Stanley Cup Final Bizarro Game 2: Delinquent Stars Drop Historic Heartbreaker
To think it started off so well! The not-real Dallas Stars could not build on an impressive game 1, and dropped game 2 by a score of 7-6 to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Even the fake Stars seemed to struggle with an early lead and a late Tampa Bay push. Come on in for the gory details.
Courtesy of their game one larceny, the Dallas Stars were in a position to put the 2014/2015 Stanley Cup Final in a serious stranglehold. A win in game two would have turned an early hiccup from the Eastern Conference Champion Tampa Bay Lightning into a near-panic. At least that's the narrative fans should have been focusing on. Instead, the hockey world spent the days between games consumed by Bitegate 2015 (#nhlnom), and Stars fans are left to wonder if the distraction was a factor in their hard-fought, 7-6 loss Saturday night.
Towards the end of game one, a full blown kerfulffle developed behind the Dallas net. In the middle of the chaos, Lightning defender Victor Hedman bolted towards his own bench. Accusations the player had been the victim of a bite erupted immediately, and were not helped by images of Stars forward Ryan Garbutt dabbing daintily at the corners of his mouth with a red-stained napkin. The Stars insist he was simply enjoying a late-game snack, a hot-dog from the nearby concourse. Tampa Bay, meanwhile, asserts Hedman's finger could not have possibly fallen off all on its own.. The NHL's Director of Player Safety (Stephane Quintal), in honor of his history as both a St. Louis Blue and Winnipeg Jet, began his summer vacation after round one, and is not expected to take disciplinary action.
First Period: Dal 4 / TB 0
The third period from game one proved initially to be the gift that would keep on giving to the Dallas Stars. The line of Cody Eakin, Antoine Roussel, and Garbutt (tactfully sporting a bib) got the party started a mere two minutes into the game. Ales Hemsky struck next, though fans are right to wonder if he needed to deke three Stars, both linesman, and the ceremonial puck-dropper before finally shooting the puck past a somnolent Ben Bishop. Dallas' early blitz had the Bolts so severely out of sorts that the home took a rare delay of game double minor (the puck was sent out of play on an illegally taken faceoff with too many men on the ice). Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin would score goals on both penalties. Tampa Bay would register two shots on goal during the frame.
Second Period: Dal 5 / TB 2
A 34-4 advantage in shots on goal after two periods would suggest the Stars were in firm control of Game 2. The end of period scoreline, however, provided plenty of cause for concern. The second period began as the first had ended, with Dallas peppering Bishop. Shot after shot seemed to strike the Tampa Bay goaltender dead center on his chest. Shawn Horcoff was the only Star who managed to miss the mark, and his tally put the Stars up 5-0. The Stars were so emboldened by the pace of play they elected to give Kari Lehtonen a breather. Sure, two mid-game empty net goals by Steven Stamkos seemed like a strange tactical choice, but perhaps Coach Lindy Ruff was trying to conserve some of his goaltender's energy (a season-long trend with Lehtonen playing only 80 of a possible 82 regular season games).
Third Period: Dal 6 / TB 7 - Final
Bolts captain Stamkos tied both an NHL record and the 2014/2015 Stanley Cup final with five goals during an intense third period. To their credit, the Dallas Stars seemed to recognize the folly of pulling Lehtonen so early in the game, and had replaced the big Finn by the start of the third period. That, and an early Trevor Daley goal were about all that went right for the Stars. Looking back, the boys in Victory Green can blame a breakdown in discipline that gave the Bolts six power play opportunities in a row. The nature of the penalties (two dives, one high stick, and three delays of game) were almost as frustrating as the loss. The Stars will have to compose themselves quickly. Now-pivotal, Game three is scheduled for Monday night in Dallas.