EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) — Nikita Kucherov and the Tampa Bay Lightning got themselves up off the ice to get even in the Stanley Cup Final.
After the Lightning got knocked around in Game 1, and Kucherov took some more hard hits early in Game 2, he had the primary assists on power-play goals by Brayden Point and Ondrej Palat in the first period. Kevin Shattenkirk then scored for an early three-goal lead and Tampa Bay held on for a 3-2 victory over the Dallas Stars on Monday night.
“It was a tough start I guess,” Kucherov said. “It’s the playoffs, you have to play, it doesn’t matter what happened.”
All of Tampa Bay’s goals came in a span of four shots in less than four minutes against Anton Khudobin, who made a Stanley Cup Final-record 22 saves in the third period for the Stars in their 4-1 win in Game 1. It was the first time in seven games that Tampa Bay scored the opening goal.
Joe Pavelski and Mattias Janmark scored for Dallas on passes from John Klingberg, with Alexander Radulov also assisting on both.
“After that, we really got back to what makes us successful as a team, we got pucks deep, we were good on the forecheck, we got some good opportunities,” said Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman, who had two assists. “I liked the way we responded … to close them out.”
Kucherov left the bench momentarily early in the game after slamming into the boards during a collision with defenseman Jamie Oleksiak after trying to block a shot. Kucherov had already ended up on the ice twice before, when he was popped by Dallas captain Jamie Benn and when he drew a high-sticking penalty against Janmark. He was back quickly.
“I left because my visor was broken or something,” Kucherov insisted. “I went back in the room and changed it, nothing bad happened.”
On their second power play in Game 2, the Lightning cycled the puck to set up Kucherov’s pass to Point to open the scoring 11:23 into the game. Three minutes later with a a man advantage again, Palat finished a nice passing sequence, taking advantage of a half-open net and another setup by Kucherov.
‘”It’s easy to explain: we lost faceoffs and we were turning the puck over and we were taking penalties,” Stars interim head coach Rick Bowness said. “It was an even game until we started taking penalties. It’s faceoffs, turnovers and penalties — things you can’t afford to do against an elite team like that.”
Shattenkirk scored less than a minute after Palat to make it 3-0. Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 27 shots for Tampa Bay. Khudobin had 28 saves.
Tampa Bay had failed to score on its previous 14 power-play chances with the man advantage, since Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finale, until the Kucherov-assisted goals with a man advantage.
“There’s a couple good teams that have somewhat of a foundation to win games and how you play,” Pavelski said. “We definitely were closer to ours in Game 1, and we got away from it early tonight and it cost us.”
Dallas finally got on the board on a power play with 5:17 left in the second. Klingberg took a shot from near the blue line, and Pavelski redirected the puck with his raised stick even with Ryan McDonagh all over him in front of the net.
In the third period, Klingberg was in the right circle, when instead of taking a shot as Vasilevskiy expected, passed to Janmark, who had charged and suddenly stopped behind Shattenkirk just beyond the crease to score.
The Lightning looked to have another goal, and a two-goal lead, with just under 11 minutes left when Mikhail Sergachev shot from the point and got the puck through traffic past Khudobin. Bowness challenged and replay clearly showed Blake Coleman was offside.
The hits showed no sign of slowing down in this rugged final: Late in the second period, Pat Maroon decked Khudobin after taking a shot and got a goalie interference penalty. Earlier in the shift, McDonagh knocked Blake Comeau down and out with a questionable hit. Corey Perry and Cedric Paquette went at it, too, with Perry putting him in a headlock before an angry Paquette flipped him over.
NOTES: Pavelski’s 10th goal this postseason was No. 58 in his career, matching former Stars standout Mike Modano for second-most by a U.S. born-player. Joe Mullen’s 60 is the most, still less than half of the overall record of 122 for Wayne Gretzky. … Kucherov’s 28 points (six goals, 22 assists) are the most ever in a postseason for a Tampa Bay player. Point now has 26 points (10 goals, 16 assists), matching the previous record set by Brad Richards (12 goals, 14 assists) during the 2004 championship run. … The Lightning have started all three of the Stanley Cup Final appearances the same way, losing Game 1 and then winning Game 2. They were the 2004 champion when they beat Calgary in a seven-game series, and lost the 2015 final in six games against Chicago.