Having seen their three-goal edge whittled to a 3-2 lead and a much-needed insurance marker called back because of an offside play, the Tampa Bay Lightning could have crumbled in the final stages of Monday's Stanley Cup Final clash with the Dallas Stars.
Instead, the Lightning buckled down to hang onto a clutch victory. Tampa Bay evened the best-of-seven series at 1-1.
The Stars managed only two shots on goal in the final 14:33 while trying to push for an overtime-forcing equalizer.
"We banded together," defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. "We started making more plays, putting pucks in and hemming them in, and we did a great job to lock it down."
"The one thing that this team has done is they just never put themselves in panic mode," coach Jon Cooper said. "Instead of trying to protect the lead, they went out there and actually they kind of took it to them. Not in the sense that we were trying to score, but we were completely engaged. ... They knew the job at hand, the talk on the bench was to close this out, and that's what they did."
When the puck drops Wednesday for Game 3 in Edmonton, the Lightning will look for more of the same. The Stars must find a way to install their game plan.
"After the first game, we knew we (could play) better, and we knew we were going to come strong. We did," said Lightning forward Ondrej Palat. "And that's what I like about our team. We just stick together, and I thought we fought hard."
The biggest key for Dallas will be to play with more discipline. Tampa Bay's power play has struggled for much of the playoffs, but the Lightning have shown they can break open a game when given the opportunity, and did just that in scoring a pair of first-period power-play goals Monday en route to the 3-0 lead that was too much for the Stars to overcome.
Dallas has been short-handed 79 times in their 20 playoff games (not including the round-robin portion of the restart), by far more than any other team that reached the second season. By comparison, Tampa Bay has been short-handed 63 times in 18 playoff contests.
The Stars may be the underdogs in the championship series, but have shown they can go toe-to-toe with the Lightning during five-on-five play.
"We need to stay out of the box. It helps," forward Joe Pavelski said. "When we stay out of the box, we've showed it so far that we're a good team."
The Stars may have suffered a big hit to their chances with veteran forward Blake Comeau leaving after a second-period check by Ryan McDonagh. Dallas is already without Radek Faksa, so that would mean two key checking forwards on the shelf.
"He's a big part of our club, the leadership, the compete, the penalty killing," coach Rick Bowness said of Comeau. "He's on that checking line. Losing him hurt us. There's no question."
--Field Level Media