They’re not going home!
The Dallas Stars prevented the Stanley Cup from being awarded Saturday night in Edmonton, defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-2 in double overtime in Game 5. Corey Perry scored the series-extending marker, his second of the night, digging a loose puck out of a scrum and winding it into the back of the net beyond a sprawling Andrei Vasilevskiy.
Joe Pavelski forced the overtime frame with his postseason-leading 13th goal of the playoffs with a little over six minutes left in regulation, and Anton Khudobin made 39 saves for the victory, halting a three-game losing skid.
Ondrej Palat and Mikhail Sergachev had the markers for the Lightning, who will have a second chance to win the Stanley Cup on Monday night.
For now, the champagne has been removed from ice.
Last summer paying off this September
Perhaps Jim Nill should have been named executive of the year.
As much as the Stars are clearly Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, Miro Heiskanen and John Klingberg’s team, they would be in the process of packing up their equipment and heading back south if it weren’t for the contributions of two free-agent additions from last summer.
Pavelski and Perry have been monumental for the Stars in these playoffs, and the veterans have only increased their footprint as the championship series has continued. Pavelski is up to four goals now, and can finally acknowledge the fact that he’s now the highest-scoring U.S.-born player in Stanley Cup Playoffs history.
Meanwhile Perry has arguably been the Stars’ best player over the last two games, scoring three goals, including the overtime winner on his ninth shot in Game 5, and could be credited for turning Seguin’s series around since the two hooked up on Rick Bowness’ second line.
Nill didn’t receive unanimous approval for the additions, but clearly Pavelski and Perry have helped elevate the Stars to something beyond the talented, but perhaps limited, team they were last season. Whether that means they’ve been upgraded to a title winner, we shall see, but it’s hard to quibble with those free-agent finds, now.
What the league deserved
With no scheduling conflicts, and really nothing but time in the players’ continued isolation from the outside world, the NHL took some deserved heat for scheduling two potential elimination games in a Stanley Cup Final on back-to-back nights.
While the Stars won’t complain after gutting out the season-saving victory, the league, in many ways, got what it deserved for not doing what was best for the players, and instead doing what was best for their American broadcasting partner.
Hopefully, there will be no injuries associated with the fact that a collection of players logged more than an hour of hockey over a two-night span that featured nine total periods.
But what was clear, anyway, as the Stars and Lightning showed that little was left in the tank as the game extended into a fifth period, was that the action suffered for it.
It goes without saying, but leagues should be trying to showcase the best product possible in championship moments.
Even in the middle of a pandemic.
Even if it runs against a football Sunday.
The Tampa talent depth
It’s obviously been up to the big guys — Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point and Victor Hedman, mainly — to step up in the most in a postseason spent without Steven Stamkos, at least aside from those five shifts. But there have been so many shining examples throughout the postseason of the sheer extent of the talent depth for Tampa Bay, and Ondrej Palat provided another one in Game 5 with a goal worthy of his personal highlight reel.
As part of that unstoppable Lightning top line, Palat is one forward playing higher in the lineup than he might have if Stamkos was healthy at the moment, and he’s stepped up to fill the superstar void in a major way.
This is a player that hasn’t exceeded 17 goals for a regular season in six years, and over the two-month span in the bubble, he’s scored at a 38-goal pace when applying his numbers to a complete regular season.
This is how the Lightning haven’t missed a beat, and it’s why they are still heavy favourites to win the Cup.
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