The Tampa Bay Lightning look to take a commanding 3-1 lead in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Dallas Stars on Friday. Here’s a complete preview, including updated NHL odds and our betting pick.
Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Dallas Stars
Friday, September 25, 2020 – 08:00 PM EDT at Rogers Place
Game 3 Recap
Lightning captain Steven Stamkos returned and helped his team take a 2-1 series lead with a convincing 5-2 win on Wednesday. After being out since February 25th because of core muscle surgery and a lower-body injury, Stamkos scored on his first shot on net less than seven minutes in. The 30-year-old gave the Lightning a 2-0 lead but he played just four shifts and skated 2:07 before leaving the game.
Victor Hedman scored his 10th goal of the playoffs and added two assists and Ondrej Palat, Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point also had one goal apiece. Kucherov, who also had an assist, scored his seventh goal of the playoffs and Hedman only trails Paul Coffey (12 goals in 1985) and Brian Leetch (11 in 1994) for most goals by a defenseman in a single playoff. Tampa Bay goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 21 shots for his 16th win of the 2020 playoffs.
Jason Dickinson and Miro Heiskanen scored for the Stars and Anton Khudobin saved 24 of the 29 shots he faced before Jake Oettinger replaced him before the start of the third period, with the Lightning leading 5-1. Khudobin is now 13-8 in the playoffs.
Stamkos Questionable for Friday
It was evident that Steven Stamkos' return gave a boost to the Lightning's morale, energy
It’s too early to determine Stamkos’ status for the rest of the series but he’s clearly a difference-maker. “He’s a threat,” Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said before Game 3. “So he’s just another thing for a team to think about when he’s out there. Whether that’s on the power play or five-on-five, you get another player that when the puck gets on his stick in the offensive zone, it might get in the net.”
"There's been a lot of hard work and different things going on behind the scenes. Just to be able to get out into a game and have an impact on a game, which a month ago may have never been possible … I was just really happy to obviously contribute in a game that I didn't play too much," Stamkos said after the game.
Monitor Stamkos' status in the next two days before making your NHL picks, particularly if you want to bet the total. That said, the Lightning clearly have momentum on their side. The Stars delivered the first blow but the Lightning countered with back-to-back wins. Game 4 is critical for both teams because the Stars are just one win away from making this a best-of-three series and the Lightning can practically secure the Stanley Cup.
Goaltending will be the difference in this game, as it's usually the case in the NHL. I can't go against Andrei Vasilevskiy right now. He turned away 27 of 29 shots in Game 2 to bounce back after struggling in Game 1 and like mentioned before, he saved 22 of 24 shots on Wednesday to give his team control of the series.
Pair him with a dynamic attack that led the league with 3.47 goals per game during the regular season and it's easy to see why the Lightning have made it this far, even with Stamkos missing a significant period of time. Will Khudobin or Oettinger start at goalie for the Stars? That's a big question mark but the goaltending matchup favors the Lightning regardless of who starts for the Stars.