The Dallas Stars are going to have to find another gear if they want to win Game Four, let alone the Stanley Cup. The Tampa Bay Lightning own the series lead 2-1 ahead of Friday’s contest.
Tampa won the last two after Dallas took Game One by a final score of 4-1.
Since their first win, the Stars have looked flat and the Lightning achieved some moral and tangible victories. The return of Steven Stamkos for under three minutes and a goal might have been enough to swing the entire series.
To make matters worse, Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin haven’t recorded a point in the Final for the Stars. Alexander Radulov has three assists and five shots.
“We’re getting them the ice time and getting them out there as much as we can, they’ve got to figure it out,” Stars coach Rick Bowness said. “They are our top-end guys. You have to give them the ice time to get going, and we are giving them that. They got to figure it out and they need some help.”
Radulov skated for 19 shifts, just under 15 minutes in Game Three. He took two hooking penalties, one of which led to a power play goal for the Lightning.
Benn skated for just 11:53 of Game Three and produced three shots on goal. He mixed it up with Jan Ruuta in the third and was given a misconduct. Seguin was in for 21:09, a total of 28 shifts. He had three shots.
There were other issues.
Miro Heiskanen was not himself in Game Three. He had three giveaways, one of which led to the 1-0 goal in the first period. Ditto for John Klingberg, who finished a minus-three.
Tampa has been clamping down, but they’ve also been pushing the offensive button and pressuring the Stars’ zone. Defenceman Victor Hedman has been incredible at both ends of the ice, too.
For Bowness and the Stars, the focus returns to the by-committee play that brought them this far. That means some support goals from dubious places, solid goaltending, killer defence. That means getting back to basics for Game Four, not allowing Tampa to roll on the foundation of that evanescent Stamkos return.
Role players like Joel Kiviranta, Denis Gurianov, and Jason Dickinson generated opportunities and popped in goals in this implausible post-season. Getting those guys the time and space to produce would help.
“Right now, it’s get our game back, get it back for longer stretches,” forward Joe Pavelski said. “At times we’ve chased the game this series. So get back to some just better details on our part. There’s a different level to this Stars team for sure.”
There’s no denying the fact that Dallas is chasing this series. That was expected. Game Four is, to fall back on the cliché, a must-win for the Stars. And finding that “different level” is a requirement.