Lightning beat Predators in surprisingly nasty OT battle

The Tampa Bay Lightning and Nashville Predators are two teams that didn’t expect to find themselves out of the playoff picture in December. Both teams showed desperation during Tuesday’s tight, tenacious game, with the Lightning coming out on top with a 3-2 overtime win.

Lightning’s big guns come through; big opportunity brewing for Bolts

Tampa Bay’s top players ended up making the difference.

Victor Hedman began the scoring, maintaining his point-per-game pace (23 in 23). The biggest difference-makers were Nikita Kucherov (overtime game-winner, assist) and Steven Stamkos (two assists) in what was a feisty contest.

The Lightning ended a three-game losing streak with this win, and could be set for a surge with a heavy run of home games coming up. Seven of their next eight games take place in Tampa Bay, and they also play 10 of their next 12 at home.

Feel the hate

Is there some secret beef between the Predators and Lightning? These two teams were downright nasty at times on Tuesday night, to the point that you wonder if all of the pro wrestling cross-promotion caused unexpected feuds.

(Audience members shouting “shoot” gets some new meaning.)

There were fights, angry moments after whistles, and more than a few controversial moments. Predators fans and players weren’t happy with certain calls, expecting Erik Cernak to get the same sort of major penalty treatment that Ryan Johansen received for his elbow on Brayden Point.

However you feel about specific calls, it sure seemed like the two teams had hard feelings against each other:

Powerful Predators penalty kill

Considering Nashville’s dreadful 2018-19 power play, and the Lightning’s outstanding man advantage for some time now, you’d think the Predators might be toast during a game where Tampa Bay received a five-minute opportunity.

Instead, the Predators went 1-for-4 on the power play, and managed to keep Tampa Bay 0-for-3, which was even worse when you considering that major chance.

Goaltending factored into the not-so-explosive power plays, mind you, including Pekka Rinne making some impressive saves (including on Steven Stamkos on multiple PP chances). The Predators’ PK didn’t earn Nashville the win, but they’re a big reason why they managed a point.

Healthy return

After sitting for seven games as a healthy scratch, Kyle Turris also stood as a big reason why Nashville managed a point. Turris scored a goal and an assist for the Predators in his first game back, and generally created a lot of nice opportunities for the Preds.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Lightning win Stanley Cup by smothering Stars in Game 6

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For the second time in franchise history, and the first with this current set of stars, the Tampa Bay Lightning won the Stanley Cup.

After the Stars survived elimination by winning Game 5 in double overtime, the Lightning absolutely locked the Stars down in Game 6, winning 2-0 to take the series 4-2.

Following the Lightning putting their own spin on the Stanley Cup celebration, Victor Hedman received the Conn Smythe Trophy.

Lightning win second Stanley Cup in franchise history after beating Stars in Game 6

When contests are as one-sided as Game 6 of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final was, you can get into chicken-and-the-egg arguments.

How much blame do you put on the Stars for an effort that lacked much energy? The Stars only managed eight shots on goal through the first 40 minutes.

To be fair, there was a late push. The Stars ultimately reached 21 shots on goal when they found some energy down 2-0 in the third, but it was too little, too late.

For Stars fans, this was a painful way to watch a season end for a team that otherwise continuously found ways to dig deep during this surprising playoff run.

But it’s easy to point a finger at the losing team and forget what the winners accomplished.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Top players and supporting cast members shine for Tampa Bay

In knocking out the Blue Jackets, Bruins, and Islanders, the Lightning asserted their ability to handle tough defenses and small margins for error. As explosive as Tampa Bay is, Game 6 of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final serves as textbook example of how strong a defensive team they can be.

The Lightning didn’t force the Stars to parade to the penalty box, but some key early calls ended up being all the Bolts needed. On their second power-play opportunity, Brayden Point flustered Anton Khudobin with an initial shot, and then cashed in on the rebound.

During the second period, Blake Coleman completed a pretty span of passing and transition hockey. As you may have heard, Coleman grew up as a Stars fan living close to Dallas, so scoring a big goal in the Lightning’s Stanley Cup-clinching game must feel surreal.

You know, especially since it happened close to October.

Redemption for the Lightning in impressive Stanley Cup win

After the heartache and humiliation from being swept by the Blue Jackets, the Lightning won the Stanley Cup in remarkably convincing fashion. You won’t see many teams win it all without facing elimination, but the Lightning did just that during this run.

Whenever the 2020-21 season begins, the salary cap will likely force some changes for the Lightning.

Many of the core players should be around, though, and that’s a scary thought for the rest of the NHL. Nikita Kucherov was brilliant with Point and Ondrej Palat. Andrei Vasilevskiy‘s dominance went a bit under the radar because of the many other standpoint performances. And, finally, Victor Hedman asserted himself as possibly the best defenseman in the world.

The Stars likely aren’t happy with their efforts in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final, yet it’s impressive that they got this far, including against the juggernaut Lightning.

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Dallas Stars (TB wins series 4-2)

Stars 4, Lightning 1 (recap)
Lightning 3, Stars 2 (recap)
Lightning 5, Stars 2 (recap)
Lighting 5, Stars 4 [OT] (recap)
Stars 3, Lightning 2 [2OT] (recap)
Lightning 2, Stars 0

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Dallas Stars come up short of Stanley Cup title

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All those old guys couldn’t get the Dallas Stars another Stanley Cup championship.

Rick Bowness is the 65-year-old interim head coach who has been behind NHL benches in parts of five different decades. Joe Pavelski and Corey Perry are the veteran forwards in the mid-30s who had spent their entire careers with their original teams before signing with Dallas in free agency last summer just for this chance.

Instead of a title for the aged after the best efforts of those grizzled guys to get the Stars this far, their season ended with a 2-0 loss to Tampa Bay in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday night.

Dallas was finally undone by mounting injuries and the failure of primary front-liners Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Alexander Radulov to score even a single goal in the final series. Perry and Pavelski combined for the last six goals scored by the Stars in this most unusual season.

The Stars allowed yet another power-play goal in the finale, and again were unable to convert. They were 0 of 3 with a man advantage Monday night, and 1 of 19 in the series — the only such goal came from Pavelski in the second period of Game 2.

A goal in double overtime of Game 5 by the 35-year-old Perry had extended the series. It was his second goal night night, with Pavelski getting a record tally when he scored the other goal in that 3-2 win.

Pavelski’s tying goal with 6:45 left in regulation Saturday night was his 61st career playoff goal, breaking a tie with Joe Mullen for the most ever by U.S.-born skater that he matched with two goals the previous game. That ties him for 29th on the all-time list with exactly half of Wayne Gretzky’s record 122.

Before his two goals in Game 4, Pavelski was tied for the second-most playoff goals for an American with Mike Modano, who was part of the Stars’ only Stanley Cup championship team in 1999.

After 14 goals in 67 regular-season games for the Stars, Pavelski had 13 inside the bubble — the most ever in a single postseason by a player 36 or older.

The scoring records are no consolation for Pavelski, who last summer wanted to sign with a team that would give him another chance to win a Stanley Cup. His two finalists were the Stars and the Lightning; he got a three-year deal from Dallas

“Keep it. Next question,” Pavelski said when asked about the records after Game 4, when his second goal that night tied the game with 8:25 left in that regulation.

Perry spent his first 14 NHL seasons with the Anaheim Ducks and was part of their 2007 championship in his second year. They bought out the forward’s deal before he signed a one-year contract with the Stars.

Pavelski’s only other trip to the Stanley Cup Final was five seasons ago when San Jose lost in six games to the Pittsburgh Penguins. That was his first season as captain of the Sharks, for which he had played since 2006-07. His rookie season was the same year Perry got to raise the Stanley Cup at age 22.

Bowness, promoted by Dallas in December after Jim Montgomery was fired for off-ice issues, used to be the top assistant for now Stanley Cup-champion coach Jon Cooper in Tampa Bay. Bowness was part of the Lightning’s runner-up run in 2015.

The Stars went into the Stanley Cup Final off their longest break between games during more than two months inside the NHL bubble after they wrapped up the Western Conference Final in five games against top-seeded Vegas. They came out hitting against Tampa Bay to win 4-1 in Game 1, but allowed six power-play goals in losing the next three games.

Tampa Bay was 0 for 1 on the power play in Game 5, but went ahead ahead to stay when Brayden Point scored about 12 1/2 minutes in after John Klingberg’s tripping penalty. Blake Coleman, the 28-year-old center from Plano, Texas who grew up a Stars fan, scored the other Lightning goal.

Dallas finished the season with several injured key regulars, including forwards Radek Faksa, Blake Comeau and Roope Hintz. Ben Bishop, their primary goaltender most of the regular season, appeared in only three postseason games, the last Aug. 31 in as second-round game.

Victor Hedman voted winner of 2020 Conn Smythe Trophy

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Victor Hedman will be going home to Tampa with two trophies this week.

Before he had his chance to lift the Stanley Cup, Hedman was voted winner of the 2020 Conn Smythe Trophy. The award is given to the NHL postseason MVP and voted on by members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association.

“That last period was probably the longest period of my life,” Hedman said after Tampa’s 2-0 Cup-clinching win in Game 6. “I’m at a loss for words. You obviously wish your family and fans could be here, but we felt the support from back home.”

Hedman led all blue liners in the postseason with 10 goals and finished with 22 points in 25 games. Only two defenseman — Paul Coffey (12) and Brian Leetch (11) — scored more goals in a single playoff than Hedman.

The 29-year-old Hedman is now the 10th different defenseman to win the Conn Smythe Trophy, joining Duncan Keith, Scott Niedermayer, Nicklas Lidstrom, Scott Stevens, Brian Leetch, Al MacInnis, Larry Robinson, Bobby Orr, and Serge Savard.

He joins Brad Richards as the only Conn Smythe Trophy winners in Lightning franchise history and is only the third Swedish-born play to ever win it after Lidstrom and Henrik Zetterberg.

MORE: Lightning win Stanley Cup by smothering Stars in Game 6

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Lightning-Stars stream: 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Final

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NBC’s coverage of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs continues with Monday’s Stanley Cup Final matchup between the Lightning and Stars. Coverage begins at 8 p.m. ET on NBC. Watch the Lightning-Stars stream on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

Facing elimination for the second time this postseason, the Stars overcame a third-period deficit and won the first Cup Final double-overtime game since 2014 to deny the Lightning the title and force Game 6. In what was the second set of a back-to-back, two aging offseason signees were the difference for Dallas as 36-year-old Joe Pavelski tied the game with 6:45 remaining in regulation and 35-year-old Corey Perry ended the second overtime game in as many days with his put back 9:23 into the second extra session.

Pavelski has now scored 13 goals, tied with Brayden Point for the most in these playoffs. He’s one shy of his total in the 2016 playoffs (14) when he led all players in the only other postseason he reached the Cup Final. That series against Pittsburgh, Pavelski had a goal in 6 games – his only point in the series. In this Cup Final, he has four goals in five games (all in last four games).

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

In two games facing elimination this postseason, Stars goaltender Anton Khudobin has stopped 79 of 85 shots, with both wins coming past regulation. With a win in Game 6 he will have the second-most victories in a single postseason in franchise history.

Lightning head coach Jon Cooper announced Sunday that captain Steven Stamkos will not appear the rest of this series, meaning if Tampa wins the Cup it’ll be the first time since the Flames in 1989 that a team has a captain not play in the Cup-clinching game.

Historically, a 3-1 series lead in the Cup Final has almost guaranteed an eventual Cup victory, with teams converting 33 times in 34 total tries. The only time a team blew a 3-1 lead in the Cup Final was in 1942, when Detroit lost to Toronto after leading the series 3-0.

WHAT: Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Dallas Stars
WHERE: Rogers Place – Edmonton
WHEN: Monday, September 28, 8 p.m. ET
TV: NBC
ON THE CALL: Mike Emrick, Eddie Olczyk, Brian Boucher
LIVE STREAM: You can watch the Lightning-Stars stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Dallas Stars (TB wins series 4-2)

Stars 4, Lightning 1 (recap)
Lightning 3, Stars 2 (recap)
Lightning 5, Stars 2 (recap)
Lighting 5, Stars 4 [OT] (recap)
Stars 3, Lightning 2 [2OT] (recap)
Lighting 2, Stars 0 Lightning 2, Stars 0 (recap)