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Blackhawks aim to finish Lightning, win Cup at home

by Brian Hedger


TV: NBC, CBC, TVA Sports

Chicago leads best-of-7 series 3-2

CHICAGO -- The Stanley Cup will be at United Center on Monday, and the Chicago Blackhawks have an opportunity to win it on home ice for the first time since 1938 when they play the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 6 of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final.

The Blackhawks relish the opportunity to clinch the Cup in front of their fans, but they know better than to think too far ahead.

"Obviously there's a lot of buzz, a lot of excitement, a lot of things going on around the entire event," Chicago captain Jonathan Toews said Sunday. "I think we're just going to do our best as individuals to focus on our job as players and focus on the game and nothing more. None of that stuff is really going to help us achieve what we want to achieve. That's where our heads are at right now."

That's a wise outlook considering how tight the series has been. It's the second Cup Final to have each of the first five games decided by one goal and the only one without a single lead of more than a goal through the first five.

Despite Tampa Bay forward Nikita Kucherov being questionable, the Lightning are expected to put up even more resistance in Game 6 than they've already shown in the series.

"Naturally there was disappointment [after Game 5], actually a little bit of rage after the game," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "The guys were genuinely ticked off. I clearly did not want to lose that game, but walking in [the locker room], there's a difference. You want the team that's ticked off and angry or you want the team that has their heads buried in their hands? Our group was the angry group."

Cooper is pleased with the Lightning's success defensively against the high-powered Blackhawks, but he knows they need to score more if they're going to overcome the 3-2 series deficit, like they did in the Eastern Conference First Round against the Detroit Red Wings. Tampa Bay has one goal in each of the past two games, and captain Steven Stamkos, who had 43 goals in the regular season, hasn't scored in the series.

Stamkos' drought has overshadowed strong play in net by goalies Ben Bishop and Andrei Vasilevskiy, who started for Bishop in a 2-1 loss in Game 4 at Chicago.

Cooper said Bishop is feeling better after allowing two goals in Game 5.

"I thought he played an exceptional game," Cooper said. "We're sitting here giving up two goals or less a game. You can't ask for much more than that from your goaltenders. We've got to start putting a few pucks in the net."

If not, the Blackhawks might improve their already impressive record of closing out playoff series. Since 2009, Chicago is 17-1 in Games 5-7 of series that were tied 2-2 after four games, which this Cup Final was at that point.

"We get into these later games where we have the chance to play these games that are more meaningful, [and] I think that's when we play our best," Toews said. "We played a really good team game [Saturday]. We're looking to build off that. We know we have to be better in the next one [because] it's going to be equally their best game of the series as well."

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