The Stanley Cup will stay in hibernation a little longer. Game 4 was so much fun in overtime that the teams decided, ‘why not double our fun?’ After scoring first for the third time in the series, the Dallas Stars were again not able to maintain their lead. The suffocating and stifling play that earned them a victory in Game 1 has not worked since. The Tampa Bay Lightning have had an answer at every turn for the Stars’ attempts to minimize high danger chances.
After the Stars went up 1-0 in the first period on a Corey Perry goal, the Lightning tied it up in the second and went ahead early in the third. After a disappointing power play, the Stars were able to tie the game on a clutch Joe Pavelski goal. After going nearly 18 minutes in overtime without registering a shot, the Stars were able to convert in double overtime and send the series to a Game 6. Here are three takeaways from Game 5.
1. Offseason Acquisitions Continue to Pay Dividends
It is still a bit strange seeing former Pacific Division rivals Perry and Pavelski on the same team and in Stars colors. Last offseason, I was skeptical that Perry could still do much offensively and that Pavelski would bring value after what seemed like such an overpay. There is something to be said for having players with playoff experience for a deep run. Not only has each been on deep playoff runs, they have both come up clutch when their team needed them most.
Well, facing elimination in Game 5, that is exactly what those two did. Perry opened the scoring on a feed from Tyler Seguin, who has certainly been playing better the last two games. Perry shows off his soft hands that clearly haven’t aged one bit. That’s three goals in his last two games for Perry.
Despite giving his team the lead, the Stars found themselves trailing in the third period and in need of a heroic effort to save their seasons.
Enter Pavelski. He seems to have nerves of steel in these high pressure moments. After screening the goalie, he took the rebound from a Miro Heiskanen shot and deposited it behind Andrei Vasilevskiy. In the process, he officially became the leading playoff goal scorer in NHL history among American born players with 61. What a moment for such a big goal. Pavelski now also has three goals in his last two games.
After a scoreless overtime, the game went into a second overtime and it almost seemed like it was destiny that either Perry or Pavelski was going to score. The two veterans were willing their team to victory, to stave off elimination for one more day. Perry took a rebound from John Klingberg, this time with poise and determination, ever so slightly pushed it past Vasilevskiy’s left skate.
These moments are exactly why you acquired these players. It doesn’t matter now if they did nothing all season, right now, this is all that matters.
2. Stars Finally Catch the Injury Bug
After being relatively healthy most of the postseason, the Stars were without several important regulars in their lineup. Ben Bishop has yet to suit up in this series, but the Stars haven’t missed him too much with the play of Anton Khudobin – though Khudobin has not been nearly as good in this series as the previous ones. Missing for Game 5 were Radek Faksa, Blake Comeau, and Roope Hintz. All three are major contributors and were sorely missed. It appears as though each is just day-to-day so perhaps with an extra couple of days of rest they will be able to suit up for Game 6.
Andrej Sekera left the game in the first period after blocking a shot and missed the entire second period. Luckily he was able to return for the third period and played in overtime as well. I’m not sure the Stars could have pulled off the victory with five defensemen. Hopefully for the Stars they can get at least one of Faksa, Comeau, or Hintz back for Game 6. If they can, it will be a huge boost for the team.
3. Stars have No Answer for Lightning Top Line
The line of Brayden Point, Nikita Kucherov, and Ondrej Palat have been nearly unstoppable all playoffs. They own a 68% expected goals share according to Charting Hockey, supporting the evidence that Kucherov and Point are first and second in playoff points. It’s not just that they have played more games either, they are 6th (Point) and 8th (Kucherov) in points per game as well.
To this point, the Stars have been able to shut down other tops lines to some extent. The Vegas Golden Knights’ line of William Karlsson, Max Pacioretty, and Mark Stone enjoyed a 72% expected goals share and Colorado Avalanche’s Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon, and Mikko Rantanen 70%. Even though those players all got points in their series, the Stars were able to get back the momentum and shut them down when needed. So far, that isn’t working so well against the top line for the Lightning.
Game 6 Prediction
The odds are surely stacked against the Stars. Despite that, I feel like there is too much character on this team to not see their best effort once again. Since the Game 2 blowout, the Stars have gotten better and better each game, finally coming away with their second win. If their power play can connect, that will a huge help. The Stars have gone cold, scoring just once on 16 attempts this series.
But if they want to play in a Game 7, they will need to find a way to shut down the Lightning’s top line, something they have yet to do. The Stars also need to continue to shut down the Lighting power play. They didn’t allow a power play goal in Game 5 and only took two minor penalties – both were a huge improvement from Games 3 and 4 where the Lightning scored four goals on eight chances over those two games. That trend cannot return if the Stars want any chance in Game 6. Let’s see a Game 7!