The Tampa Bay Lightning have found their mojo in time to take control of the Stanley Cup Final. The onus is on the Dallas Stars to counterpunch against the Lightning attack when they meet in Friday’s Game 4 of the championship series that Tampa Bay leads 2-1.
Thanks to Wednesday’s 5-2 shootout victory in Game 3 in Edmonton — a score which flattered the Stars — the Lightning have a golden chance to be on the verge of the franchise’s second Cup title. Game 5 will be Saturday night, putting the series into high speed.
In short, the Stars had best develop an answer to the Lightning attack or the series could be completed in a hurry.
“We’re going to have to find our game between now and Friday,” Stars coach Rick Bowness said. “The problems we had (Wednesday) were evident to everyone, including our players. We know how we have to play to beat this team, and we showed a lot of good things early in the game in the first period. Then, we just completely got away from that. So we know what have to do, we know how we have to play.”
The question remains: Can the Stars exert their game plan enough to not only even the series but also take control? So far, Dallas has found itself in trouble all too often, lacking discipline, and it paid the price in each of the last two contests. On the flip side, the Stars have been as good as the Lightning during most of the five-on-five play, but miscues and penalties have derailed their hopes.
“We’ve got a lot of veteran guys that have been through a lot,” Stars forward Jason Dickinson said. “If we can draw from those experiences and those situations and reflect on it and say, ‘Hey, we can respond. We’ve got the guys in here that can do it,’ we’ll be fine.
“At the end of the day, we’re down 2-1. We play the next game and win, it’s tied 2-2, new series.”
The Lightning, meanwhile, are starting to roll, and looking better each game in the finals. It almost seems irrelevant whether captain Steven Stamkos is able to play again — the fact he didn’t take a shift in the final 46 minutes of Wednesday’s clash after scoring in his first game in seven months makes it likely he won’t play. The Lightning look like a team that sense the championship is nearly in their grasp.
Even though he played less than three minutes, having Stamkos score a key goal and then be on the bench cheering on his teammates helped the Lightning find a new gear that Dallas simply could not match.
“The energy was pretty high after that (Stamkos) goal, but we’ve been in situations where we’ve lost forwards before in the playoffs, guys getting kicked out, guys leaving with injury and we’ve been down to 10 forwards, nine forwards, five D at times,” defenseman Ryan McDonagh said. “Our group feels like we’ve got a recipe in how we want to play and no matter who’s going over the boards, no matter how many times in a row you’re asked to go over, you see the effort and the will from everybody and that’s what’s been the key for us. No matter who’s going over the boards, they’re playing really hard for one another.”
As for playing in Game 4 or any others during the series, Stamkos was tight-lipped.
“You want to have a say and you want to contribute, so (Wednesday) was an amazing experience to get out there and help our team,” Stamkos said. “But it’s about winning the next game and going from there.”
–Field Level Media