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Lightning send message early in Game 2 of Stanley Cup final

Tampa Bay scores three times in the first period to tie the series at a game apiece with the Dallas Stars.
Brayden Point #21, Ondrej Palat #18, Alex Killorn #17, Nikita Kucherov #86 and Victor Hedman #77 of the Tampa Bay Lightning celebrate after a goal during the first period against the Dallas Stars in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup final of the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs at Rogers Place on September 21, 2020 in Edmonton, Alberta.
Brayden Point #21, Ondrej Palat #18, Alex Killorn #17, Nikita Kucherov #86 and Victor Hedman #77 of the Tampa Bay Lightning celebrate after a goal during the first period against the Dallas Stars in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup final of the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs at Rogers Place on September 21, 2020 in Edmonton, Alberta. [ MARKO DITKUN | Special to the Times ]
Published Sep. 22, 2020
Updated Sep. 22, 2020

The Lightning sent a message in the first period Monday night of Game 2 of the Stanley Cup final. It was to themselves as much as to the Stars: They are a better team than the one that showed up to start Game 1.

In Game 1, Tampa Bay let Dallas set the tone, failed to execute and lost. In Game 2, the Lightning scored three goals in the opening period — two on the power play — and went on to a 3-2 win at Edmonton to even the series at one game each.

“It was huge,” said left wing Ondrej Palat, who had one of the power-play goals. “After the first game, we know we (could play) better, and we knew we were going to come strong. We did. And that’s what I like about our team. We just stick together, and I thought we fought hard this game.”

Related: The bad blood can heat up quickly in the Stanley Cup final

The Lightning didn’t start scoring right off the bat, but they also didn’t sit back. Though the Stars put the first shot on goal, Tamp Bay defenseman Mikhail Sergachev had the first shot attempt of the game; Dallas forward Alexander Radulov blocked it 20 seconds in.

The Stars escaped the first of four power plays they granted the Lightning, but Tampa Bay capitalized on the next two.

Center Brayden Point scored the first power-play goal, and the first goal of the game, at 11:23 of the first. Right wing Nikita Kucherov made a nice pass to Point in the slot. Point’s shot immediately went off the stick of Dallas defenseman Esa Lindell and continued past goalie Anton Khudobin.

“Just scoring that first goal is big,” Point said. “I think that’s all we’re thinking about.”

The Lightning had not scored the first goal in their previous seven games.

Palat added a power-play goal three minutes later, on a pass from Kucherov, this one cutting across the zone from about faceoff dot to dot. Palat beat Khudobin with a wrist shot and followed with a big fist pump and a not-safe-for-work exclamation.

Yup, the Lightning felt good about this start.

Lightning defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk scored less than a minute after Palat to make it 3-0. His shot from the point got through traffic and may have nicked Lindell’s shin pad on its way in.

“We wanted to come out with some speed and our feet moving and try to get on the forecheck,” Point said. “I think they did a good job last game of limiting our forecheck and taking away speed. That’s something we wanted to get back (Monday).”

Related: Game 2 report card: Hitting them where it hurts

The Stars climbed back into the game with goals in the second and third periods — from forwards Joe Pavelski on the power play and Mattias Janmark, both on redirections set up by defenseman John Klingberg — but the Lightning responded to close out the game.

Lightning coach Jon Cooper liked the way his team balanced protecting the lead and playing an aggressive game, staying engaged. He said the Lightning never put themselves in “panic mode.”

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“When you get up by three, you just have to make sure you keep playing the same game. You don’t want to sit back on leads,” Shattenkirk said. “I thought we banded together, started making more plays, putting pucks in and hemming them in.”

In Game 1, the Stars forced the style of play they wanted and won. In Game 2, it was the Lightning who did that. Now the Stanley Cup final is tied.

Contact Diana C. Nearhos at dnearhos@tampabay.com. Follow @dianacnearhos.

Lightning 3-0-0—3

Stars 0-1-1—2

First Period—1, Tampa Bay, Point 10 (Hedman, Kucherov), 11:23 (pp). 2, Tampa Bay, Palat 9 (Hedman, Kucherov), 14:22 (pp). 3, Tampa Bay, Shattenkirk 2 (Coleman, Cirelli), 15:16. Penalties—Janmark, Dal (High Sticking), 3:20; Pavelski, Dal (Tripping), 10:58; Oleksiak, Dal (Holding), 13:11; Palat, TB (Interference), 18:49.

Second Period—4, Dallas, Pavelski 10 (Radulov, Klingberg), 14:43 (pp). Penalties—Comeau, Dal (Interference), 2:02; Kucherov, TB (Tripping), 3:47; Gourde, TB (Cross Checking), 6:26; Palat, TB (Slashing), 14:38; Perry, Dal (Roughing), 16:58; Klingberg, Dal (Roughing), 16:58; Hedman, TB (Roughing), 16:58; Maroon, TB (Interference), 16:58; Paquette, TB (Roughing), 16:58.

Third Period—5, Dallas, Janmark 1 (Klingberg, Radulov), 5:27. Penalties—None.

Shots on Goal—Dallas 6-18-5_29. Tampa Bay 14-5-12_31. Power-play opportunities—Dallas 1 of 5; Tampa Bay 2 of 4. Goalies—Dallas, Khudobin 13-7-0 (31 shots-28 saves). Tampa Bay, Vasilevskiy 15-5-1 (29-27). T—2:40. Referees—Steve Kozari, Kelly Sutherland. Linesmen—Derek Amell, Steve Barton.