TAMPA — With their postseason hopes on the line Friday night, the Stars made sure to capitalize on every scoring opportunity in a 5-2 win over the Lightning at Amalie Arena.
The win moved Dallas within two points of idle Nashville for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Central Division heading into the final weekend of its regular season.
With the Lightning losing in regulation, the Hurricanes clinched first place in the Central — their first division title in 15 years — and locked in a division semifinal playoff series between the Lightning and Panthers, who will finish second and third, order to be determined. This is the first time the two Florida teams will play each other in the postseason.
In what order the Lightning (36-15-3) and Panthers finish will be determined as they finish their regular seasons against each other today and Monday in Sunrise. The teams are tied in points with 75.
Forward Pat Maroon said the Lightning should use the final two games to start setting a playoff tone with the Panthers.
“I think it’s great,” he said. “Obviously, we know that this is the matchup.”
But in order to set that tone, the Lightning have to be the team they know they can be. And Friday’s game was one of their poorest of the year.
Dallas defenseman Jamie Oleksiak put a rebound behind backup goalie Curtis McElhinney. Center Joe Pavelski scored one goal on a breakaway and another from low in the slot. Wing Roope Hintz got behind the Lightning defense on a breakaway. And wing Joel Kiviranta won a net-front battle at the top of the crease.
“We didn’t play very well,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “We didn’t execute, and we didn’t defend well, and we didn’t compete hard in the way we normally do.
“It’s disappointing with three games left we decided to play one of our worst ones of the year.”
The sentiment was the same among the players.
“I certainly hope (this was a one-off),” said forward Blake Coleman, who had a goal. “Just a lack of attention to detail, and obviously we’ve been pretty strong in the late run that we’ve been on (7-2-1 in their past 10 games), and just for whatever reason we had some glaring mental errors defensively.”
With a chance to get back on the ice less than 24 hours away, the Lightning hoped they could “right some of those wrongs.”
“I think we’ll be a motivated group,” Coleman said. “Obviously, (we) still have something to play for here, and as do (the Panthers). It should be some good hockey, set the tone here. … You don’t want to be stumbling in (to the playoffs). You want to be playing the right way going in.
“It’s going to be a lot of games in a row against these guys. And you want to set the tone early and play the right way and send a little bit of a message here that we’re going to be a tough opponent.”
NOTE: Lightning defenseman Ryan McDonagh did not play the final 6:54. Cooper did not have an update on his status after the game.
Contact Mari Faiello at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @faiello_mari.
First Period—1, Dallas, Oleksiak 6 (Heiskanen, Kero), 5:50. Penalties—Coleman, TB (High Sticking), 8:36; Dickinson, DAL (Tripping), 16:49.
Second Period—2, Dallas, Pavelski 23 (Hintz), 5:17. 3, Tampa Bay, Coleman 14 (Hedman, Goodrow), 11:11. 4, Dallas, Pavelski 24 (Hintz), 13:05. 5, Dallas, Hintz 15 (Pavelski, Kiviranta), 19:45. Penalties—Pavelski, DAL (Tripping), 3:08.
Third Period—6, Dallas, Kiviranta 5 (Pavelski, Benn), 3:49. 7, Tampa Bay, Barre-Boulet 3 (Palat, Killorn), 8:29 (pp). Penalties—Lindell, DAL (Boarding), 5:52; Hanley, DAL (Tripping), 7:58.
Shots on Goal—Dallas 11-10-10_31. Tampa Bay 6-14-7_27. Power-play opportunities—Dallas 0 of 1; Tampa Bay 1 of 4. Goalies—Dallas, Khudobin 12-10-7 (27 shots-25 saves). Tampa Bay, McElhinney 4-6-2 (31-26). A—4,200 (19,092). T—2:31.
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