The Dallas Stars did everything a fan could want in Game 4. They got out to an early lead, got contributions from their best players, and punched back to tie things up late in the third period.
Unfortunately, they put themselves in the penalty box at the worst times and continued to see the Tampa Bay Lightning get bounces at the worst possible moments.
You could complain about the overtime call on Jamie Benn, but in reality it was just a makeup for the rather egregious embellishment call on Brayden Point after catching a hooking cup check from Corey Perry as the third period wound down.
Ultimately, the Tampa Bay Lightning executed when they needed to and Dallas didn’t. Without a shutdown line, the Stars continue to struggle in controlling the Lightning’s skilled players. Neither Anton Khudobin nor Andrei Vasilevskiy has been unbeatable, but it’s Khudobin who has needed to be.
Losing Roope Hintz to an uncalled trip that sent him into the boards put an end to what had been, to that point in the game, a useful speed line. It also removed a player who had filled in on the already hurting penalty kill. The Lightning have found their power play, but it hasn’t been against the Stars’ best.
It isn’t the national network narrative, but Dallas is putting up a fight in the Stanley Cup Final with three Texas Stars pulling double-digit minutes. Unless Rick Bowness goes conservative and inserts Justin Dowling into the lineup for Saturday night, that number could go up to four.
For all of the “play the kids” talk over the years, it’s a bit ironic that it’s a “first in 20 years” chance that forces the team to pull the trigger.
Dallas Stars Lineup
I’m going to take some liberties here, given the day-to-day nature of Blake Comeau, and the unknown status of Hintz after Game 4. This could be the last game of the year, so there’s an opportunity here to get some game action for at least one (maybe two) of the Stars’ top prospects.
Jamie Benn (14) - Joe Pavelski (16) - Alexander Radulov (47)
Jason Robertson (21) - Tyler Seguin (91) - Denis Gurianov (34)
Joel Kiviranta (25) - Ty Dellandrea (60) - Corey Perry (10)
Andrew Cogliano (11) - Jason Dickinson (18) - Mattias Janmark (13)
Esa Lindell (23) - John Klingberg (3)
Jamie Oleksiak (2) - Miro Heiskanen (4)
Joel Hanley (39) - Andrej Sekera (5)
Anton Khudobin (35)
Tampa Bay Lightning Lineup
Ondrej Palat (18) - Brayden Point (21) - Nikita Kucherov (86)
Barclay Goodrow (19) - Yanni Gourde (37) - Blake Coleman (20)
Alex Killorn (17) - Anthony Cirelli (71) - Tyler Johnson (9)
Cedric Paquette (13) - Patrick Maroon (14) - Carter Verhaeghe (23)
Victor Hedman (77) - Jan Rutta (44)
Mikhail Sergachev (98) - Erik Cernak (81)
Ryan McDonagh (27) - Kevin Shattenkirk (22)
Andrei Vasilevskiy (88)
Keys to the Game
Push Back. An elimination game on a back-to-back after an overtime loss is about as disheartening as it gets. The Stars have fought back all year, and there’s no reason to stop now.
Make Tampa Earn It. Closing out a series is hard. The Lightning still have to purge a few ghosts of seasons past.
Leave It All Out There. No sense holding back. Getting to the Final is something that doesn’t happen for everyone — in a career. For the veterans, this may be a last chance. For the prospects, this is an opportunity to be a part of something that few players in their early twenties have had a chance to experience. It’s the national stage — enjoy it.