The Tampa Bay Lightning have taken a stranglehold in the Stanley Cup Final.
With a 5-4 overtime victory over the Dallas Stars in Game 4 on Friday, the Lightning are just one win away from winning the Stanley Cup for the first time since 2004.
Kevin Shattenkirk scored the game-winner on the power play 6:34 into the extra frame.
One game after previously injured Lightning captain Steven Stamkos made his postseason debut and scored on his first shot on goal since February, the center was deemed unfit to play in Game 4. Fortunately, Tampa Bay has been able to find success against the Stars whether its captain is in the lineup or not.
In Game 3, the center played just under three minutes and sat for the majority of the second and third periods. That didn't disrupt the Bolts. They scored two goals in the first period and three in the middle 20 minutes en route to a 5-2 win.
Needing a big bounce-back in Game 4, the Stars instead continued to fade as goalie Anton Khudobin made 30 saves in the loss.
Brayden Point, C, Tampa Bay Lightning: 2 Goals, 2 SOG, 2 PIM
Kevin Shattenkirk, D, Tampa Bay Lightning: 1 Goal, 1 Assist, 3 SOG
Joe Pavelski, C, Dallas Stars: 2 Goals, 2 SOG, 2 Hits
Tyler Seguin, C, Dallas Stars: 2 Assists, 3 SOG, 1 Block
Stars Blow Two Early Leads
The Dallas Stars committed one the biggest no-no’s in hockey twice in two periods Friday night.
After grinding out the first two frames in Game 4, the Stars gave up goals to the Lightning in the final two minutes before each intermission. Arguably the biggest momentum-killer in hockey, Dallas found themselves on the wrong side of a celebration just moments before a break.
Most upsetting of all for the Stars was the fact it was nearly the other way around.
Dallas took a 2-0 lead on a snipe from Joe Pavelski with 1:32 left in the first period after Jamie Benn pulled three Lightning defenders toward him and fired off a perfect pass to Pavelski across the ice.
That could’ve been a turning point for the Stars. Instead it was Tampa Bay seizing on the moment.
Only 59 seconds later, Brayden Point caught a breakaway pass from Ondrej Palat and fooled Khudobin with a slick deke.
The Stars were 33 seconds from taking a commanding lead into the second period. Instead the Lightning grabbed the momentum heading into the locker room.
Point scored only 2:08 into the second period to tie the game.
After Dallas took the lead back on a Corey Perry goal, Yanni Gourde scored with 66 seconds left in the second period to knot things at 3-3, once again robbing any momentum the Stars could carry into the break.
Bolts Look To Clinch On Short Rest
After their respective teams have been kept inside the NHL's postseason bubble for weeks, after multiple playoff series and unending overtimes, the Stanley Cup could be decided on the tail end of a back-to-back.
Tampa Bay has waited 16 years to prove its 2004 title was no fluke. Now it'll require them to power through a quick turnaround to complete the task.
It won't be any easier for the Stars.
Dallas head coach Rick Bowness said both goalies looked tired on Friday, but a couple of well placed pucks aside, that didn't show itself too much. Both Khudobin and Andrei Vasilevskiy (26 saves) made a few dynamic stops.
Whether or not they can carry that over to Saturday may determine if the Bolts leave the ice with the Stanley Cup.
For a Dallas team suddenly down 3-1 after winning Game 1 and taking multiple leads since, it shows just how much farther the club has to go to get back into the series.
For Tampa Bay, it shows just what's required to end it on Saturday.
One way or the other, there'll be plenty of tired bodies on the ice.
Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final in the Edmonton bubble is set for Saturday at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.