EDMONTON — It was what so many Game 4s turn out to be. The fact was, the Tampa Bay Lightning could lose and still win the series. The Dallas Stars could not.
If the Stars couldn’t turn this Stanley Cup their way in Game 4 on Friday, in a game that meant everything to their Cup dreams, then they wouldn’t be able to turn it at all.
You can’t lose three of four against a team like Tampa, look yourself in the mirror the next day and say, "you’re going to beat the Lightning three games in a row," and believe the guy talking to you.
Well, that’s where the Stars find themselves after a game in which everyone played as hard as they could play -- they scored four times, yet lost 5-4 on a Kevin Shattenkirk power-play goal in overtime.
“I think we’ve got more,” said a defiant Tyler Seguin, who was simply fantastic for the full 66:34. “We would have won if we got everything out of everybody.
“I believe in the team, believe in the boys. We’ve got another level here.”
What choice does he have? What choice do any of them have?
“We’ll bounce back,” said head coach Rick Bowness, roughly 20 hours before puck drop in Game 5 on a rare set of back-to-back games in this COVID Cup. “I have full faith in our hockey club. We will fight back. We will bounce back and we’re going to play (Saturday) like we played tonight.”
This was, undoubtedly, a fine effort wasted by Dallas. Perhaps their finest in this Final.
On how many nights are they going to pin a minus-3 on stud defenceman Victor Hedman? Or pump three of their first nine shots past annual Vezina candidate Andrei Vasilevskiy?
How many more times can the Stars ask 36-year-old Joe Pavelski for two goals? Or get as stunning an effort by Seguin, who had two assists, three shots on goal and was an amazing 70 per cent in the circle?
“That’s his best game of the playoffs,” Bowness said of Seguin, whose lack of production has been rightly criticized up ’til now.
As playoff games go, this surely was not one of those nights when you walk out of the rink wondering who officiated the game, as the zebra tandem of Kelly Sutherland and Francis Charron had a bit of an adventure for three periods and overtime.
The pair missed some calls on Tampa early, including an inadvertent trip by Tyler Johnson that sent Roope Hintz into the boards so hard that he did not return. Then, with 29 seconds left in regulation, Corey Perry jabbed his stick into Brayden Point’s private parts, and somehow Sutherland called Perry for interference and Point for embellishment.
Seguin drew a legit penalty early in OT when he drove the net for a scoring chance, and the Lightning managed to kill a lengthy 4-on-3 and the remaining 5-on-4 disadvantage. Then Benn got a tad overzealous in a battle with Johnson 5:10 in overtime, and he gave Charron a chance to raise his arm.
Shattenkirk would score on the ensuing power play, and that might just be it for the Stars, who went down with their captain in the box.
“I see it. It’s in front of Kelly (Sutherland),” replayed Pavelski. “He’s got a great look at it, and the back ref (Charron) calls it.
“I don’t have a ton of time for a play where Tyler Johnson steps in front of Jamie Benn and has no real effect on the play,” the veteran continued. “There’s a battle going on there. It’s playoffs. It’s overtime. We expect 5-on-5, to battle it out.”
You hear it every year. All a hockey player asks for is a chance to decide it for themselves, but by taking the penalty, perhaps that’s exactly what Benn did.
“The players want to play 5-on-5 and let’s see what happens. The players are right,” said a disappointed Bowness. “I saw two guys going after a loose puck. Their guy hooking our guy and our guy trying to fight through the hook. That’s a hockey play. Two guys, in the playoffs, going for a loose puck.”
What Bowness also saw was his own power-play unit with a chance to end the game earlier in OT, and it failed.
“We had the 4-on-3. You have to put the puck in the net — simple as that,” he admitted. “Our power play had a chance to end the game and they didn’t get it done.”
They didn’t get it done.
Every year, whether in spring or fall, we say that about one of the teams fortunate enough to make it this far.
The guy in the Stars’ mirror Saturday morning is telling them they can still get it done. That being down 3-1 to the Tampa Bay Lightning isn’t a death sentence.
It says here, fat chance.