TAMPA -- Two games almost never feels like an eternity, but it can when you're in the Stanley Cup Final.
Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville, in an attempt to get his top two offensive players going, began the third period of Game 2 of the Final on Saturday with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane split up, the way they were most of the season.
At the time, neither Toews nor Kane had registered a point in the series.
The result of the switch was almost immediately positive. The final overall result, however, was not.
Toews set up Brent Seabrook for a goal at 3:38 of the third period that tied the game 3-3 for his first point of the series, but Jason Garrison put the Tampa Bay Lightning ahead 4-3 five minutes later, and that proved to be the winning goal, tying the series 1-1 heading into Game 3 in Chicago on Monday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).
"It is something we saw coming," Toews said of the line change. "I think we had a lot of puck possession, but I don't think we quite got to the inside as much early in the game. [Marian Hossa] jumps on our line, and we finally score. Sometimes a quick change like that will make things click. If you keep working for offense, we know it is going to come."
The primary impact of splitting Toews and Kane is it gets one of them away from the Lightning's top defense pair of Victor Hedman and Anton Stralman, who have been very effective in limiting the Blackhawks' top line. And it appeared the player Quenneville wanted to free up the most was Kane.
Kane had three shots on goal in 24:19 of ice time in Game 1. He had none and only attempted three in 19:45 in Game 2; Kane and seldom-used defenseman Kyle Cumiskey were the only Blackhawks who didn't have a shot on goal.
When Quenneville sent Toews out for the opening faceoff in the third period with Brandon Saad and Hossa, he followed up with Antoine Vermette's line for the following shift, allowing Kane, Brad Richards and Kris Versteeg to face the Lightning's third defense pair of Andrej Sustr and Matthew Carle.
Quenneville went back to playing Toews with Kane as the Blackhawks pushed for the tying goal over the second half of the third period, and the combinations were thrown off in the first half of the period by consecutive penalties taken by Patrick Sharp, the second of which led to Garrison's winning goal.
But still, Kane played 6:16 in the third period and did not attempt a shot on goal, let alone have one hit the net.
"[The Lightning] are working hard and playing good hockey, good defensive hockey," Toews said. "We just have to stay with it. I think [Saad] had a great chance on a 2-on-1 early in the game. I had a great chance, but it went off my stick after a great setup by [Kane]. One of those go in and then maybe [the media] isn't asking these questions. We know we are getting chances. Sometimes it just takes one or two [chances] for one to go in."
With the series now shifting to Chicago, Quenneville will have better control of the matchups so it's possible he goes back to playing Toews with Kane, because it will be easier to keep them away from Hedman and Stralman.
Either way, he does not appear to be overly concerned by the lack of production from his top offensive players.
"They had some great looks there," Quenneville said. "Had a couple really good quality chances in the first period, had some good stuff in the second. They're dangerous.
"Just got a little more balance off [the line switch]. We scored right away. Then we lost some momentum."
There is no sense of panic on the Blackhawks surrounding the situation, if it can even be called that. Toews avoided going two straight games without a point for the second time in these playoffs, and this is Kane's second two-game slump of the postseason.
On the outside, two games in the Final feel much longer than two games in the first or second round. Thankfully for the Blackhawks, it doesn't appear to feel that way on the inside.
"It's not time to get frustrated, it's not time to give up. You stay with it and eventually something clicks, and when it does it feels really good," Toews said. "This is the time of year where you just empty the tank, throw everything you can at them. You just continue no matter what. You don't make excuses. You don't throw in the towel. You keep working for that offense. It comes at a price too."
Author: Arpon Basu | Managing Editor LNH.com