TAMPA BAY, Fla. (FNN SPORTS) – Game 1 in the Stanley Cup Finals left Lightning fans fearful to what the series could look like. Dallas came off four rest days and hit the ice with speed, control, and physicality, winning 4-1. In Game 2 Tampa’s familiar hustle and resilience worked in their favor. The Lightning stormed the first period with three goals a couple minutes apart from one another: first Point, next Palat, lastly Shattenkirk.
Tampa’s defensive pairings have been playing outstanding and continued to do so. It all came down to Vasilevskiy, who only allowed one goal in the second and third period, helping the Bolts tie up the series 1-1 in a 3-2 win.
Game 3 was pure magic. Steven Stamkos suited up for the first time since Feb 25th, unleashing an emotional and electric energy throughout the team. More importantly, leave it to the Capitan to not just make an appearance, but an impact within his 2:47 of playing time. 6:58 into the first period, off a pass from Hedman, Stamkos gained control of the puck along the boards and takes a sharp angled shot to the far side on the net for a Tampa Bay goal. The response and support from the bench was moving! The Bolts built off of the play and presence of their Captain in the second period, scoring three more goals between Hedman, Point, and Palat.
Three players who have been leading contributors in Tampa’s playoff run. The Lightning closed out Game 3 with a 5-2 victory. Although everyone was hopeful for more Stamkos play, a Game 4 Stammer was ruled out. You could almost say the guys pulled off this overtime win to honor their Captain. Kevin Shattenkirk, with the winning overtime goal, gave Stamkos a big hug once they exited the ice.
For the first time since 2014 in the Stanley Cup Finals, the Stars and Lightning would face off in back to back games. Game 5, which took place Saturday, was a hard-fought game. Stars’ key player, Corey Perry got Dallas up 1 with less than 3 minutes left in the 1st period. Tampa has had a short response time most of playoffs when it comes to catching up on the board. 4:37 into the 2nd period, Ondrej Palat records his 11th goal of playoffs. The score remained tied until 3:38 into the third, when Sergachev gave Tampa Bay the lead, 2-1. As the game began to wind down and hopes of winning the cup in just under eight minutes, Dallas’ other driving force of the series, Joe Pavelski ties the game back up, meaning more overtime for the Lightning. OT one goes scoreless regardless of the offensive pressure laid on the Stars, and in OT two the Stars forced a Game 6 after Perry gets one past Vasilevskiy.
A tough loss, yes. At the end of the day it is the Stanley Cup Finals and teams find that extra gear right before its time to head home. Tampa has mentioned that their focus after games is to remain even keeled and turning the page to the next game. After the Game 5 loss, Victor Hedman said, “we’re a resilient group and we know how to respond to adversity” something the Bolts have proven time and time again.
According to Coach Cooper in his post-game presser, they played a winnable game, but they’ve been in this position before and rebounded. Cooper said, “I really like how we’ve responded after losses.” As for how this team keeps grinding through and staying unified, “There’s a focus with this group and a collective leadership with Stammer not in the lineup that has been exceptional” and quite obvious, every player on the roster has been ready to step up at any point of these series and made an impact in one way or another, no matter how big or small. After each loss, we have seen the Lightning follow up with a win and the same will be expected tonight as they stick to their game plan and style to close out the series.
Kasey Hudson is Associate Sports Editor for Florida National News. | firstname.lastname@example.org