Khudobin, Stars aim to stand tall vs. Lightning

NHL

Listed at 5-foot-11, Dallas Stars goaltender Anton Khudobin is considered too short for today’s NHL.

The Tampa Bay Lightning became the latest team to discover how large Khudobin can loom during Dallas’ 4-1 victory to kick off the Stanley Cup Final in Edmonton.

The Lightning look to solve Khudobin and the Stars when the series resumes for Game 2 on Monday.

“He’s a very good goalie. When he’s on, he’s on,” Tampa Bay forward Tyler Johnson said. “We generated some pretty good chances and he made some really big saves. Did we do enough? No, because we lost the game. We’ve got to do more. We’ve got to do more than score one goal.”

Khudobin stopped 35 shots, including 22 in a third period dominated by the Lightning.

Originally the backup, he was pressed into action because former Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop has been “unfit to participate.” Khudobin has posted a 13-6 record in the postseason with a .923 save percentage and 2.54 goals-against average.

“His play’s been speaking for itself,” said defenseman Jamie Oleksiak, who scored the game-winning goal in the opener.

“He’s been great for us and it looks like whenever he’s out there, he’s having fun, and we’re feeding off that energy.”

That said, expect a more complete effort from the Lightning on Monday.

Coming off their Eastern Conference finals clinching win over the New York Islanders on Thursday, the Lightning had far less jump in the first two periods compared to a Dallas team that had four full days between games. The Lightning won’t likely dominate all game like they did in Saturday’s third period, but it will be shocking if they’re not much better to start instead of — as coach Jon Cooper described — watching the Stars skate around.

“We finally just played our game in the third period,” Tampa Bay defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. “The first two, we kind of waited and allowed them to bring the game to us.”

Although the Stars are a strong defensive team that is similar to the Islanders, Dallas does use a different strategy in its back end.

“The Islanders, they kind of sat back,” Johnson said. “Dallas was in our face on the blue lines. I think the first two periods we were kind of forcing it a bit too much, trying to make those entry passes where I think our recipe is getting it deep and working. We had to adjust. We had to adjust against Boston as well. We’ve just got to keep doing that, grind and play our game and go from here.”

The Stars are well aware they need to brace for a response from Tampa Bay, but plan to withstand it by continuing with that in-your-face defense.

“That’s just the makeup and identity of our team,” forward Blake Comeau said. “It’s not just against Tampa, that’s been our approach all playoffs. I think we’re playing our best hockey when we’re engaged emotionally, physically and getting in on the forecheck, and pressuring their defense.

“When there’s a chance to finish the hit, you finish the hit, and … it’s something that we got to continue to do, and it’s what makes us successful as a team.”

–Field Level Media

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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