What a night at Amalie Arena. In perhaps their most thrilling victory of the season, the Lightning rallied from a 4-1 second period deficit to defeat the top team in the Western Conference. The crucial victory kept the Lightning's playoff hopes very much alive, as the Bolts moved to within a point of Boston for the second Wildcard spot.
The Lightning had the poor fortune to catch the 'Hawks the game after Chicago had suffered its worst defeat of the season, a 7-0 shellacking in Sunrise against the Panthers on Saturday. The Blackhawks were looking to bounce back after that poor performance and, not surprisingly, they came out flying in the first period. Artemi Panarin opened the scoring at 1:23 and the first period ended with Chicago leading, 3-1.
While the 'Hawks did create some dangerous looks in the offensive zone during that first period (and capitalized on three of them), the Lightning also had their share of opportunities to score in the first. The problem for the Bolts was that a number of their best chances missed the net. Still, they showed even early in this game that they were able to create problems for the 'Hawks in the Chicago defensive zone. That Lightning pressure was reflected in the first period shot attempts - the Lightning had 24 and Chicago just 15. But the 'Hawks put 11 of those shots on net while the Bolts had only nine shots on goal. And based on how well they zipped the puck around the ice, it was clear from the onset that Chicago's top offensive players were on their game.
In the first half of the second period, the Lightning struggled to maintain any sustained segments of puck possession. Just shy of the halfway point, the 'Hawks enjoyed a long, offensive zone shift that culminated in a goal for Richard Panik, who finished his own rebound.
Up 4-1 with 30 minutes to play, the Blackhawks appeared to be in complete control. But the complexion of the game was about to turn on a dime. The second half of the second period belonged to the Lightning - it was one of their most dominant stretches of play this season. Their forecheck was relentless and repeatedly forced turnovers deep in the Chicago end. Off the rush, the Lightning's team speed put the 'Hawks back on their heels. And the Lightning were trigger-happy, shooting pucks toward the Chicago net whenever they had a chance. The Jonathan Drouin goal to make it 4-2, a redirection of an Alex Killorn pass at 11:45, sparked the Lightning. It was the first of three goals in a span of 3:39. But truly, the Lightning could have scored more than three goals during this stretch of the game. The best of those close calls came from the line of Yanni Gourde, Adam Erne and Joel Vermin. They had a dominant shift that almost yielded a goal, but Scott Darling made a handful of key saves during that sequence to keep them off the board. Still, thanks to their strong second period finish, the Lightning outshot the 'Hawks, 14-10, in the frame and owned a 33-15 shot attempt advantage. And most importantly, they had erased the three-goal deficit.
The third period was a different story, however. The Blackhawks pushed back hard, particularly in the first half of the frame. The Lightning were forced to spend much of that time defending in their own zone. Andrei Vasilevskiy had been pulled after the third Chicago goal but then was reinserted into the game at the start of the second period. About eight minutes into the third, he made a crucial save on a Patrick Kane breakaway to keep the game tied at four. In the second half of the period, the Lightning tightened things up in the neutral zone and weren't back on their heels as much as earlier in the third. So despite managing just three shots on goal in the period, the Lightning handled the closing 10 minutes of regulation well and minimized any dangerous chances against.
In overtime, the Lightning controlled most of the puck possession. They managed the puck well when they had it. When Chicago had possession, the Lightning defended aggressively to force turnovers. One of those fine defensive plays led to the winning goal. Victor Hedman poked the puck off Panarin's stick in the neutral zone and Gourde was able to counter on a partial breakaway. Gourde wristed his shot past Darling's glove to cap off the win.
The Lightning don't play again until Thursday, when Detroit visits. That game will kick off a stretch in which the Lightning play their final seven games over an 11-day span.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
Vasilevskiy's third period save on Kane.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
- Yanni Gourde - Lightning. GWG in OT.
- Jonathan Drouin - Lightning. Two goals.
- Duncan Keith - Blackhawks. Assist.