There was an appearance from the Tampa Bay captain in Game 3 for the first time in the playoffs, but it was the continued dominance of the Lightning’s top line that proved to be the driving force of another win.
With goals from Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point and Ondrej Palat, the Lightning scored two goals in the first and three in the second to cruise to a 5-2 win over the Dallas Stars in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday night, taking a 2-1 series lead in the process.
It took very little time for the Tampa Bay top line to get on the board. Just 5:33 into the game, Kucherov was the recipient of a turnover by Miro Heiskanen, scoring on a breakaway to make it 1-0 Tampa Bay.
Just 1:25 later, the Lightning captain got in on the action. Playing in his first game since Feb. 25, Steven Stamkos scored a highlight-reel goal, firing a shot that beat Anton Khudobin to make it 2-0.
Following the goal, Stamkos took two more shifts and did not play for the remainder of the game, totaling 2:47 of ice time.
The Lightning had a chance to add to the lead on a power play midway through the period, but the Stars got back into the game with a shorthanded goal by Jason Dickinson to make it 2-1 at 11:19.
Late in the first, the Lightning got another power play and early in the second, they took advantage.
Just 54 seconds into the period, Victor Hedman fired one home for his 10th goal of the playoffs to make it 3-1.
For the next 10 minutes, the Lightning dominated, keeping the Stars without a shot. They eventually turned that dominant play into more goals.
Off a bad line change for the Stars, the Lightning capitalized on a 3-on-1 with Point getting on the board. With 1:05 remaining in the period, Palat got his goal on a rebound to make it a 5-1 game.
The Stars got on the board again in the third with a goal by Heiskanen, but that was as close as they would get, despite two more power-play opportunities for them.
Khudobin allowed five goals on 29 shots before exiting after the second period. Jake Oettinger finished the game, making three saves in the third period. Andrei Vasilevskiy made 22 saves on 24 shots.
Each member of the Lightning top line – Point, Palat and Kucherov – finished with a goal and assist in the game. Hedman had a goal and two assists.
Game 4 is set for Friday night at 8 p.m. and the Lightning will look to take a commanding lead in the series.