By LARY BUMP
DALLAS (AP) — Anthony Cirelli scored twice, including the winner with 43 seconds to play, to give the Tampa Bay Lightning a 3-1 victory over the Dallas Stars on Saturday.
Victor Hedman took the puck behind the net and attempted a wrap-around, putting the puck in front for Cirelli to tap it past Dallas goalie Scott Wedgewood. Cirelli also assisted on Brandon Hagel’s empty-netter as time expired.
“I couldn’t really reach around,” Hedman said of his 500th career assist. “I was kind of off balance. I knew we had guys in front.”
One of those guys was Cirelli, who had scored just three goals in his first 23 games this season.
“I wanted to be around the goalie,” he said. “I didn’t see (the puck), he put it on my stick. I was just kind of lucky.”
In the Lightning’s last two games — both wins — Cirelli has two goals and two assists. Hagel has three goals and two assists in that span.
Tampa Bay goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy had 28 saves, allowing only Jamie Benn’s 21st goal this season in the second period. Wedgewood also made 28 saves.
After being outshot 24-16 in the first two periods, the Lightning took over in the final 20 minutes and having a 16-5 shot advantage.
“We turned the puck over for two periods,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said.
So what happened in the third period?
“When you put the puck behind the goal line and now you have to make them work to get it out, that kind of shifted the field position of the game that they had in the first two periods,” he said.
Dallas coach Pete DeBoer said the last five minutes of the third were an issue.
“We didn’t give Wedgie enough help. Our execution in the last five minutes was poor,” he said. “You can’t sit in a shell. They pushed in the third; that’s what a real good team like that does. ”
Each team scored once in the second period, when Dallas outshot the Lightning 12-10. More important may have been Wedgewood making two stops on Steven Stamkos, who came into the day with 20 goals in 23 games against the Stars.
Cooper knew his team was up against the Stars, who are the points leaders in the Western Conference. Tampa Bay’s win came on the heels of a victory over Colorado and a 7-1 loss to Florida.
“We played two of the best teams in this conference,” Cooper said of his team, which is 5-1-1 in the last seven games. “A big bounce-back after the Florida game.”
ABOUT NO. 500
Hedman was modest in assessing his 500th assist.
“The last 14 years we’ve had a lot of guys to put pucks in the net. It came in a big game like this, late in the game,” he said. “Those are the moments you live for.”
Lightning: LW Nicholas Paul (upper-body) was scratched for the second straight game, so Tampa Bay played with 11 forwards and seven defensemen.
Lightning: Play the second of four road games at Columbus on Tuesday.
Stars: Complete a stretch of eight home games on Tuesday against Boston.
AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/nhl and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
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