Khudobin, Stars steal Game 1, lead Bolts 1-0 in series

Four different goal scorers and goaltender, Anton Khudobin, helped the Dallas Stars take Game 1 of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final, 4-1, over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night inside the National Hockey League’s Edmonton bubble at Rogers Place.

For the first time since the 1919 Stanley Cup Final, the NHL is playing for the Cup in the middle of a global pandemic that rivals the scale and impact of the 1918 influenza pandemic.

This time, the league is determined on deciding a champion, unlike how the Pacific Coast Hockey Association’s Seattle Metropolitans and NHL’s Montreal Canadiens were forced to cancel their series– tied 2-2-1 through five games– due to an influenza outbreak among several players from both clubs that resulted in the death of Habs star, Joe Hall, from pneumonia brought on by the flu.

In the face of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the NHL rolls on with the fourth, final and most important round of the playoffs after a five month stoppage that cut the 2019-20 regular season short prompted the expanded 24-team postseason format for 2020.

It all comes down to this– the 2020 Stanley Cup Final.

Jamie Oleksiak scored the eventual game-winning goal midway through the second period, while Khudobin (13-6, 2.54 goals against average, .923 save percentage in 20 games this postseason) turned aside 35 out of 36 shots faced for a .972 SV% in the win for Dallas.

Andrei Vasilevksiy (14-6, 1.88 GAA, .929 SV% in 20 games this postseason) made 16 saves on 19 shots against for an .842 SV% in the loss for the Lightning.

For the first time in league history, two of the three southernmost based franchises are playing for the Cup in the northernmost city in the league.

The Stars last won a Cup in 1999, while the Lightning last won a Cup in 2004, as both teams entered Game 1 with the hopes of setting the tone in their favor.

Dallas’ interim head coach, Rick Bowness, opted to roll four complete forward lines instead of mimicking Tampa Bay’s head coach, Jon Cooper’s plans with 11 forwards and seven defenders.

Bowness kept Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Alexander Radulov together on his first line with Mattias Janmark, Joe Pavelski and Denis Gurianov rounding out his top-six forwards.

Joel Kiviranta, Roope Hintz and Corey Perry lined up on the third line with Andrew Cogliano, Jason Dickinson and Blake Comeau comprising of Dallas’ fourth line trio.

On defense, Esa Lindell and John Klingberg remained Dallas’ top pairing with Oleksiak and Miro Heiskanen completing the top-four blue liners, as well as Joel Hanley and Andrej Sekera rounding out the bottom defensive pairing.

Once again, Jake Oettinger served as Khudobin’s backup on the bench as Ben Bishop remained “unfit to play” joining a long list of scratches for the Stars, including Radek Faksa, Nick Caamano, Jason Robertson, Stephen Johns, Bishop, Justin Dowling, Landon Bow, Taylor Fedun, Gavin Bayreuther, Thomas Harley and Ty Dellandrea.

Cooper’s Lightning lineup was comprised of Ondrej Palat at the left side of Brayden Point on the first line with Nikita Kucherov in his usual role on right wing, while Alex Killorn, Anthony Cirelli and Tyler Johnson completed the top-six forwards for the Bolts.

Barclay Goodrow, Yanni Gourde and Blake Coleman were on the third line as usual, while Pat Maroon and Cedric Paquette were the only fourth line forwards suited up to complete the 11 forwards and seven defenders dressed by Cooper.

On defense, Victor Hedman and Kevin Shatternkirk remained paired, while Mikhail Sergachev, Erik Cernak, Ryan McDonagh, Zach Bogosian and Luke Schenn all took turns rotating shifts.

Curtis McElhinney served as Vasilevskiy’s backup netminder, while Tampa’s list of scratches in Game 1 included Mathieu Jospeh, Carter Verhaeghe, Scott Wedgewood, Jan Rutta, Braydon Coburn, Mitchell Stephens, Steven Stamkos and Alexander Volkov.

That’s right, Stamkos is still out of the lineup since having core muscle surgery in mid-March, skating in June, then missing training camp in July prior to the 2020 postseason.

Hanley (1) opened the series’ scoring with a snipe shot over Vasilevskiy’s blocker side into the top corner of the twine to give the Stars a, 1-0, lead at 5:40 of the first period, while Hintz (10) recorded the only assisted on the goal after Kiviranta pressured the Lightning well enough to keep the puck in Dallas’ offensive zone.

Moments later, Maroon and Oleksiak were engaged in a scrum that yielded roughing minors to both players at 8:08 of the opening frame and presented both teams with 4-on-4 action for a pair of minutes.

Midway through the first period, Gourde (6) lucked out in front of Khudobin with a right place, right time shot that he banked off a Dallas defender and between the Stars netminder and the goalpost to tie the game, 1-1, at 12:32.

