This game packed a lot into 60 minutes – lead changes, momentum swings, wide-open chances, a goalie switch and a key power play goal in the third period. In addition to all those components, it was an exciting, entertaining contest. This series pits two fast, dynamic teams – and for much of the night, fans at Amalie Arena were treated to some fast, dynamic hockey.
The ‘Hawks vowed to have a better start than they did in Game One. They did. But the Lightning also played well in the first. The result was a period in which both teams generated scoring chances and had good shifts in the offensive zone. The only goal of the period came from Cedric Paquette, who had an initial shot from the high slot blocked. But Ryan Callahan forced the rebound back to Paquette. Paquette faked a shot, which allowed him to sidestep Brandon Saad, and walked to the right circle. He wristed a shot past a screened Corey Crawford, giving the Lightning a 1-0 lead.
There were a couple of gut check moments in this game for the Lightning. One of them came early in the second after the ‘Hawks netted two quick goals to take a 2-1 lead. But only one minute and thirty-two seconds after falling behind, the Lightning tied the score. Nikita Kucherov tipped a Jason Garrison wrist shot past Crawford. The Bolts retook the lead when Tyler Johnson forced a shot from the side of the net off Crawford and in.
Up 3-2 entering the third, the Lightning endured another tough moment. Brent Seabrook tied the game at 3:38. It was the second straight game in the series in which the Bolts had surrendered a third period lead. But unlike Game One, the Lightning pushed back. They drew back-to-back penalties on Patrick Sharp and converted on the second one. Garrison fired a shot from the center point off the stick of Andrew Desjardins. The puck fluttered past Crawford’s glove side.
Twice in the third period, Andrei Vasilevskiy replaced Ben Bishop , who left the game for good after his second departure. At that point, the Lightning had their 4-3 lead. Vasilevskiy made five saves down the stretch, including a couple during a late third period penalty kill. The Lightning also got through a dicey sequence in which they iced the puck right after the penalty kill and were stuck with three defensemen on the ice. But the defended well after the ‘Hawks pulled Crawford and reached the finish line to even the series.
Here are some takeaways from this game …
-Much was made of how the Lightning needed more offense from their bottom two lines. The unit of Paquette, Callahan and J.T. Brown was outstanding in this game in all aspects. They again defended the Jonathan Toews line and when they were on the ice against the Toews line, they limited the chances for that line. They also forechecked effectively and generated several scoring chances. And of course, Paquette scored the goal in the first period.
-Jonathan Drouin made his Stanley Cup Final debut on a line with Brian Boyle and Brenden Morrow and that unit made an impact, especially early in the game. Drouin put a couple of dangerous shots on net.
-After much press about how the Triplets were “struggling” in the past few games – and how the ‘Hawks kept them quiet in Game One (they combined for two shots on net), the line produced two goals. Johnson, Kucherov and Palat all finished the night with a plus two rating.
-The ‘Hawks, as much as they could as the road trip, tried to get their Toews line out against a pair other than Victor Hedman and Anton Stralman. Sometimes it worked, if they could work a line change on the fly. But most of the night, Hedman and Stralman played against Chicago’s top unit and the two D has a terrific night. Hedman played nearly 26 minutes and Stralman over 24. Toews’ line was kept off the scoresheet when Hedman and Stralman were on the ice.
-As mentioned earlier, the Lightning could have unraveled after Chicago stormed to a 2-1 lead in the second period or when the ‘Hawks tied the game early in the third. But both times, the Lightning pushed back and scored the next goal.
-Third period shots were 10-2 in favor of the ‘Hawks, but this third period unfolded very differently than the third period of Game One. On Wednesday, the ‘Hawks had the puck most of the period and the Lightning helped that cause with shaky puck management. Tonight, the Lightning’s puck management in the third was much better. Even though they only managed two shots on net, eight others were blocked or missed the net, so they had some offensive zone looks. So while the shots may have been lopsided, flow of play wasn’t. Unlike Game One, Chicago didn’t have many long, extended offensive zone shifts in the third. In other words, the Lightning didn’t “sit back” after they retook the lead in the third.
-It’s unclear what happened to Ben Bishop, but Andrei Vasilevskiy deserves much credit for coming into the game when he did and helped steer this one across the finish line.
In three of their four series this year, the Lightning have dropped Game One. In each instance, they rebounded with a Game Two victory. And they improved to 8-1 in the playoffs in games following a loss.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
Garrison’s PPG in the third.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
1.Victor Hedman – Lightning. Two assists. Team-high 25:51 TOI.
2.Cedric Paquette – Lightning. Goal.
3.Jason Garrison – Lightning. GWG, assist.