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Stars Dominate Early, Score Often To Take Game 1

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Outside of a lucky bounce goal for the Lightning, the Stars played their brand of hockey to a tee tonight.

2020 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game One Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

History has provided two different Dallas Stars teams when they come off of an extended rest period. On one hand, they’ve come out and dominated teams. On the other hand, they’ve also been known to come out completely flat.

Maybe what was missing in those latter instances was the intensity of trying to win the Stanley Cup if Game 1 is any indication.

Dallas played their style of hockey for the first 40 minutes. It was clear at the end of those 40 minutes, the Tampa Bay Lightning were frustrated. When the opponent came out in the third period and found their footing (thanks, in large part, to penalties they more than earned), the Stars did what they’ve done this entire postseason — they weathered the storm. They gave up the outside shots, but owned the high danger areas, not relenting often in that area in the face of Tampa’s counterattack.

FIRST PERIOD

The Big 3 line set an early tone for the Stars, and they got the first dangerous looks offensively for the team. It came off a scrum for a lose puck off an offensive-zone faceoff, and Tyler Seguin came out of it with the puck in the slot. He fired a point-blank shot at Andrei Vasilevskiy, and the rebound off it led to another quality chance in tight.

But it wasn’t one of the top forwards that opened the scoring tonight. As has been the case for the Stars this playoffs, goals have come from some unlikely places. Tonight was no different, as Joel Hanley took his turn in the spotlight. The defenseman, who hadn’t scored a goal in the AHL all season long, picked a heck of a time to score his first career NHL goal.

For the most part, Dallas seemed to be controlling the play of the opening period. They did a very good job keeping Tampa Bay in check. It took them more than half a period to register more than one shot on goal. However, Tampa got rewarded with some puck luck when Blake Coleman threw the puck into the corner where Yanni Gourde was posted up near the net. The puck bounced off of Gourde’s skate, then off Roope Hintz’s skate, and past Anton Khudobin, who really can’t be blamed considering the odds of that happening are pretty low to begin with.

The stats at the end of the first period matched the eye test. Though actual shots on goal were pretty low for both teams, the Stars had the puck a lot more as evidenced by the shot attempts in favor of Dallas and the blocked shots Tampa had to make.

SECOND PERIOD

Dallas picked up the period with more of their good possession play, and drew an early power play opportunity. Much as you love posts when they deny the opponent’s chance, you also hate it when you deny one of your own. That was the case for Dallas as Alexander Radulov had a shot ring right off the goaltender’s cage. The rebound chance by Tyler Seguin was thwarted by Vasilevskiy’s stick, another moment of inches making a difference in a playoff game for the Stars. Though the first power play unit didn’t score, the man advantage gave them a lot of momentum to start the middle frame.

They’d draw a second power play, courtesy of Coleman on Dickinson round two (this one a hooking call). Once again, they didn’t score on it but generated some good chances. It gave the team some momentum, and they carried it forward in the period.

It would take more than half of the period for the Stars to finally be rewarded for dominating the play. They finally broke through when Radulov spotted Jamie Oleksiak with a lot of open space coming down the side. After an initial shot was blocked, Oleksiak was able to collect the rebound and continue working to the front of the net, protecting the puck with his long reach, and using patience to finally get the defender and goaltender to bite on a specific play before he roofed it over the Tampa netminder.

Late in the period, John Klingberg would start the play from behind his own net. He spotted that the Lightning were going off for a line change, so he sent the puck up through the neutral zone to Joel Kiviranta without much resistance. Kiviranta hauled the puck straight through the middle of the ice into the offensive zone, surrounded entirely by Lightning opponents. He’d fire a shot at Vaselivskiy anyway, looking for a rebound chance to generate something. The rebound kicked right back at him, and he snapped it home before anyone on the ice could even react.

The xG% for this shot had to be kind of low with all that opposition around Kiviranta, right?

At the end of the period, Pat Maroon shot the puck into the Stars’ bench. It hit Kiviranta, and he got a 10 minute misconduct as a result of that decision.

THIRD PERIOD

As was more than expected, the Lightning came out very aggressively to start the third period as a result of being down 3-1. Outside of one really good chance by Tyler Seguin in the offensive zone, Dallas played almost exclusively in their own end. A lot of that was due to the penalty fest they decided to deploy in the last frame.

Tampa drew their first power play chance of the game courtesy of John Klingberg hooking Alex Killorn. Dallas didn’t allow much on the first attempt at the man advantage. Khudobin came up big when needed, included a glorious toe save that showed off the flexibility of the Stars’ netminder.

Blake Comeau shot the puck over the glass, and gave Tampa a second power play in the third period. It’s playing with fire if you keep loading up the opponent that is down by two goals with a man advantage. Any scoring would get them back into this game.

So why not go for the hat trick of penalties? Seguin got called for a tripping with about seven minutes left in the game, forcing Dallas to kill a third penalty in the game. But Dallas trusts their penalty kill, which has been pretty solid of late, and between the penalty killers and Khudobin, the Stars were able to weather the storm.

Tampa pulled the goaltender for the extra attacker with nearly four minutes left in the period, essentially causing Dallas to play more penalty killing time for all intents and purposes. Though they continued to pour it on offensively, Dallas didn’t give much in the way of danger. The Stars actually were able to score a rare

Bend not break, as the Stars have said time and again this postseason. They did so successfully once again.

OTHER RANDOM TIDBITS

*I know that Doc Emerick is one of the best when it comes to calling games in the NHL. But there were two markedly rough pronunciations of Stars player names tonight. Tyler Seguin became Tiger Seguin early on (which, let’s be honest, isn’t that bad of a nickname) and Roope Hintz can now lay claim to the Heinz empire if he so chooses. There was a Heinz dasherboard advertisement in the game featuring a bottle of ketchup pouring out sideways, so maybe that brand placement actually works and this was just Doc’s way of proving it out.

*Heiskanen’s secondary assist on Oleksiak’s second period goal set a record for most assists by a Finnish player in the playoffs.

*Though Kiviranta scored once again tonight, the thing that’s going to keep him in the lineup is his play away from the puck. He is a puck hound, and he attacks the play relentlessly along the boards.

*Every player that scored tonight has a first name that starts with a “J”: Joel, Jamie, Joel, Jason.

*Dallas won Game 1 on the seventh anniversary of Jamie Benn being named captain of the team.

*And this is why games are played in real life and not on paper: