Through the first three games of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final, the adage “No lead is safe” felt a bit unsafe. Leads worked out pretty well for both the Tampa Bay Lightning and Dallas Stars.
But Game 4 ended up being a wilder affair. Ultimately, the Lightning beat the Stars 5-4 in overtime of Game 4, leaving Tampa Bay one win from a Stanley Cup with the two teams turning around to play Game 5 on Saturday (8 p.m. ET on NBC: (livestream).
1. Fans, we have some controversies
Death, taxes, and complaints about penalties. When it comes to hockey, and really all professional sports, there aren’t many big games that go without fans griping.
Even by those standards, controversies abounded in Game 4 of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final.
In what is probably the least surprising development ever, the Stars weren’t happy with the tripping penalty Jamie Benn got whistled for after tangling with Tyler Johnson. Joe Pavelski griped in the most entertaining way.
"Jamie breathes on him and the guy falls over … it's playoff it's overtime we expect to battle it out." -Joe Pavelski on call on Benn in OT
— Sean Shapiro (@seanshapiro) September 26, 2020
Frankly, while Benn wasn’t guilty of tripping, it’s not outrageous to call some sort of obstruction penalty for that exchange.
And, let’s also be honest: officials might have been looking for a chance to whistle a “makeup call.” Brayden Point drew what could have been an honest penalty for some, er, stick work on Corey Perry. Instead, officials made a very questionable embellishment call on Point to even things up. From there, Tyler Seguin drew a penalty call when Mikhail Sergachev obstructed him greatly, giving the Stars a power play that was one part 4-on-3, and one part 5-on-4 in overtime.
Here’s the thing. When contests are as frenetic as Game 4 of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final between the Stars and Lightning, you run into human limitations. Officials will miss things.
2. Seriously, the Stars need to avoid the penalty box as much as humanly possible
Look, if this style of play continues, hockey fans are in for a treat. Especially if the Stars can avoid being eliminated in Game 5.
But you have to wonder if the Stars might want to settle down the pace of this series.
On one hand, they’ve acquitted themselves nicely when things get wild during the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Stars were able to hang with the Avalanche, and while they’re down 3-1, Game 4 was far from a certainty for the Lightning.
Faster play can force you to hook someone to slow them down. Or reach for a puck on a breakaway and instead trip up your opponent. Or merely look like you’re doing things.
[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]
To that end, you wonder if the Stars can somehow find a way to slow things down like they did for the first two periods of Game 1 of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final. During the opening 40 minutes, the Lightning didn’t receive a single power-play opportunity. The Stars actually won the shots on goal battle during that frame, opening Game 1 up 18-14.
Of course, the Stars were rested, and the Lightning just finished slugging it out with the Islanders. It’s still worth chasing that if you’re Dallas, in my opinion.
That’s because the Lightning are feasting on the power play. Going 0-for-3 like the Stars did in Game 4? That happens; it’s only disastrous when the other team manages a ridiculous 3-for-4 output. Kevin Shattenkirk‘s OTGWG was the killer, but the Lightning won Game 4 by dismantling the Stars’ PK efforts.
There was some luck, yet the Lightning also moved the puck with confidence and a sense of danger.
Bowness needs to go back to the drawing board and find a way to mitigate what’s been a massive advantage for Tampa Bay. That unit has now scored six goals during this three-game winning streak. Yikes.
3. Tyler Seguin looked like Tyler Seguin again
OK, so Tyler Seguin’s shooting percentage remains … almost tragic?
It feels like his near-miss on a power play from Game 4 is the story of his playoff career, aside from winning a Stanley Cup with Boston when he was still wet-behind-the-ears.
Despite lacking that coveted goal, Seguin was a force for the Stars in Game 4 against the Lightning. Seguin did just about all of the work to set up Corey Perry’s goal.
It looked like Joe Pavelski’s 4-4 tally actually went off of Seguin, but instead it went off of Kevin Shattenkirk. But Seguin created some chaos to make that happen.
Seguin also forced the issue for Mikhail Sergachev, drawing a penalty in overtime. The Stars couldn’t cash in, but that, some near-misses, and two assists all roll up into an argument that Seguin might have his groove back.
(He’s probably dying to score that goal, of course. But at least Seguin looked alive for the Stars vs. the Lightning in Game 4 of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final.)
Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Dallas Stars (TB leads 3-1)
Stars 4, Lightning 1. (recap)
Lightning 3, Stars 2. (recap)
Lightning 5, Stars 2. (recap)
Lightning 5, Stars 4 [OT]. (recap)
Game 5: Saturday, Sept. 26, 8 p.m. ET – NBC (livestream)
*Game 6: Monday, Sept. 28, 8 p.m. ET – NBC
*Game 7: Wednesday, Sept. 30, 8 p.m. ET – NBC
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.