In Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, the Dallas Stars did a lot of things to make coach Rick Bowness happy. They limited the Tampa Bay Lightning‘s chances. Their defensemen were active all over the ice. Most importantly, they posted a 4-1 win and took a 1-0 series lead.
But it wasn’t total bliss for the veteran coach.
“We weren’t that happy with the third [period],” Bowness said. “We got on our heels. The penalties killed us. That’s an elite offensive team over there and we made it a little too easy on them.”
The first 40 minutes of the game were clearly in the Stars’ favor, as they controlled the pace and built a 3-1 lead. But Tampa Bay absolutely dominated in the third period, outshooting the Stars by a 22-2 margin and holding a 43-3 advantage in shot attempts.
“That’s to be expected. We talked about it after the second period: They’re going to come at us. They’re going to make a big push,” Bowness said.
The difference in the period, and the game, was Dallas goaltender Anton Khudobin. He stopped all 22 third-period shots he faced, and 35 in the game, to lead the Stars to victory.
This is what the goaltender has given Dallas in the postseason since taking over for an “unfit to play” Ben Bishop in the quarterfinals. Since Game 1 of the Western Conference finals against Vegas, Khudobin has a .961 save percentage in the third period. Khudobin is now 9-0 with a .934 save percentage in the past nine games in which he has faced 30 or more shots on goal.
“It is what it is. I tried to focus on the next shot. How many there are going to be, I try not to think about it. I just do my job,” Khudobin said.
Dallas didn’t make it easy for its goaltender. The Stars took three minor penalties in the third period: John Klingberg for tripping (4:25), Blake Comeau for delay of game (9:08) and Tyler Seguin for tripping (12:56). Thanks to a strong penalty kill anchored by Khudobin, the Lightning went scoreless.
“We got away from our game. We made it too easy for them to come at us with the penalties,” Bowness said. “We talk about bending but not breaking, but eventually if you spend that much time defending on your own zone, you’re going to give up quality chances. And your goaltender has to keep you in the game, which he did tonight, make saves at the right moments. You don’t want to give up a goal at the wrong time. You need a save at the right time. And Anton certainly gave us that tonight.”
For the Lightning, the takeaway from Game 1 was simple: It’s going to take more than a good 20 minutes to beat the Dallas Stars.
“We had to do a lot more than just what we did in the third period,” said Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper. “I don’t even know if you can take a shower after the first two periods.”