Lightning: No Time To Panic

Game five had a disappointing ending. The Lightning were up 2-1 with just over six minutes left in the game and the Dallas Stars managed to tie and eventually win in the second overtime. Instead of finishing the series and winning the Stanley Cup, the Lightning now have to come back Monday night and face an invigorated Stars team in game six.

That doesn’t mean anyone – player, coach, or fan – needs to be hammering the panic button.

Tampa Bay has faced this before in this very postseason. The game was eerily similar to game five against the New York Islanders as well as game one against this Stars team. It wasn’t that the Bolts played poorly – in fact, they still outplayed the Stars for much of the game – it was simply that the puck didn’t bounce their way.

They had opportunities in regulation and both overtimes to win. Anthony Cirelli had a potential game winner clang off the post. Ondrej Palat had an open net in overtime but had the puck knocked away by a defender’s stick. There was the missed high stick that drew the blood of Nikita Kucherov that should have resulted in a double minor which all but certainly would have won the game for the Lightning.

Puck luck is real, and the Lightning just didn’t have it Saturday night.

I’m going to continue to beat this dead horse, but this team is built not just on talent, not just on will, but on resiliency. After the game, Victor Hedman said, “We’ve been in this situation before. We’re a resilient group. We know how to respond to adversity.”

There it is again – resilient.

The Lightning know they should have won game five. They know they’re the better team. It’s about the ability to finish which has been a dark cloud over their head since 2015. Head coach Jon Cooper said “I thought we played well enough to win the game, but I’m sure they’re saying the same thing. That’s what happens in double overtime games.”

Only one team in NHL history has more come from behind wins as the Dallas Stars in a single postseason. That would be the 2009 Pittsburgh Penguins who had ten – one more than the 2020 Stars. That’s a team that believes in itself and never feels like they’re out of a game. They proved as much last night on the back of Corey Perry‘s two goals.

Anton Khudobin played a phenomenal game and sometimes that’s just the way things go. It wasn’t that the Lightning were bad or lazy or too tired – it was simply another great performance by Khudobin to keep his team in it.

Before this all started, I picked the Lightning to win in six and I believe that’s how it will end. The Bolts will get some rest on Sunday and be ready to go Monday night. If they can’t get the job done, the nerves may creep in of “here we go, again,” and a game seven could get real ugly.

Another thing to keep an eye on is the captain. Steven Stamkos was unable to go in games four and five but with the additional rest and the Stars extending the series there is that outside possibility that Stammer suits up Monday night. While I think it’s unlikely, he may bring a spark to the team the way he did in game three and be part of a lineup that closes the series out.

There’s no need to panic, folks. The sky is not falling. This isn’t the beginning of the end for Tampa Bay. It’s simply a little setback for a resilient group that is read to take what is theirs.