(Reuters) – The well-rested Dallas Stars drew first blood in the Stanley Cup Final with a 4-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday in the final chapter to an NHL season that took a four-month hiatus due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Second-period goals from Jamie Oleksiak and Joel Kiviranta put Dallas in complete control as they grabbed the opener of the best-of-seven series in Edmonton, one of two hub cities for the playoffs to help limit travel and minimize COVID-19 risk.
Stars Russian goalie Anton Khudobin, who had never started a National Hockey League playoff game before this year, made 35 saves in the win.
“I always think about the team. It’s a team effort, it’s team performance,” said Khudobin. “I made a couple good saves but at the same time we are playing together, we are playing as a team.”
The Stars, who had four days off after winning the Western Conference Final, came out hitting hard from the opening faceoff against a banged-up Lightning squad that had just one day of rest after their overtime win in the Eastern Conference Final.
Dallas defenseman Joel Hanley opened the scoring six minutes into the game with his first career NHL goal on a shot from the slot that found the top left corner.
Tampa Bay tied the game seven minutes later when the rebound from a Blake Coleman shot deflected off teammate Yanni Gourde and then Dallas forward Roope Hintz before sliding into the net.
But the Stars regained the lead just past the midway mark of the second period when Oleksiak collected his rebound and put it up and over the right shoulder of netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy.
The Stars added a dagger 28 seconds before the intermission as Kiviranta led a seemingly harmless rush down the ice before taking a shot while three Lightning players were between him and the net.
Jason Dickinson added an empty-net goal in the closing minutes as the Lightning pulled Vasilevskiy in favor on an extra attacker.
The NHL’s championship features two very different teams as Dallas, the third seed out of the West, rely on defense and goaltending while Tampa Bay, the second seed in the East, are loaded on offense even without injured captain Steven Stamkos.
Both are seeking their second Stanley Cup, Dallas having lifted the trophy in 1999 and Tampa Bay in 2004.
Game Two is scheduled for Monday.
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by William Mallard)