(Reuters) – The Dallas Stars have been a resilient group this postseason and so refuse to panic, even as their top players are in an offensive slump that has left the team one loss from being pushed to the brink of elimination in the Stanley Cup Final.
With forwards like Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin without a point in the NHL’s best-of-seven championship and Alexander Radulov held to three assists, the Stars have fallen behind 2-1 with the next two games set for Friday and Saturday.
“There’s another level for us, bottom line,” said Stars center Joe Pavelski. “It’s got to come from someone. We’ve got to step up and be better.”
During the playoffs, the Stars have yet to back down from a challenge and to their credit have seven comeback wins and four overtime victories.
But wrestling momentum away from the Tampa Bay, a team many feel is the most talented in the league, could prove their most difficult test yet as the Lightning are suddenly firing on all cylinders after dropping the first game of the series.
“We’ll be doing everything we can to win that (Game Four) tomorrow,” said Stars coach Rick Bowness. “We don’t want to fall down 3-1 (in the series). Saturday’s a whole other discussion we’ll have after Friday. Right now, Saturday’s the least of our concerns.”
History is on the Lightning’s side as the winner of Game Three in a tied best-of-seven Stanley Cup Final has claimed the championship on 22 of 29 occasions.
But Tampa Bay are not about to get complacent, especially given the uncertain status of captain Steven Stamkos, who scored in his long-awaited return to the lineup on Wednesday but did not play over the final two periods.
“We’re kind of laser focused on that and making sure we realize it’ll be a much different game tomorrow,” said Lightning defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk.
“It’s not going to be a 5-1, 5-2 lead for most of the game. We’re going to have to battle for it. We know they’re going to come out hungry because it’s a desperate time for them as well.”
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; editing by Richard Pullin)