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Burns: 3 things we learned from leveling the Stanley Cup Final

by Bryan Burns / Tampa Bay Lightning

A lot went against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final.

Twice, Chicago rallied from a one-goal deficit.

The Blackhawks final goal benefitted from a questionable goalie interference no-call that was discussed by game officials but ultimately went Chicago’s way.

Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop had to exit the game twice in the third period, the final time coming for good with 7:41 left in the game.

Yet, the Lightning continue to find ways during these 2015 Playoffs to pull through when the situation appears bleakest.

With a rookie goalie in the Lightning net and the score tied 3-3, Jason Garrison sent a shot into traffic, a wrister that would take a deflection off Chicago’s Andrew Desjardins on its path into the net, to provide the game-winner and deadlock the best-of-seven series at 1-1.

The Lightning have proven throughout these playoffs they can overcome adversity when the odds are stacked against them.

Now, they’ll have to show they can win in the Madhouse on Madison, the Blackhawks United Center home where they’re 7-1 this postseason.

Knowing this team, the Bolts likely relish the challenge.

3 Things we learned from Tampa Bay’s first Stanley Cup Final win since June 7, 2004.

1. THE GOALTENDER SHUFFLE

Lightning head coach Jon Cooper headed off any questions about goaltender Ben Bishop before starting his post-Game 2 press conference, saying he wasn’t going to talk about the goalie situation.

Bishop wasn’t available to the media following the game, leaving many to speculate just why the Bolts backstop had to exit the game twice in the third period, the second time for good.

Whatever Bishop’s status going forward, however, the Lightning have complete confidence they can win the Stanley Cup with Andrei Vasilevskiy in net.

Vasilevskiy made 16 appearances during the regular after being recalled from AHL Syracuse in mid-December, going 7-5-1 with one shutout, a 2.36 goals-against average and .918 save percentage.

Vasilevskiy set a Lightning franchise rookie record after making 45 saves in his second-ever NHL start at the New York Islanders (Dec. 20).

Pressed into a difficult situation Saturday with the game knotted 3-3 in the third period of a tense, back-and-forth contest, Vasilevskiy calmly stepped onto the ice and did his job, stopping all five Chicago shots he faced to allow the Bolts to regain the lead.

He stood tall in the net with Chicago pressing for the equalizing goal late to earn the first postseason victory of his NHL career.

“I guess it’s kind of rare to see that, but it does happen,” Garrison said. “When it does happen, you’ve just got to make sure that you go out there and support the goalie coming in. (Vasilevskiy) made some big saves for us. Goalies are usually very mentally focused, even if they’re on the bench, so it seemed the same way. He came in there and did his thing.”

Last season, Bishop went down with an injury in the final week of the regular season and couldn’t play in the Lightning’s First Round matchup with Montreal. The Bolts had no chance in that series, their confidence shaken without their steady netminder between the pipes, the Canadiens sweeping in four.

The Lightning have no fear with Vasilevskiy in goal, however.

“It doesn’t matter who’s in the net,” said defenseman Anton Stralman, whose advice to Vasilevskiy before he entered was to have fun. “We have a lot of belief in Vasy and what he can do on the ice when he’s on.”

2. QUICK STRIKE HAWKS

Chicago entered Game 2 as the third-best offensive team in the 2015 Playoffs, averaging 3.21 goals per game.

Through two Stanley Cup Final contests, the Lightning have done a decent job keeping the Blackhawks in check, holding them below their average with five goals.

The problem with Chicago’s attack, though, has come from its quick-strike ability.

The Blackhawks tallied two goals in less than two minutes late in Game 1 to overcome a one-goal deficit and win the series opener on the road.

In Game 2, the Lightning again went up 1-0 early only to watch Chicago score twice in rapid succession to take its first lead. The Blackhawks’ first and second goal came just two minutes and 16 seconds apart in the second period.

How the Bolts respond after giving up a goal will be a key factor in how this series plays out going forward. The Lightning can’t allow one goal to turn into two or three.

“Throughout games in the playoffs, I think it’s who can handle momentum swings, who can try to get it back on your side as fast as possible,” Ryan Callahan said.

In Game 2, the Lightning were able to regain momentum fairly quickly. Nikita Kucherov’s through-the-legs redirect of Garrison’s shot from the point 1:32 following Chicago’s second goal tied the game 2-2 and got the Amalie Arena crowd back in the game.

“(Chicago’s) going to get momentum swings, and you’re going to find yourself down in games,” Callahan said. “There’s no time to feel sorry for yourself. All year, all playoffs, we’ve had that character to come back, and we showed it tonight.”

3. SECONDARY SCORING

A lot of talk entering Game 2 centered around Tampa Bay’s inability to get goals from anybody not named Stamkos, Killorn or the Triplets.

Since Game 3 of the Montreal series, only two Bolts other than the aforementioned five had scored a goal: Valtteri Filppula in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final and Ryan Callahan in Game 5 versus the Rangers.

In Game 2, the Lightning doubled that total as Cedric Paquette scored the Bolts’ opening goal and Jason Garrison provided the third-period game-winner.

“Depth’s been part of our success all season, and it showed tonight as well,” Stamkos said.

Paquette’s goal was particularly uplifting for the Bolts, considering the 21-year-old went over three months without a goal (Feb. 15 to April 27) over the final third of the regular season and had only scored once previously in the 2015 Playoffs (Game 6 vs. Detroit).

Paquette has received much praise from Cooper and the national media on the job he’s done defensively matching up against Chicago’s Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.

On Saturday, Paquette added a much-needed offensive spark to his game.

“He may not have huge point totals, but he’s done so many good things for us, it’s part of the reason, a piece of the puzzle why we’re here,” Cooper said. “He’s been giving an assignment, and he’s been doing one heck of a job. I was really thrilled when he scored tonight. You could just tell how excited he was. It was just a weight off his shoulders that we were going to get some secondary scoring from some of these guys and then help out on the defensive end.”

Garrison’s goal was the seventh by a Lightning defensemen in the 2015 Playoffs.

The Lightning will need continued scoring from unlikely sources vs. Chicago to take some of the pressure off their main offensive threats.

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