The Lightning’s stars make the difference in Game 3 win over Dallas

Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman, Brayden Point and Ondrej Palat all score.
The Lightning's Brayden Point (21) and Ondrej Palat (18) celebrate after a second-period goal against the Dallas Stars in Game 3.
The Lightning's Brayden Point (21) and Ondrej Palat (18) celebrate after a second-period goal against the Dallas Stars in Game 3. [ MARKO DITKUN | Special to the Times ]
Published Sept. 24, 2020|Updated Sept. 24, 2020

Depth is important in the playoffs, but as Jon Cooper is fond of saying: Sometimes you need your best players to be your best players.

Well, the Lightning’s stars outshone the Dallas Stars in a 5-2 win in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup final Wednesday in Edmonton.

“If you’re going to go the distance, the big boys have to be there for you,” the Lightning coach said. “And in every aspect, they were.”

Related: Stamkos returns — and scores — but is still managing the injury

Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos — in his first game since Feb. 25 — Victor Hedman, Brayden Point and Ondrej Palat scored as the Lightning took a 2-1 series lead.

Point leads the playoffs with 11 goals. Hedman and Palat each have 10, making the Lightning the third team in the last 20 years to have three players reach double-digit goals in the playoffs, joining the 2008 Red Wings and 2010 Blackhawks.

This was the third game of the playoffs in which each player on the top line — Palat, Point and Kucherov — scored and the second that they and Hedman all had a goal.

“These whole playoffs, we’ve had contributions from everyone,” Point said. “Some guys are asked to score goals, so it’s nice to see those guys put the puck in the net.”

The players who are asked to score — and some who have stepped into that role in the playoffs, namely Palat and Hedman — put on a clinic, but it started with a defensive play.

The Stars had a chance to get on the board first, which could have changed the flow of the game. Right wing Denis Gurianov took off with the puck, and Hedman raced to catch up with him from deep in the Lightning’s offensive zone. He got there, crossed behind Gurianov and used his long reach to get his stick on the puck.

Related: Good thing the Lightning are used to playing with 11 forwards

A minute later, Kucherov picked up a turnover in the neutral zone and sprung loose on a breakaway. He made a wrist shot look simple, and the Lightning were off to the races.

Stamkos, who had been out injured, gave the Lightning a 2-0 lead shortly thereafter, scoring on his first, and only, shot. Hedman set him up with a pass as Stamkos entered the zone, and Stamkos placed a wrist shot in the far top corner. He played only 2:47, all in the first period, but provided the most exciting moment of the game.

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Stamkos said after the game he had an “issue” and it was “too early” to say whether he’d play in Game 4 on Friday.

Hedman took advantage of being left all alone in the high slot for a power-play goal 54 seconds into the second period.

Next up was Point, who demonstrated why he and Kucherov are the only constants in the lineup over two years. He finished on a nice pass from Kucherov to put the Lightning up 4-1 midway through the second.

Palat was the final first-liner to score. Point jumped on a bouncing rebound and fed the puck to Palat, who put it on net to round out the Lightning’s scoring.

After that, it didn’t matter that the Stars got the only goal of the third period. The Lighting’s stars had already proven brighter for the night.

Contact Diana C. Nearhos at Follow @dianacnearhos.

Lightning 2-3-0—5

Stars 1-0-1—2

First Period—1, Tampa Bay, Kucherov 7, 5:33. 2, Tampa Bay, Stamkos 1 (Rutta, Hedman), 6:58. 3, Dallas, Dickinson 2 (Hintz), 11:19 (sh). Penalties—Cernak, TB (Tripping), 8:13; Kiviranta, Dal (Interference), 9:34; Radulov, Dal (Hooking), 19:37.

Second Period—4, Tampa Bay, Hedman 10 (Palat, Cirelli), 0:54 (pp). 5, Tampa Bay, Point 11 (Hedman, Kucherov), 12:02. 6, Tampa Bay, Palat 10 (Point, Shattenkirk), 18:55. Penalties—Radulov, Dal (Hooking), 4:31; Gourde, TB (Interference), 12:43.

Third Period—7, Dallas, Heiskanen 6 (Cogliano, Pavelski), 6:49. Penalties—Janmark, Dal (Roughing), 2:58; Palat, TB (Roughing), 2:58; Benn, Dal (Roughing), 3:38; Rutta, TB (Roughing), 3:38; Benn, Dal (Misconduct), 3:38; Rutta, TB (Misconduct), 3:38; Shattenkirk, TB (Slashing), 9:30; Sergachev, TB (Tripping), 12:41; Pavelski, Dal (Roughing), 18:05; Dickinson, Dal (Roughing), 18:05; Paquette, TB (Roughing), 18:05; Goodrow, TB (Roughing), 18:05; Pavelski, Dal (Cross Checking), 18:05; Maroon, TB (Misconduct), 18:05.

Shots on Goal—Tampa Bay 8-21-3_32. Dallas 16-4-4_24. Power-play opportunities—Tampa Bay 1 of 4; Dallas 0 of 4. Goalies—Tampa Bay, Vasilevskiy 15-5-1 (24 shots-22 saves). Dallas, Khudobin 13-7-0 (29-24), Dallas, Oettinger 0-0-0 (3-3). T—2:34. Referees—Wes McCauley, Dan O’Rourke. Linesmen—Scott Cherrey, Matt MacPherson.