Before this game, both clubs spoke about using this game as a measuring stick. The Hawks, which had won just four of their previous 10 games, wanted to see how they fared against the Bolts, who came into the game tied with Anaheim for the most points in the league. The Lightning viewed this game as a challenge because the Hawks are one of the elite teams in the NHL, having won the Stanley Cup twice in the last five seasons. The Bolts also remembered last year’s game in Chicago, a contest in which they were decisively outplayed, yet thanks to Ben Bishop, stole a 3-2 shootout win.
Based on what occurred in the first period, the Lightning didn’t measure up well against the Hawks. They were dominated from the opening faceoff. In last year’s game at the United Center, the Lightning didn’t register even one shot during the first period. In this game, they scored on their first shot, when Cedric Paquette finished a two-on-one shorthanded rush with Ondrej Palat. But that was the lone offensive highlight for the Lightning, who surrendered a season-high 19 shots in the frame. In terms of Chicago’s scoring chances, this first period was even more lopsided than last year’s. Fortunately, like last year, Bishop was on his game. He stopped all 19 Chicago shots, including at least half a dozen glorious scoring opportunities. Thanks to Bishop, the Lightning emerged from the first period actually ahead, 1-0.
The Lightning regrouped and played better in the second. They started moving the puck out of their own zone more effectively and spending more time in the Chicago end. But they still coughed up some scoring chances – Kris Versteeg and Patrick Kane teamed up on a two-on-one, which Bishop stopped. Then, after the save, with the puck resting precariously close to the goal line, Valtteri Filppula swept it away to the corner. The Bolts gave up another two-on-one later in the frame, but Jonathan Toews missed the net.
Chicago tied it moments after a Lightning penalty expired. Bishop was unable to stop Brad Richards’ rebound chance because Versteeg ran him over. But the officials allowed the goal, ruling that the Bishop contact resulted from an Anton Stralman push of Versteeg.
The Lightning finally hit their stride in the third – and it happened after Marcus Kruger gave the home side a 2-1 lead early in the period. For the first time in the game, the Lightning came at Chicago in waves. Consecutive Tampa Bay power play chances after the Kruger goal didn’t yield a tying marker, but those power plays did give the Lightning some momentum. Then, as the period approached the halfway point, the Lightning tied the score. Jason Garrison cranked a point shot toward the net. Johnny Oduya blocked it, but was injured in the process. Even though the puck came out of the Chicago end, Oduya was not able to get off the ice. When the Bolts brought it back in, they were able to capitalize. They worked hard to keep the puck in the zone, tiring out the Chicago players and preventing the ailing Oduya from getting to the bench. Each time a Chicago player had the puck, the Lightning took it back. Eventually, from behind the net, Jonathan Drouin deftly blocked a clearing attempt from Brent Seabrook and fed Steven Stamkos at the side of the net. Stamkos wired a cross-ice pass to Nikita Kucherov at the other post and Kucherov one-timed it in to tie the score.
Bishop wasn’t done making key saves. He preserved the tie when he stopped Toews on a breakaway during a four-on-four later in the period. But as a whole, the Lightning outplayed Chicago in the third – it was a strong finish to the game.
Overtime didn’t produce a winner and Kane netted the only goal in the shootout. Still, the Lightning earned another point, banking five out of six on the road trip.
So while the team’s first period performance was awful, there were several positives to take out of this game. The penalty kill rebounded well after a tough weekend, killing off all six Chicago power plays. Also, this was as physical a game as the Lightning have played all year. They were determined to take the body on the Hawks. The physical play didn’t help them in the first, but it certainly played in role later on when they began dictating the action. Their third period performance showed that the Bolts can go toe-to-toe with the Hawks. And finally, Bishop produced another big-game, big-time performance.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game:
Kucherov’s third period goal, which tied the score at two and helped the Lightning earn one point.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game:
1.Ben Bishop – Lightning. 37 saves.
2.Jonathan Toews – Blackhawks. Dangerous all night. If not for Bishop, would have had at least two goals.
3.Patrick Kane – Blackhawks. GWG in SO.