EDMONTON, AB — The Dallas Stars face a major opportunity in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final. They also face a daunting possibility.
Seize back momentum with a win, claim a 2-1 series lead, and force the Tampa Bay Lightning to win three of the final four games of the series. Or, allow Tampa Bay to build on what they accomplished in Game 2, and have to win 3 of 4 against a Lightning team that at one point in the regular season ripped off a 23-2-1 stretch.
Despite a slow start in Game 2, Dallas did play well over the final 40 minutes.
Three bad penalties in the first period led to two Lightning power-play goals, as Dallas fell into a 3-0 hole. The third goal from Tampa was a seeing-eye single that snaked through no fewer than four legs on its way to the left post. Dallas goalie Anton Khudobin never had a chance to see the puck.
But over the final 40 minutes, Dallas looked sharp. The second period was nearly a reversal of the first, in terms of puck possession and shots on goal. Unfortunately for the Stars, it didn't result in the same damage on the scoreboard. But there were things that Rick Bowness' team can build on, from that second and third period on Monday night.
By the same token, Tampa Bay did an excellent job of stemming that tide, as the game transitioned into the 3rd period. Over the final 14:33 of the game, Dallas managed just two shots on goal, as they were frantically trying to tie the game. The Lightning have something to build on as well, from that defensive effort, and the sheer fact that they were able to hang on and even the series.
But little matters game-to-game in the Stanley Cup Final. What matters is what each of these two teams can accomplish tonight. And for Dallas, that means a strong start is imperative, as they try to steal back the edge they had in Game 1.
If Dallas is to do so, they need to stay out of the penalty box. They have been penalized more than any other team in the playoffs, including 16 more times than Tampa. Discipline is paramount, in order to keep the Lightning off the power play.
"We need to stay out of the box. It helps," Stars forward Joe Pavelski said. "When we stay out of the box, we've shown it so far that we're a good team."
Another key to watch for tonight is the health of Blake Comeau. The Stars forward left Game 2 after a collision with Tampa's Ryan McDonagh. Stars head coach Rick Bowness said that Comeau is a game-time decision.