NHL Playoffs Today: Lightning look to even up the Stanley Cup Final

    Emily Kaplan is ESPN’s national NHL reporter.

The Stanley Cup Final began on Saturday with an emphatic 4-1 win by the Dallas Stars. The Tampa Bay Lightning haven’t lost consecutive games all postseason. Can they keep that trend alive, or will they fall into the dreaded 0-2 hole tonight?

Check out ESPN NHL Playoffs Today every day of the postseason until the Stanley Cup is handed out.

More: What each eliminated team should prioritize this offseason to get better.

Today’s game

Game 2: Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Dallas Stars (DAL leads 1-0) | 8 p.m.

The Lightning had one day off after the Eastern Conference finals, while Dallas entered Game 1 with four days rest. The difference was apparent. “I don’t even know if you need to take a shower after the first two periods,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “They came out, they were skating and I think we probably dipped our toes in the water a little bit and watched them skate around for a bit.”

The Lightning showed what they’re capable of in the final 20 minutes; according to Natural Stat Trick, Tampa Bay had a 43-3 edge in shot attempts in the third period. On Sunday, forward Blake Coleman pledged to fans that we’d see more of the third period Lightning as opposed to how they started Game 1. As for Dallas? The Stars are riding high behind Anton Khudobin, who has a .954 save percentage since the beginning of the Western Conference finals.

Question of the day: Are we going to see Steven Stamkos play this summer?

The Lightning captain has been out the entire playoffs, but he’s stayed in the bubble — an encouraging sign. He even started skating with the team again, according to a brief glimpse of available practice video. Then, ahead of the Stanley Cup Final, we got yet another breadcrumb: GM Julien BriseBrois said that while Stamkos wouldn’t suit up in Game 1, he was “hopeful” to return during the series.

So how about in Game 2?

“I guess there’s always a chance,” Cooper said on Sunday. “But as of now I don’t think so. That’s why you’ve got to tune in to find out.”

One area the Lightning really miss Stamkos is the power play. The Lightning scored power-play goals in four of their first 10 chances in the Eastern Conference finals against the Islanders, but have gone 0-for-14 in the last four games, including 0-for-3 in Game 1. That’s nearly 28 minutes of power-play time with no goals.

Stamkos hasn’t played in six months, so it’s hard to gauge his level of impact. Although, as teammate Blake Coleman noted, “An 80% Stammer is better than most players in this league.”

“I know it’s killing him more than anyone else not to be in the lineup,” Cooper said. “He’s inching his way closer, there’s no doubt. You don’t get this many chances to be where we are. A, you want to be part of it, which he has. And he has helped the collective group with the mental thing of it. But B, he wants to be on the ice as well.”

Three players to watch in Game 2

Joel Kiviranta, F, Dallas Stars

The undrafted Finn has become a cult hero of the Stars’ playoff run, and remained hot with another goal in Game 1. After scoring just one goal in 11 regular-season games, Kiviranta now has five goals in nine playoff games.

“I don’t know what’s going on,” Kiviranta said. “Sometimes it starts to feel like wherever you shoot the puck, it goes in. Right now, I’m in that moment.”

Andrei Vasilevskiy, G, Tampa Bay Lightning

The reigning Vezina Trophy winner has been sensational all summer — entering the Stanley Cup Final with a .933 save percentage over 16 games — but looked off in Game 1. He allowed three goals on 19 shots. Look for a big rebound performance.

Patrick Maroon, F, Tampa Bay Lightning

The Lightning signed Maroon last offseason to add toughness, and he’s been a huge addition on the fourth line. In Game 1, Maroon — who is looking to win Stanley Cups in back-to-back years with two different teams — let his emotions get the best of him, taking a 10-minute misconduct for shooting the puck into the Stars bench at the end of the second period. Will the aftermath spill over to Game 2?

Quote of the day

“Told the guys, ‘maybe we just steal it and run?'” — Anton Khudobin, in a Russian-language interview, about what he thought when he saw the Stanley Cup before Game 1 began.

Social post of the day

Being isolated in the bubble wasn’t easy for anyone, and it gets harder as the tournament wears on. Every time we see videos of players reuniting with their loved ones — like this montage of various Islanders coming home — it gets increasingly emotional.

Awards watch

The NHL will announce the winners of its five biggest player awards in a 30-minute televised special tonight, live from Rogers Place in Edmonton. The wards will be presented by four Oilers legends: Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Grant Fuhr and Paul Coffey.

Here are the five awards, and the three finalists for each:

  • Calder Memorial Trophy (rookie of the year): Quinn Hughes, Dominik Kubalik, Cale Makar

  • Hart Memorial Trophy (MVP): Leon Draisaitl, Nathan MacKinnon, Artemi Panarin

  • James Norris Memorial Trophy (Best defenseman): John Carlson, Victor Hedman, Roman Josi

  • Ted Lindsay Award (Player of the year, as voted by the NHLPA): Leon Draisaitl, Nathan MacKinnon, Artemi Panarin

  • Vezina Trophy (Best goaltender, as voted by NHL GMs): Connor Hellebuyck, Tuukka Rask, Andrei Vasilevskiy

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