One more win: Bolts close in on Stanley Cup

by Gary Shelton on September 26, 2020

in general

Shattenkirk ended the Lightning victory in overtime. / CHUCK MULLER

Saturday, 4 a.m.

One more step to take. One more chore to do. One more game to win.

After their 5-4 overtime victory over the Dallas Stars Friday night, the Tampa Bay Lightning are justthisclose to winning the Stanley Cup. It was the team's third straight win in these Finals.

One more challenge. One more burst of resiliency. One more journey.

The Bolts overcame Dallas, rallying from deficits of 2-0 and 3-1, in a back-and-forth battle with the Stars. Kevin Shattenkirk, a piece of reclaimed freight last summer, scored the winning goal on a power play goal  at 6:34 of overtime.

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There was a sense of redemption to Shattenkirk's goal. A puck had caromed off Andrei Vasilevskiy, then off of Shattenkirk and then into the net for the game-tying goal midway through the third period.

But in overtime, Shattenkirk blasted a shot between the legs of Jamie Oleksiak and over the shoulder of goalie Anton Khudobin.

For the Lightning to lose the Cup from here, they would have to lose tonight...and Monday night....and Wednesday night. In the history of the NHL, 27 teams have had a 3-1 lead. All of them have won the Cup.

“You know, it’s kind of every sort of emotion you can think of," Shattenkirk said. "More than anything, it’s  how happy it makes you feel to help your team win a game. I think there were a lot of guys who had some big plays tonight. Sometimes, you just look at the guy who scores the game-winning goal, but it took a lot for us to get there. We kept it simple on the power play and good things happened. Big moment, big goal and looking forward to tomorrow night.”

The Bolts can wrap up the series with a victory over the Stars tonight. The game begins at 8 p.m.

Shattenkirk said he was due a break after the puck went off of him for the tying goal.

"In my head, I was thinking I deserved some kind of good karma after that," Shattenkirk said. "I felt bad for doing that to Vasy. Credit to them, that’s what they were doing --. just throwing pucks at the net. We did more of the same. My goal was just try to sneak one by him."

For Shattenkirk, it was more salve to the wounds of being bought out by the Rangers last summer. He has become a steady performer for the Bolts.

"I've said it before," Shattenkirk said. "I’ll never forget what happened last summer, and I've used that to fuel me. We’ve got a job to do, and it’s not finished. Whatever the team asks, that’s what I aim to do every night. "

Lightning coach Jon Cooper agrees: "We have a lot of people with something to prove, and he’s one of them. I don’t think it’s ever comfortable when a team buys you out. It’s not necessarily because they don’t want you — there’s contracts and money involved. That plays a big part of it."

In hindsight, the Rangers did Shattenkirk -- and the Bolts -- a favor.

It didn't look like it early. Dallas scored two first-period goals on only three shots. But Brayden Point scored the first of his two goals with 32 seconds left in the period. He scored again early in the second period when he knocked a puck out of midair to tie the game at 2-2.

Dallas came back to take a 3-2 lead, and then Yanni Gourde tied it. Alex Killorn scored to put the Bolts up 4-3.

For Point, who is on a red-hot line with Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat, it gave him 13 goals in the post-season.

The Lightning killed off three power plays by Dallas, one of them in overtime.

And now, the countdown is down to one.

“If you were in our locker room after our game..." Cooper said. "We’ve won 15 games in this bubble, and this would be one of the ones where they weren’t as fired up. Laser focus. the guys came here to do something. They’re on their way, but we haven’t won anything yet. They truly believe that. We’re not taking anything for granted.”

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