In the National Hockey League (NHL), the final series of the 2019/20 Stanley Cup season has started.
On the eve of the first match, Tampa Bay was considered the favorite, but could not justify its status and suffered a major defeat at Dallas.
And if the Russian Lightning legionaries were not remembered for their brightest performance, their compatriots from the Stars, on the contrary, became one of the main creators of success.
Forward Alexander Radulov was once again useful in attack, and goalkeeper Anton Khudobin worked wonders at the goal.
As befits the decisive stage of the tournament, in the opening of the meeting the opponents acted rather cautiously.
In the first period, they inflicted only nine shots at each other's goal in total, which was the worst result in the last ten years.
Only once more goalkeepers harassed the Los Angeles Kings and the New Jersey Devils in 2012.
True, if then the teams limited themselves to one goal in the starting 20 minutes, this time there were two of them at once.
The author of the first of them was the 29-year-old Starz defender Joel Hanley, who distinguished himself for the first time in his career.
Parity was restored by Tampa forward Yanni Gurd.
The puck bounced off the Canadian's skate and ricocheted off the opponent into the net.
But, as it turned out later, the success of "Lightning" ended there.
John Cooper's wards, although they spent the second period quite actively, were never able to force Khudobin to capitulate, and they themselves twice allowed Andrei Vasilevsky to upset.
The current owner of the Vezina Trophy tried his best, but twice failed to help out his partners.
During one of the attacks, Radulov took possession of the puck that bounced off the board, effectively turned around and passed a pass to free Jamie Oleksiak.
The first time he failed to break through the Russian goalkeeper, but the second attempt was accurate.
It is noteworthy that this allowed the Canadian to become only the second defender of the Stars with five goals in the playoffs.
Earlier, Miro Heiskanen noted a similar achievement.
As for Radulov, his track record was eight goals and seven assists, which allowed him to reach 19th place in the scorer race.
In terms of goal + pass, he caught up with Tampa defender Victor Hedman (9 + 6) and Swede's colleague from Colorado Avalanche Kayl Makar (4 + 11).
And 28 seconds before the siren, the Tampa hockey players slept through the rapid advance of Dallas and allowed Yoel Kiviranta to “shoot” the goalkeeper.
The first shot was blocked by Mikhail Sergachev, and the second shot through the net of Vasilevsky's goal.
This allowed the Finn to become only the second rookie in the history of the club, distinguished himself in the Stanley Cup final.
In 2000, a similar achievement was submitted to John Sim.
It is worth noting that after the siren about the end of the period, an unpleasant incident occurred with the participation of Lightning player Patrick Maroon.
The forward deliberately threw the puck towards the Stars' bench, almost hitting one of the opponents.
The punishment was ten minutes of a disciplinary fine for the American.
In the final third of the match, the Tampa Bay hockey players increased the pace and rushed to the offensive, completely surpassing the opponent in activity.
This is confirmed by the ratio of shots.
Hockey players from Florida disturbed Khudobin 22 times, but they could not catch him by surprise again.
As a result, he completed 35 saves and not only helped his team achieve success, but also issued several statistical achievements.
Firstly, Anton won 13 playoff victories, thanks to which he surpassed the result of Sergei Bobrovsky and took a clear sixth place among the Russians.
Secondly, he approached Ed Belfour's club record for the number of rescues (606) in a single Stanley Cup.
The 34-year-old goalkeeper's assets are only ten less.
And in the very ending, the team of Rick Bowness hit the opponent's goal for the fourth time and put a spectacular point in the first meeting of the final series.
Six field hockey players "Lightning", led by the top scorer of the playoffs Nikita Kucherov, could not keep the puck in the opponent's zone and allowed him to make a counterattack.
Matthias Janmark fought great at the side, and Jason Dickinson had only to hit the empty target.
Dallas beat Tampa Bay 4-1 and took the first step towards winning the Stanley Cup.
Unsurprisingly, the focus was on the Dallas goalkeeper.
Khudobin was named the first star of the meeting and received numerous compliments from partners.
“What Khudobin did for us today is beyond words.
Most importantly, it was clear how Anton enjoys the match.
He gave us energy.
In general, Dobby's game speaks for itself, ”the NHL press service quotes Oleksiak as saying.
The Dallas head coach also spoke highly of the Russian goalkeeper.
Bowness called Khudobin "an excellent athlete" and admitted that he could list the positive qualities of a gate guard for a long time.
“But this is not at all about the styles of play and reasoning, who does their job as beautifully.
You just have to stop the washers.
Khudobin does everything in his power to stop each throw.
Today we saw the passion in his game that Anton wants to win and he just deflects shots one by one.
He has a very strong focus on stopping every next puck that hits his goal.
He plays great positionally, sees the court perfectly.
But the most important thing is that there is a competitive spirit in Khudobin.
He does everything to stop the washers.
And that is why it is so effective, ”Bowness praised his ward.
Khudobin himself admitted that his debut match in the Stanley Cup final was special for him, but at the same time noted that it was necessary not to pay attention to the status of the confrontation.
“You know, I didn't see the trophy right away.
We even laughed with the guys: "Maybe we'll just steal the Stanley Cup, and that's all?"
But the ending is the ending.
This is also the first time for me.
But you understand that these are the same matches.
It's just that now only two teams are playing, and that's it.
Thank God we won and move on.
I don't think it's worth focusing too much on the fact that this is the ending.
You just need to go out and do your job, ”Khudobin said.
In addition to the Russian, two defensive players - Oleksiak and Hanley - were recognized as the stars of the meeting.
Khudobin himself spoke highly of his teammates and noted that everyone plays an important role.
“Our guys cleared the patch very well, made rebounds.
Hockey is a team sport, right?
I do my part, they do theirs.
We communicate well, and it's great to see when the guys block shots, remove the puck from our goal.
It was amazing, ”said the goalkeeper.
In the last four games, Khudobin was harassed at least 32 times, while the percentage of reflected throws never fell below 94.4%.
However, the goalkeeper himself does not believe that he is comfortable playing when the opponent constantly keeps him in good shape.
“Hmm, I don't even know what to say.
I also have matches when they shoot at goal 20 - 25 times.
And I'm so comfortable too.
Don't get me wrong, these victories are good too.
It is what it is.
I just concentrate on each next throw.
I don't even think about how many there will be in the end.
You just need to do your job, ”concluded Khudobin.