The Tampa Bay Lightning out shot the Dallas Stars 22-2 in the third period. It didn’t matter because the Stars had Anton Khudobin in net. He’s a solid goaltender, but it’s not like he’s a man of destiny. The Anaheim Ducks waived him in 2015 and the Boston Bruins waived him in 2017. The 34-year-old goaltender is on the second half of a two-year, $5 million contract, which speaks to what his market value was. It’s also worth noting that Khudobin has never started in more than 37 games in a single season.
Khudobin has spent most of his career seen as a capable backup. If not for Ben Bishop being unavailable due to injury, Khudobin might have never even gotten this chance this year. But hockey is funny like that. For the first time in his long career, Khudobin got a chance to start in a playoff game this year and he’s taken full advantage of the opportunity. He’s a huge part of why the Dallas Stars made it to the Stanley Cup Final and he outdueled the reigning Vezina Trophy winner to hand the Stars a 1-0 lead in the series.
He’s not Martin Brodeur or Patrick Roy. An induction into the Hall of Fame likely isn’t in Khudobin’s future. But he is a hot goaltender and having a hot goaltender during a playoff run can turn a great team into an amazing one and that’s what we’re seeing here. If he keeps playing like this, Khudobin could very well end up being both a Stanley Cup champion and a Conn Smythe winner.
For the Tampa Bay Lightning though, the key here is not to get frustrated. They’ve dealt with difficult defensive teams and hot goaltenders before. The New York Islanders in the Eastern Conference Final were such a team and the Lightning managed to beat them. The Lightning can do it again, but their task has gotten that much harder after Saturday’s loss.
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DALLAS 4 TAMPA BAY 1 (Stars lead series 1-0)
Anton Khudobin stopped 35 of 36 Lightning shots. He’s allowed just six goals over his last four starts despite facing at least 33 shots in each of those contests.
Andrei Vasilevskiy was far less busy. He faced just 19 shots, but allowed three goals. Going into this game, Vasilevskiy had been amazing in the 2020 playoffs with a 1.82 GAA and .931 save percentage in 19 starts.
Yanni Gourde scored the Lightning’s lone goal. It came at 12:27 of the first period, so Khudobin never had a real shutout bid in this contest.
Jamie Oleksiak netted the game-winning goal. He has five goals and eight points in 22 playoff games.
Jason Dickinson and Joel Hanley each found the back of the net for Dallas. In both cases, that was their first goal of the 2020 postseason. For Hanley, it was also his first career playoff goal in eight contests.