The Dallas Stars know the challenge they face trying to contain the Tampa Bay Lightning’s top line of Ondrej Palat, Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov in the Stanley Cup Final.So the Stars had reason to feel good about their effort after holding that trio without a point in a 4-1 victory in Game 1 on Saturday.
Game 2 of the best-of-7 series at Rogers Place in Edmonton is Monday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS).
“All you can do against elite players like that is try to minimize the damage, try to keep them on the outside as much as you can and pressure them as much as you can all over the ice so they don’t have a lot of time,” Stars coach Rick Bowness said Sunday. “But the way they play, the way they stretch you out, use the open ice, it’s almost impossible to stop them.”
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The New York Islanders found that out in the Eastern Conference Final. Palat (three goals, one assist, plus-6), Point (three goals, four assists, plus-6) and Kucherov (two goals, eight assists, plus-9) combined for eight goals, 13 assists and a plus-21 rating in the series while leading Tampa Bay past New York in six games.
In Game 1 against Dallas, Palat had two shots on goal and was minus-2, Point had no shots on goal and was minus-3 and Kucherov had five shots on goal and was minus-2. The line combined for three shots on goal at 5-on-5 — two by Palat and one by Kucherov.
Dallas’ checking line of Andrew Cogliano, Jason Dickinson and Blake Comeau had hand in containing them, but with the Stars not having the last change as the designated road team, they basically rolled their four lines and relied upon their team defense. 
“I think we’re all on the same page,” Dickinson said. “We don’t get running. When we’re in doubt, we pack it in and then we’ll expand from there and protect the house first.”
Video: NHL Now breaks down Stars’ 3rd period defense
Dallas also made it difficult for the Palat-Point-Kucherov line by being physical. The Stars had 12 of their 50 hits in the game against that line, including five on Point. A hit by Joel Kiviranta on Point forced a turnover that led to defenseman Joel Hanley’s goal that gave the Stars a 1-0 lead 5:40 into the game 
Point was playing with Alex Killorn and Pat Maroon for that shift. Palat, Point and Kucherov were on the ice together for defenseman Jamie Oleksiak’s goal that gave Dallas a 2-1 lead with 7:30 left in the second period and for Dickinson’s empty-net goal with 1:18 remaining in the third.
The teams combined for 106 hits in Game 1. They each hope that the physicality will wear down the other over a long series.
“We’re playing for the Stanley Cup here, so guys are trying to do whatever it takes to win four games and wear out the other team,” Stars left wing Jamie Benn said. “So I would expect much of the same for the rest of the series.”
Video: NHL Now looks back at major storylines from game one
Kucherov leads the Stanley Cup Playoffs with 26 points (six goals, 20 assist). Point is tied for second with Nathan MacKinnon of the Colorado Avalanche with 25 points in the playoffs (nine goals, 16 assists). Palat (13 points; eight goals, five assists) is one goal behind Point and defenseman Victor Hedman for the Lightning lead.
So, like Bowness suggested, it might be a matter of time before that line breaks through. But if the Stars can limit the opportunities Palat, Point and Kucherov get, it will help their chances of winning the series and the Cup.
“They’re great players and they’re going to get their chances,” Bowness said. “You have to minimize them as much as you can, so I think we did a pretty good job of that.”