Tampa Bay Lightning Score Late, Hand Dallas Stars Another 3-2 Preseason Loss
Curtis McKenzie and Valeri Nichushkin had the goals for Dallas, which was hurt again by a silent power play.
Stop me if you've heard this before.
The Dallas Stars got a pair of pretty goals and generally dominated possession at even strength, but a strong night from Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop and a shaky power play left them on the short end of a 3-2 preseason loss at Amalie Arena.
Tampa opened the scoring in the first minute with a weird-bounce goal off the skate of Nikita Kucherov, who started the play by stripping Mattias Janmark at the blue line to begin a rush the other way. The puck went to Ondrej Palat, who centered a pass that went through the crease, off Kucherov's skate and past Kari Lehtonen.
The Stars evened things up in the second when Curtis McKenzie tapped in a great centering pass from Vernon Fiddler fairly late in the second, and some scrums erupted immediately after with Fiddler right in the middle of it. But the Lightning were able to take the lead back less than a minute later when Valteri Filppula got loose in the slot and beat Lehtonen on a quick wrist shot high to the stick side.
The Stars tied the game again when Valeri Nichushkin finally scored his first NHL goal since returning from hip surgery last November, using a backhand to beat Ben Bishop on a pass from Tyler Seguin.
What both the McKenzie and Nichushkin goals had in common was the Stars trapped some or all of the Lightning on the ice after strong offensive shifts, and the Stars were able to capitalize by turning the play around quickly after the puck initially cleared the Lightning zone.
The game-winning goal came with a little more than four minutes left on a shot from the left circle by J.T. Brown that may have gone through a Jordie Benn screen. It was with the run of play, as the Lightning were outshooting the Stars 10-2 in the third at that time.
Dallas did make a push late in the third, but Ben Bishop used all 6-foot-7 of himself to make a save on Mattias Janmark with 1:44 left. He also made a strong save on Patrick Sharp in the final minute.
The big question, as always, was the performance of Kari Lehtonen, who gave up three goals on 24 shots. Without video, it's hard to get a read on how Lehtonen played in this game. The Lightning announcers were relatively complementary of him, even though they thought he could have cut off the centering feed on the first goal that eventually bounced off a skate, and it did sound like the Lightning had the more consistent of the scoring chances even though the shots were pretty even and the possession favored Dallas.
He did come up big several times on the power play, which Tampa executed with much more precision than the Stars.
On the bad end, let's about the Stars power play, shall we? It's hard to get a sense of with just half the top unit there, but they once again not only struggled to score but struggled to even get set up at times. It eventually went 0-for-4.
And defenseman Patrik Nemeth struggled in the possession game, finishing well below even in Corsi at minus-six, though he was buried in fairly heavy defensive zone starts. The next closest defenseman was Jyrki Jokipakka at plus-one. That's not a good sign for him as he pushes for more playing time ahead of Jokipakka and Jamie Oleksiak.
Proving their usual possession black magic, Jason Demers and Jordie Benn joined forces and immediately dominated possession at even strength, with plus-11 nights for each of them in Corsi.
The Stars wrap up the preseason Saturday against the Chicago Blackhawks, who should have most of their regular season lineup dressed at the United Center.