One more victory is all that separates the Tampa Bay Lightning from the Stanley Cup.
With a 3-1 lead over the Dallas Stars in the final series, the Lightning have their first chance to clinch the second Cup in franchise history when the puck drops for Game 5 Saturday night in Edmonton.
Since losing the series opener, Tampa Bay has won three straight, with the latest a 5-4 overtime win Friday night, and is rolling.
“We’ve got a job to do here. It’s still not finished,” said defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, who netted the winning goal in Friday’s victory to give the Lightning a stranglehold on the best-of-seven affair.
History is on the Lightning’s side in a big way. Teams that have won Game 4 to take a 3-1 lead in a best-of-seven Cup finals since the NHL went to that format in 1939 are 27-0 at closing out the series.
Key to finishing off the Stars, though, will be keeping those emotions in check for puck drop.
“They came here to do something,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “They’re on their way, but we’ve said all along, we haven’t won anything yet. We still have to win one more, and we’re not taking anything for granted.”
It’s a common adage about the hardest win to collect being the fourth, but the Lightning certainly are carrying all the momentum, and are beating the Stars any way necessary. They won Game 2 by scoring three times in the first period and cruising to a 3-2 win. They took Game 3 handily in a 5-2 final and then erased a pair of deficits — including a two-goal first-period hole — in the most recent victory.
The Stars must find an answer against the high-octane Lightning.
“I have full faith in that team that we will fight back. We will bounce back,” Dallas coach Rick Bowness vowed.
The alternative is to see an outstanding run come to a crashing halt, so expect the Stars to give their best one sleep removed from a crushing loss.
“(We must) move on from this pretty quickly, get ready to play a game with our season on the line,” forward Tyler Seguin said in the aftermath of Friday’s loss. “I’m excited.”
Seguin’s performance is one of the few elements of Friday’s game that can be a positive turn from the Dallas perspective. Seguin unquestionably had his best game of the series, and that’s not just because he collected a pair of assists by driving the play. However, it’s worth noting the team’s highest paid player hasn’t scored in 13 consecutive games.
But the Dallas struggles don’t end there. In the special teams battle, the Stars are a miserable 1-for-14 on the power play in the finals, and that futility cost them Friday when they failed to convert on a man-advantage early in the overtime. By comparison, the Lightning have a 6-for-15 mark on the power play in the series, with Shattenkirk’s game winner among those markers.
Defensively, the Stars are struggling, too. The team that allowed only eight goals in a five-game series win over the Vegas Golden Knights has surrendered 13 goals in the last three games.
“We’ve got more,” Seguin said. “I believe in this team. We’ve got another level.”
They’ll need to find it right away, or the Lightning will be hoisting the Cup and the crazy 2019-20 season will finally come to a conclusion.
–Field Level Media