Dallas Stars head coach Rick Bowness offered up a simple explanation for their 3-2 loss in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final.
“It’s easy to explain: We lost faceoffs, we were turning the puck over and we were taking penalties,” Bowness said. “It was an even game up until we started taking penalties. Their power play connected.”
It wasn’t so much the quantity of the penalties – the Bolts picked up more PIMs in both Games 1 and 2 – but the timing of the calls and the Stars’ inability to kill them off.
The Tampa Bay Lightning opened the scoring with back-to-back power play goals, after going 0-for-14 with the man advantage dating back to Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final against the New York Islanders.
“When we stay out of the box, we’ve shown so far that we’re a good team,” Pavelski said. “When we’ve got to kill and when you feed their top guys that kind of confidence, they get to touch the puck and play with a little bit more space. It feeds their confidence a little bit and they get a little momentum.
“We’ve done a good job most games as far as killing penalties and getting a little momentum back from it, but we got to limit those chances, especially with their power play. We can kill one, two, three a night and we don’t need to be killing three or four a period.”
Dallas had three penalty kills in the first period of Game 2, shutting down only one. Conversely, the Lightning stopped 2-of-3 in the second period.
“The hole was a little bit too deep tonight,” Pavelski said
Bowness also pointed to two other factors in the loss.
“Faceoffs, turnovers and penalties [are] things you can’t afford to do against a team like that,” said Bowness.
Dallas turned over the puck 11 times in Game 1, with nine giveaways and two takeaways by the Lightning. In Game 2, that number jumped to 23, with 15 giveaways and 8 takeaways. The Bolts stayed relatively flat with that combined number, going from 16 in Game 1 to 15 in the next match.
“Special teams were obviously the difference tonight,” said Bowness. “Who controls the puck the most comes back to faceoffs.”
The struggle at the dot came from the Stars’ bottom six. Roope Hintz and Jason Dickinson were a combined 3-14 (18%) on draws.
Shorthanded, Dallas won 43% of faceoffs, compared to 67% in the opening game of the Cup Final.
“That’s where we lost the game today,” said Stars center Mattias Janmark, who leads Dallas with 36 penalty minutes. “We don’t want to take penalties. We have taken way too many throughout the playoffs, but then I think when we get them, we’ve just got to go out and kill them. We didn’t manage to do that today, and I think that’s where they won the game, so we’ve got to do a better job there.”
The third period of Game 1 saw Dallas kill off three straight penalties, though they were in a different spot, holding a 3-1 lead. Nonetheless, their penalty killers bailed them out, extending their streak to eight kills without allowing a power play goal.
They’ll need to get back to that in Game 3.
Of course, the easiest way to avoid giving up power play goals is simply to stay out of the box.
Referees for Game 3 are Wes McCauley and Dan O’Rourke. The puck drops at 8:00 Eastern.