I can not stress enough how important tonight’s game is for the Tampa Bay Lightning. In what has now turned into a best-of-five, the new series begins tonight for the right to hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup. Since 1939, when a Stanley Cup Finals series is tied 1-1, the winner of game three has an all-time record of 22-7.
To take it one step further, the Dallas Stars are 6-2 in the playoffs this year following a loss. They are tied for third all-time with eight come from behind victories in one postseason, trailing the record holding 2009 Pittsburgh Penguins by two.
Again, I can’t stress enough how important game three is for the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Anton Khudobin is the feel good story of the postseason. A career backup, 34-years old, and gets his opportunity to shine. He has lifted this Stars team to the pinnacle and the Lightning had one heck of a time trying to figure him out in game one. In game two, they were able to get some power play opportunities to pay off, thanks to the beautiful passes and set-ups by Nikita Kucherov. They’ve started to see that shooting high and shooting through immense traffic creates problems for Khudobin to get a read on the puck.
The Lightning had similar problems in round one against Joonas Korpisalo but were able to figure him out. You’d like to believe the Bolts can do it again in this series.
The other thing to keep an eye on is whether or not game three matches the physical intensity of game two. The Stars came out early throwing their weight around and going straight after Nikita Kucherov, including a suspendable hit by Jamie Benn on the Lightning star that didn’t get a penalty or a hearing from the player safety committee – but let’s not go down that rabbit hole.
The Lightning – unlike in year’s past – matched the physicality and weren’t going to be pushed around. Ryan McDonagh threw a questionable hit of his own on Dallas’ Blake Comeau who had to leave game two as “unfit to play” and is a game time decision for game three. Dallas may think twice about engaging in such a physical game tonight as not only did Tampa match them hit for hit, but also made them pay on the power play.
Just like in game two, the Lightning have to come out fast and scoring first is imperative. The Bolts are now 10-1 in playoff games where they score first and 8-0 when leading after the first period. Yes, the Stars are fantastic at orchestrating come from behind victories but the Lightning’s ability to shut things down defensively – along with the incredible play of Andrei Vasilevskiy – may be too much to overcome for the Stars. They came close in game two, but close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.
The winner of this game has (historically) a 76% chance of winning the series. In best-of-seven series tied 1-1, the Dallas Stars are 15-13 all time in game three while the Lightning are 10-6. Oh, and by the way, when the Lightning won the Stanley Cup in 2004, they lost games one and three to the Calgary Flames.
Something has to give tonight and neither team is going to back down from the other.
Game Three Information
Date: September 23, 2020
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET
Where: Rogers Place – Edmonton, Alberta
TV Broadcast: NBCSN, TVAS, CBC, SN
Radio Broadcast: 970 WFLA
Live Stream: Watch Here