EDMONTON, Alberta (WFTS) – The captain is back!
The Tampa Bay Lightning fed off Steven Stamkos' NHL bubble debut as they beat the Dallas Stars 5-2 in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final. Stamkos played his first game since February.
Rust from missing months of games due to an injury was not an issue for the 6-time NHL all-star as Stamkos found the back of the net about seven minutes into the first period to help Tampa Bay take a 2-0 lead over the Dallas Stars.
Stamkos' score came after Lightning's Nikita Kucherov scored on a breakaway to draw first blood.
However, Stars' Jason Dickinson scored on a shorthanded goal to cut the Lightning's lead to 2-1.
In the second period, Victor Hedman scored off assists from Anthony Cirelli and Ondrej Palat to extend Tampa Bay's lead to 3-1. Brayden Point then added to the Lightning's lead with a goal off assists from Kucherov and Victor Hedman.
Tampa Bay's Ondrej Palat added to the scoring party with a goal off assists from Point and Kevin Shattenkirk.
Dallas' Miro Heiskanen found the back of the net in the third period to cut Tampa Bay's lead to 5-2.
Following the win, the Lightning lead the series 2-1.
Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper placed Stamkos in the Lightning's fourth line with Patrick Maroon and Cedric Paquette.
Prior to the injury and surgery, Stamkos scored 29 goals and dished out 37 assists for 66 points in 57 regular-season games.
- Game 1: Stars 4, Lightning 1 Final.
- Game 2: Lightning 3, Stars 2 Final.
- Game 3: Lightning 5, Stars 2 Final.
- Game 4: Friday, September 25, 8 p.m. ET
- Game 5: Saturday, September 26, 8 p.m. ET
- *Game 6: Monday, September 28, 8 p.m. ET
- *Game 7: Wednesday, Septmeber 30, 8 p.m. ET
* = If necessary
HOW THEY GOT HERE
The Lightning secured the second seed in the Eastern Conference bracket after finishing second to the Philadelphia Flyers in round-robin play. Tampa Bay beat the Columbus Blue Jackets, the team the Lightning got swept by in the first round of the 2019 playoffs, in five hard-fought games.
After exorcising their playoff demons against the Blue Jackets, the Lightning rode Ondrej Palat's hot hand and a game-winning goal in double overtime from Victor Hedman to take down the Boston Bruins in five games.
Tampa Bay survived a physical and bruising series against the New York Islanders after taking the series in six games to punch the team's ticket to the Stanley Cup Final.
RECOMMENDED: Cirelli's OT goal sends Lightning to Stanley Cup Final
The Dallas Stars qualified for round-robin in the Edmonton bubble after finishing the regular season with the fourth-best record in the conference.
The Stars secured the No. 3 seed and beat the Calgary Flames in six games.
In the following round, Dallas jumped to a commanding 3-1 series lead before the Colorado Avalance came back and forced a Game 7. The Stars then dodged a major series collapse after beating the Avs 5-4 in overtime in the winner-take-all game.
Dallas then took the Western Conference title after beating the Vegas Golden Knights in five games.