The Tampa Bay Lightning threw everything they could at Dallas Stars goalie Anton Khudobin in the third period but came up short in a 4-1 loss in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final at Rogers Place in Edmonton on Saturday.
Trailing by two goals entering the third, Tampa Bay outshot Dallas 22-2 in the period but failed to score against Khudobin, who made several highlight-reel saves to preserve the lead before forward Jason Dickinson extended it with an empty-net goal with 1:18 left.
Khudobin finished with 35 saves.
“He’s a very good goalie,” Tampa Bay forward Tyler Johnson said. “When he’s on, he’s on. I thought we generated some pretty good chances and he made some really big saves. Did we do enough? No, because we lost the game. We’ve got to do more.
“We’ve got to do more than score one goal. The entire team, forward group got to get in front of his face, make it hard for him to see pucks. Our defensemen need to get some shots through, and we just need to be working hard together. I think we can all do a little bit more, but he’s a heck of a goalie, so we’re going to have to make some good plays.”
It’s the second time the Lightning have lost a series opener this postseason; the Boston Bruins defeated them 3-2 in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Second Round on Aug. 23. Tampa Bay won that series in five games.
Game 2 of the best-of-7 series is in Edmonton, the hub city for the Cup Final, on Monday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS).
Saturday marked the sixth straight time the Lightning allowed the first goal; defenseman Joel Hanley scored his first NHL goal with a wrist shot from the slot 5:40 into the first period.
Lightning center Yanni Gourde tied it 1-1 at 12:32 of the first, but defenseman Jamie Oleksiak restored the Stars’ lead at 12:30 of the second, and forward Joel Kiviranta’s fifth of the postseason made it 3-1 with 28 seconds left in the period.
Tampa Bay had four shots in the first period and 10 in the second before it finally pushed the play in the third, when it led 44-3 in shot attempts.
“I don’t even know if you need to take a shower after the first two periods,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “But they defend pretty well as a group. The first game is always tough. Video can only tell you so much until you’re in the trenches really seeing what’s going on.
“Those first two periods, I don’t know. We just didn’t have our legs, and clearly it showed. We’re going to have to make it a little tougher on their goalie if we’re going to score.”
Khudobin got his right skate on forward Alex Killorn’s redirection at 2:06 of the third period, then helped the Stars kill three penalties over a span of 8:04. He stretched out and made a dazzling glove save on defenseman Zach Bogosian’s slap shot from between the circles at 12:07 to keep it 3-1.
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Khudobin is 9-0 with a .934 save percentage in the past nine games when he’s had to make at least 30 saves.
“It’s always great when you’re leading,” Khudobin said. “It always feels more comfortable, I would say. But at the same time, you have to focus on 60-plus minutes.
“You could see Tampa [Bay] was trying to throw everything to the net in the third period. Luckily it didn’t get by me, and if it could be 3-2, you never know what could have happened. So when you’re playing with the lead and [it’s] 3-1 or 4-1 or something like that, it’s always more comfortable.”
The Lightning didn’t have much time to rest after they eliminated the New York Islanders with a 2-1 overtime win in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final on Thursday. They played two overtimes and lost Game 5 of that series on Tuesday.
The Stars had not played since Monday, a 3-2 overtime win against the Vegas Golden Knights to win that conference final in five games.
Tampa Bay has played 185:17 in overtime this postseason, the most in NHL history.
“We’re not using that as a crutch,” Lightning defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. “It is what it is, it’s a quick turnaround. I think we obviously showed that we had our legs in the third. I think it was just more of the mental aspect of us kind of seeing what Dallas brought to the table, and it took us a little bit of time to adjust to it. They’re obviously a really solid team defensively, so it’s hard to come back on them. I don’t want to sit here and say we were tired and that’s why we lost, because we had some chances there to keep the game close. We had it at 1-1 going into the second period.
“… You can call it them sitting on the lead, but I think at the same time we generated chances, we played our best hockey in the third. Obviously not the result we wanted, but certainly something that we can build on.”