Coleman (7) and Goodrow (5) recorded the assists on Tampa’s only goal of the game Saturday night.

After one period of play, the score remained tied, 1-1, while Dallas held the advantage in shots on goal, 5-4, as well as in takeaways (3-1), hits (25-23) and faceoff win percentage (58-42).

The Bolts led in blocked shots (9-3) and giveaways (2-0) entering the first intermission while neither team had seen any action on the skater advantage.

Early in the middle frame, Coleman was sent to the penalty box for slashing Dickinson at 1:09 of the second period.

Dallas wasn’t able to convert on their first power play of the night, however.

The Stars also didn’t capitalize on the skater advantage again moments later when Coleman hooked Dickinson and cut a rut to the sin bin at 6:54.

Oleksiak (5) scooped up his own rebound and roofed the puck from point blank over Vasilevskiy’s blocker side to give Dallas the lead for the second time of the night, as well as the eventual game-winning goal, 2-1, at 12:30 of the second period.

Radulov (7) and Heiskanen (18) tallied the assists as Heiskanen tied the second-most assists in a postseason in Stars franchise history with the secondary helper on the goal.

Oleksiak, in the meantime, has five goals in his last 22 games, while he had just four goals in his last 124 games (regular season and postseason combined).

Late in the period, Kiviranta (5) scored on another rebound that the Tampa netminder failed to contain to give Dallas an insurance goal, as well as a two-goal lead, 3-1, at 19:32 of the middle frame.

Lindell (6) and Klingberg (14) had the assists on the first year Stars forward’s goal.

At the sound of the horn to conclude 40 minutes of play, Maroon shot the puck into Dallas’ bench and received a 10-minute misconduct as a result– officially at 20 minutes of the second period.

The Stars carried a, 3-1, lead into the second intermission, while they also led the Lightning in shots on goal, 18-14– including a, 13-10, advantage in the second period alone.

Dallas also led in takeaways (4-2) and faceoff win% (52-48), while Tampa held the advantage in blocked shots (18-10), giveaways (8-4) and hits (44-39).

The Stars were 0/2 on the power play, while the Bolts still had yet to see time on the skater advantage entering the third period.

Meanwhile, Hanley and Oleksiak were the first pair of Dallas defenders to score a goal in a Stanley Cup Final game since Derian Hatcher and Craig Ludwig did so for the Stars in Game 2 of the 1999 Stanley Cup Final.

Oleksiak’s goal also marked the 15th goal from the blue line for Dallas, which leads all teams in the 2020 postseason.

Early in the final frame, the Lightning received their first power play of the night when Klingberg hooked Killorn and was sent to the box at 4:52 of the third period.

The Bolts were not successful on the ensuing power play, however.

Nor did they score while Comeau was in the box for an automatic delay of game penalty for sending the puck over the glass at 9:08.

The Lightning also didn’t capitalize on their third power play in a row after Seguin tripped Kucherov at 12:56.

With 4:01 remaining in the game, Cooper pulled Vasilevskiy for an extra attacker, but the Bolts soon had a faceoff in their own zone and had to replace the vacant crease with Vasilevskiy’s talents.

As the time ticked down to about 2:31 to go, Vasilevskiy jettisoned the blue paint for the bench to give Tampa a 6-on-5 advantage once more, but Dickinson (1) hit the empty net soon thereafter to secure the, 4-1, victory for the Stars.

Comeau (5) and Janmark (6) tallied the assists on Dickinson’s empty net goal at 18:42 of the third period.

Dallas wrapped up the action with the, 4-1, win and a 1-0 series lead in the Stanley Cup Final, as well as the advantage in blocked shots (26-18) and faceoff win% (51-49).

Meanwhile, Tampa finished Saturday night leading in shots on goal, 36-20– including a, 22-2, advantage in the third period alone.

The Lightning also finished the night leading in giveaways (10-9) and hits (56-50), while both teams failed to record a power play goal.

Tampa went 0/3 and Dallas went 0/2 on the skater advantage.

Bowness improved to 14-9 behind the bench in the postseason for the Stars, while Cooper fell to 50-38 all time with Tampa in the playoffs.

Meanwhile, the team that wins Game 1 in a best-of-seven game series usually wins the series about 69% of the time– that wasn’t the case for the Boston Bruins last year, however, who won Game 1 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final against the St. Louis Blues, then went on to lose the series in seven games on home ice.

The Stars, however, are 22-9 all time when leading a best-of-seven series 1-0.

The Stars take their 1-0 series lead into Game 2 on Monday night. Puck drop in Edmonton is scheduled for a little after 8 p.m. ET and fans in the United States can tune to NBCSN to catch the action, while those in Canada have their choice of CBC, SN or TVAS.