and both skates behind the goal line.
Unlike Vegas, however, the Stars wouldn’t be denied in the end. Jamie Oleksiak and Joel Kiviranta each scored in an impressive middle period that saw the Stars attempt 30 shots and manufacture 18 scoring chances. Those goals allowed them to sit back into the stifling team defence, and survive the avalanching scoring effects down the stretch.
This is only the second time since February the Tampa Bay Lightning have lost by a three-goal margin.— luke fox (@lukefoxjukebox) September 20, 2020
The brothers Joel
Two players who weren’t promised much more than free meals and lodging through their time in the bubble, and who are otherwise only linked by the spelling — and not the pronunciation — of their first names, each delivered in significant moments for the Stars in Game 1.
Joel Hanley and Joel Kiviranta had goals for the Stars, who continue to demonstrate an impressive depth of scoring while receiving contributions from unexpected sources. In fact, when accounting for the Oleksiak goal, Dallas’s goal-scorers on Vasilevskiy in the Game 1 victory had just four tallies through the entire regular season — combined.
Hanley’s marker was the first of his NHL career and the first of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final. It was the end product of a hard finish on a check from Kiviranta, who buried Brayden Point on the forecheck and with it distracted the defense while Hanley was creeping down into the high slot.
Meanwhile, Kiviranta’s marker came in the final moments of the second period, which made a difficult task — especially for a Lightning team competing on less rest — that much more difficult heading into the third period.
Kiviranta upped his total to five goals in just his 12th start.
Patrick Maroon has a history with the Stars in the postseason. It was his overtime goal two springs ago as a member of the St. Louis Blues that sent his team on to continue its championship run, while also obviously ending the Stars’ season.
It was maybe the individual moment of Maroon’s career, but there was no encore for the veteran forward in Game 1 against the same cast of characters who have been thinking about that moment for over a full year now.
Instead, Maroon sat in the penalty box for the first 10 minutes of the third period for an incredible dopey decision to intentionally shoot the puck into the Stars’ bench at the end of the second.
Down 3-1 in Game 1, Pat Maroon shoots the puck into the Dallas bench at the end of the second period pic.twitter.com/EZmZJg5zNu— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) September 20, 2020
Not that it was a major loss for the Lightning, but it was unquestionably bush league.
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