The Tampa Bay Lightning had a chance to clinch the Stanley Cup in Game 5 on Saturday night, but they blew a late third-period lead, and then the Dallas Stars won in double overtime. And just like that, we have ourselves a series again. Can the Stars keep this alive, or is it Tampa Bay’s destiny to hoist the Stanley Cup — the franchise’s second — at the end of Game 6 tonight?
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After falling to the eventual champion St. Louis Blues in a seven-game series last year, the Stars wanted to add some postseason pedigree to their roster. So GM Jim Nill signed Joe Pavelski and Corey Perry. Not everyone was a fan. However, the value added by those two in this playoff run cannot be understated. Pavelski and Perry — who are 36 and 35, respectively — have combined for seven goals in the Stanley Cup Final, including all three goals on Saturday in the season-saving 3-2, double-OT win. The Stars’ seven goals from players 35 or older ties the 1973 Montreal Canadiens for the most by a team in Stanley Cup Final history. The resilience of the Stars — who are far more banged up than the Lightning right now — is also impressive. Saturday was their ninth comeback win this postseason.
Tampa Bay likely knew it would be without Steven Stamkos for the rest of the series, but coach Jon Cooper made it official on Sunday. There is no shortage of players who can step up on Tampa Bay’s roster. The Lightning felt like they played well enough to deserve a win on Saturday, and they don’t want to whiff on another opportunity.
Three players to watch in Game 6
Seguin might be dealing with an injury (believed to be on his hand or wrist) but has seriously upped his compete level over the past two games, putting up five assists. He’s thriving ever since being put on a line with Perry and Joel Kiviranta.
“He’s really dug in the last couple of games,” Stars coach Rick Bowness said. “It’s nice to see him get rewarded with points, but just as important is how he’s competing and he’s doing all the little things that we need to do to stay in games, give us a chance to win.”
His linemates, Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point, get most of the attention — and both are in contention for the Conn Smythe, should Tampa Bay win — but the seventh-round steal has been a big part of their success. And his goal on Saturday was a beauty.
The #GoBolts top line has been UNSTOPPABLE this postseason.
Ondřej Palát with the EQUALIZER. pic.twitter.com/TIdqOavLup
— #StanleyCup Final on NBC (@NHLonNBCSports) September 27, 2020
On Saturday, with his 13th goal of the postseason, the longtime San Jose Shark set the record for most playoff goals scored by a United States-born player, passing Joe Mullen‘s previous record of 60. It was a classic “Captain America” goal, too; dirty, scored in the tough area and totally a byproduct of his hockey instincts.
🚨 Joe Pavelski
— Here’s Your Replay ⬇️ (@TheReplayGuy) September 27, 2020
Question of the day: How gassed is Anton Khudobin?
There was speculation the 34-year-old Khudobin would not start in both games of the back-to-back set in the middle of the Stanley Cup Final schedule. That felt especially true after Game 3, when Khudobin allowed five goals and appeared a bit sluggish — perhaps mentally, if not physically.
But after the Game 4 loss on Friday, Khudobin asked goalie coach Jeff Reese to play him again in Game 5. Coach Rick Bowness acquiesced; it wasn’t that hard of a call considering Ben Bishop is still deemed “unfit to play” and the Stars’ only other option is rookie Jake Oettinger, who has faced eight shots in his NHL career.
And in his 21st straight appearance, Khudobin looked like the best version of himself, turning away 39 shots.
“For him to come in in a back-to-back and play like he did and give us that opportunity to win just speaks volumes about his character,” Bowness said. “His compete and his willingness to do whatever he can to win the game.”
Adrenaline might have propelled him in a game where his team faced elimination. Can he muster up enough energy again on Monday?
Quote of the day
“To be honest, I didn’t think he was playing at all in these playoffs. I don’t think any of us did. So, he gave us 2:47 of brilliant hockey that’s a phenomenal story, scored a huge goal for us in a win and hopefully we can keep that momentum.” — Jon Cooper on Steven Stamkos missing the remainder of the series.
Social post of the day
As much as we love the “We’re not going home!” mantra, it’s nice to see the boys switch it up.
“We go get the next one!” pic.twitter.com/kVTDHKsL4k
— Dallas Stars (@DallasStars) September 27, 2020