Whether they were tired, needed a feeling-out period or were just slow to engage, the Lightning got off to a poor start in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final.
Dallas hit the ice ready to go Saturday night in Edmonton and won 4-1.
“I don’t know if you even need to take a shower after the first two periods,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said of his team.
“We probably dipped our toes in the water a little bit and watched them skate around.”
The Lightning played consecutive overtime games, including a double overtime finale, to finish the Eastern Conference final in six games Thursday. The Stars had four days to rest and recover after their five-game West final win against the Golden Knights was wrapped up Monday.
“We were playing slow," Lightning defenseman Ryan McDonagh said. “It wasn’t because we didn’t have energy or whatever. We just were shooting ourselves a little bit in the foot. They were on top of us and we needed to play with a higher pace.
"Give them credit. They found a way to get to the strength of their game more than we did.”
He wasn’t surprised to see Dallas come out hard quickly but was disappointed in the Lightning.
The Stars scored 5:40 into the game. Defenseman Joel Hanley got the first goal of the series and his first of the playoffs.
Dallas left wing Joel Kiviranta hit Lightning center Brayden Point in the corner, and Lightning defenseman Zach Bogosian stepped in to say something about it. That took Point and Bogosian out of the play, and Hanely landed a wrist shot.
Cooper pointed to that play by Bogosian as one of the poor decisions that plagued the Lightning and said there were more on the other Dallas goals as well.
“We made some errors,” Cooper said. “We made a poor judgment error going into the corner to defend a player on a hit, and then all of a sudden we’re out of position.”
Before the game, Cooper had said Game 1 is often a feeling-out period between teams because video shows only so much. He pointed to the Stars' first game of the West final, in which an early goal stood as the only one in the game.
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“I think it was just more of a mental aspect of us kind of … seeing what Dallas brought to the table,” defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. “And it took us a little bit of time to adjust to it.”
Forward Yanni Gourde tied the score for the Lightning at 12:32 of the first period. But the Stars added two in the second, the second goal coming from Kiviranta with 28 seconds left. That led to Lightning forward Pat Maroon flipping the puck into the Stars' bench after the whistle blew for the end of the period. He earned a 10-minute misconduct.
Shattenkirk said he thought the Lightning finally found their game in the third period — they outshot the Stars 22-2 in the period — but had waited too long and had let the Stars dictate the game. Shattenkirk acknowledged that some of that came from Dallas sitting on the lead but said the Lightning generated chances and showed their relentless style of play.
“You can’t just do it for one period,” McDonagh said. “We need to find our game here right from the first puck drop.”
The Lightning’s third-period shots weren’t high-quality chances. Thirteen came from above the faceoff circles, including two dump-ins from center ice. Six more shots came from outside the dots, leaving just three in the slot.
Goalie Anton Khudobin turned away all 22, and 35 in the game as a whole.