EDMONTON — A number of words have been used to describe the Lightning’s power play throughout the playoffs, none of them flattering, but the power play came to life in a big way Monday night in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup final against the Dallas Stars.
Brayden Point and Ondrej Palat scored power-play goals 2:59 apart in the first period in the Lightning’s 3-2 victory.
It broke a slump of 15 straight power plays without a goal, and Tampa Bay couldn’t have asked for a better time for its power play to come alive.
The Lightning evened the series at one game each.
“We’re trying to stick with it. Scoring that first goal was big,” said Point, who notched his team-leading 10th goal of the playoffs.
"We’re staying positive with the power play. We were crisp on our passes, and (Nikita Kucherov) made some great plays. I don’t know if there was a sense of relief, but we’re just happy to get a goal.”
It was a rough first period for Kucherov. The wing took two high sticks on the same shift early in the period and was forced to leave the game and head back to the dressing room after crashing into the boards behind the Lightning net. He said he left because his visor was broken, not because he was hurt.
When he returned, he helped set up Point’s opening goal, then made a highlight-reel pass off a fake one-timer to thread the seam and put the puck on the tape of Palat, who had all day to beat Anton Khudobin.
“He makes plays like that," Point said. "He puts the puck in such good spots for guys to score and succeed.
"We’ve seen it a lot. We try to get open for him and try to get good shots off when he puts it in good spots for us.”
Tampa Bay’s power play has been a lightning rod for criticism in the playoffs, but faced with the potential of going down 2-0 to the Stars, the Lightning got the jolt they needed from it.
“I don’t think there was frustration,” said defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk. "It was a matter of looking at what we were doing and realizing that we needed more movement and (to) make a couple simple plays.
“Those backdoor passes that (Kucherov) makes to Ondrej … those open up when we start to get our momentum going. At this time of year, you can’t get frustrated. You have to stick with it and wait for your next opportunity. We have the guys who can make you pay at any moment.”
Point’s goal came on his first shot of the series, and the puck took a crazy deflection off the knob of Khudobin’s stick.
It was a much-needed bounce for the Lightning, but the Stars were giving them far too many chances on the power play in the first period, taking three minor penalties. And with all the potent offense the Lightning possess, they were bound to capitalize.
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The Lightning’s power play failed to score in the first round against the Blue Jackets, and it didn’t get on the board in the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Bruins until Game 3.
After scoring three times in Game 1 of the conference final against the Islanders, the power play went ice cold and failed to convert at several key moments in the series.
“It’s been streaky,” coach Jon Cooper said. "We seem to score goals in bunches on the power play, and we definitely needed them (Monday).
“This is a confident group. You can’t score all the time, but you need to keep the momentum, and the puck went in for them (Monday). I thought they deserved it, and it was a big reason why we won.”