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Burns: Three things we learned in Bolts shootout loss to the Blackhawks

by Bryan Burns / Tampa Bay Lightning

Tampa Bay nearly snuck out of the Madhouse on Madison with a victory and two points on Tuesday despite finding itself stuck in its own zone for most of the night and getting outshot 31-13 by Chicago through two periods.

Chicago snapped the Lightning’s six-game winning streak – tied for second highest in franchise history – when Patrick Kane scored the only goal in a shootout, giving the Blackhawks a 3-2 victory.

The Lightning capped a three-straight road games with a point in Chicago, giving them five out of six for the trip.

So, with the run over, what did we learn about Tampa Bay? Here goes:

1. When Ben Bishop faces the Blackhawks, the Bolts goalie is in for a busy night

Since joining the Lightning midway through the 2012-13 season, Tampa Bay goalie Ben Bishop has faced off three times against the Chicago Blackhawks.

In all three games, Bishop’s goal has been under heavy siege.

During his 2013-14 season debut, Bishop made 37 stops in Chicago (Oct. 5, 2013) to lead the Bolts to a 3-2 shootout victory, a win that gave Bishop considerable momentum going forward in his breakout season in Tampa Bay.

“I think it gave Bish a ton of confidence, and we kind of rode him after that,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said prior to Tuesday’s game in Chicago. “…Our season, the way it took off, a big part was because of him.”

Nineteen days later, Bishop allowed five goals but blocked 38 Chicago shots to help the Lightning outlast the Blackhawks 6-5 in an overtime win (Oct. 24, 2013).

And again on Tuesday, Bishop was called upon to make stop after stop. Bishop turned away the Blackhawks 37 times and made several big-time saves look routine. Bishop was the reason the Lightning were able to leave Chicago with a point in a game where they might not have deserved one.

“(Bishop) stood on his head,” Lightning defenseman Matt Carle said. “There were a lot of point-blank opportunities, breakaway there in the third. He’s probably our MVP most nights. Certainly without him tonight it could’ve been a way different game.”

2. Drouin to Stamkos to Kucherov sounds like a winner

Tampa Bay’s game-tying goal in the third period was a thing of beauty, and it was set up by a trio of players – Jonathan Drouin, Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov -- who could create special moments for years to come in Bolts blue and white (and starting Thursday, black).

On the play, Drouin capitalized on a break, gaining possession behind the Hawks goal after it hit the referee on Brent Seabrook’s attempt to send the puck around the boards.

Drouin skated toward the front of goal and dropped a pass back to the goal line for Stamkos, who spotted Kucherov setting up on the other side of goal. Stammer’s pass traveled through the goal crease, and Kucherov’s one timer beat Chicago goalie Corey Crawford at the near post.

Kucherov picked up his sixth goal, Drouin his seventh assist and Stamkos his 17th point, second most on the Bolts behind Tyler Johnson.

Could Stamkos-Drouin-Kucherov be a possible future line combination? Probably not this season, but, down the road?

Yowza! Imagine the scoring potential.

I’m drooling (not literally, but you get the point).

3. J.T. Brown plays much bigger than his 5-foot-10, 170-pound body would suggest

Bolts forward J.T. Brown had seen enough near the end of the second period against Chicago. The Blackhawks continually hit Bishop after the whistle. Crawford nailed Johnson in the back of the legs during the first period (with no call).

Chicago’s goal earlier in the second was somewhat controversial, Anton Stralman pushing the Hawks Kris Versteeg in front of goal, and Versteeg using the opportunity to fall into Bishop while Brad Richards slipped a shot into the net.

As Jeremy Morin jabbed his stick into Bishop’s gut during one of his 37 saves late in the second, Brown snapped. He skated over and leveled Morin with a cross-check in front of goal, Morin falling down hard on his back.

Brown earned four minutes in the penalty box for roughing, but the play served as a message to the rest of the Blackhawks: you mess with one of us, you mess with all of us.

And it seemed to spark the Bolts, who played much better in the third period and outshot the Blackhawks 11-7.

Brown has been quick to stick up for teammates all season. In Calgary, he fought Flames captain Mark Giordano (6-foot, 200 pounds) following a blindside hit on Nikita Kucherov. And there’s been several other instances where Brown was the first to react to a perceived cheap shot on one of his linemates.

Perhaps Brown’s aggressiveness is a result of his bloodlines. His father, Ted, played eight seasons in the NFL as a running back for the Minnesota Vikings. Brown still wears his father’s No. 23. 

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