CHICAGO - Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane came up empty-handed for the Chicago Blackhawks. Marian Hossa missed a wide open net, too, against a goalie who looked like he was having trouble moving.
It all added up to a 3-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup finals and one big missed opportunity for the Blackhawks.
"It's frustrating," Toews said. "A lot of the things that we did today gave us the feeling we were going to come out on top."
An ailing Ben Bishop stood his ground in goal and Cedric Paquette scored in the closing minutes to give Tampa Bay the victory and a 2-1 lead in the series.
Chicago outshot the Lightning 38-32, but couldn't solve Bishop. And just when the United Center crowd was getting ready for overtime, Paquette netted the game-winner on a beautiful pass from defenceman Victor Hedman at 16:49.
The Blackhawks trail 2-1 in the series and will once again have to rely on the resolve that has carried them to two Stanley Cups since 2010 after they let a game that seemed to be theirs for the taking slip away. Game 4 is at the United Center on Wednesday.
The Blackhawks were playing at home after splitting the first two games on the road and facing a goalie whose status was in question after he left the previous game. A 19-7 edge in shots in the first period resulted in only one goal, with Hossa missing a wide open net and Teuvo Teravainen failing to convert another chance not long after that.
As frustrating as those missed opportunities were, the lack of scoring from Toews and Kane also stood out.
The two superstars have combined for just one point in the series, an assist by Toews. Kane at least had three shots on goal after failing to register one in Game 2.
But neither scored even though Bishop was clearly not at full strength.
"We could see that. He's fighting just like anyone else is in this series," Toews said.
The Blackhawks took a 2-1 lead at 4:14 of the third period when Brandon Saad fired in a one-timer from the slot off a pass from Hossa in the left point for his seventh goal of the post-season. But Tampa Bay's Ondrej Palat tied it just 13 seconds later when he knocked a loose puck past Chicago goalie Corey Crawford's glove.
The big question coming in was whether Bishop would be in goal for the Lightning after he left Game 2 in the third period, returned for a brief stretch and exited for good.
Tampa Bay was tight-lipped about his ailment. The Lightning even had third-string goalie Kristers Gudlevskis ride the bus to the arena. But Bishop, Tampa Bay's single-season victories record-holder, was in the lineup instead of Andrei Vasilevskiy.
He seemed to be struggling to move in net and found himself face down on the ice after Saad got pushed into him and hit him in the face with his left hand late in the second period. In the end, he was up for the task ??? especially in the opening period. Tampa Bay went more than 13 minutes without a shot at one point, but Chicago simply could not convert.
Hossa let a huge chance slip away, missing a wide open net after an awkward deflection took Bishop out of position. Hossa got tripped by Tampa Bay's Braydon Coburn and the shot went wide. Then, Teravainen just missed another open net.
The Blackhawks finally caught a break and tied it at 1-1 on a power play goal at 14:22 by Brad Richards, whose shot from the blue line deflected off Bishop's glove.
"I liked their first period," coach Joel Quenneville said. "We had two empty nets and didn't capitalize on either one. We still had 1-1. Scored a big power play goal, got some excitement. The crowd was there. I thought we had a good first, they had a good second. Third was even. Tough loss."