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Blackhawks defeat Lightning, can win Cup at home

by Corey Masisak

TAMPA -- Antoine Vermette wasn't the highest-profile addition before the 2015 NHL Trade Deadline, but he has proven to be one of the most valuable.

Vermette scored two minutes in the third period to give the Chicago Blackhawks a 2-1 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 5 of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final at Amalie Arena on Saturday.

The Blackhawks lead the best-of-7 series 3-2 and can win the Stanley Cup for the third time in six seasons in Game 6 at United Center on Monday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports).

"Right off the get-go, [this] was a great opportunity for me. I want to make the best out of it," Vermette said. "This is a good group, obviously a special team. I'm glad I'm here to try to help the team. This is all fun right now, but there's a lot of work still ahead."

Tampa Bay goaltender Ben Bishop returned after missing Game 4 with an undisclosed injury and made 27 saves.

Chicago has not won the Stanley Cup in a home game since 1938, against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

"I'm sure it will be crazy over the next two days in town," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "The buzz will be off the charts. [Looking] forward to it."

Game 7 would be here Wednesday, if necessary.

The teams have played 15 periods in this series and neither has held a two-goal lead. Each game has been tied in the third period.

The Lightning have lost 2-1 three times and face losing a series in Game 6 for the second time this postseason. They will play their 26th playoff game, which ties an NHL record set by the Los Angeles Kings last year.

"You can see how close these two teams are," Lightning forward Ryan Callahan said. "They're a very good team over there, and we still feel really good about ourselves. The margin for error is so small in these games. That's the type of hockey you expect at this time of year."

The Blackhawks are 17-1 in games played in a series after it is tied 2-2 since Quenneville arrived during the 2008-09 season. They are 42-14 in any series after Game 3.

"The bigger the game, the bigger the setting, they're excited about the challenge," Quenneville said.

The Blackhawks paid a steep price for Vermette, a pending unrestricted free agent. Chicago traded a first-round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft and defense prospect Klas Dahlbeck to the Arizona Coyotes for Vermette.

Vermette's goal was his fourth of the playoffs, second in this series. He did not score in 19 games with Chicago during the regular season but has three game-winning goals this postseason, including Game 1 of this series and in the second overtime of Game 4 in the Western Conference Final against the Anaheim Ducks.

Kris Versteeg broke in behind the Lightning defense, but Jason Garrison was able to lift Versteeg's stick on his first attempt. Versteeg's second effort from near the goal line got the puck to the net, and Vermette scored on the rebound.

"I read it somewhere that their coach in [Arizona] said in big games, [Vermette] comes up big, and it's definitely what he's been doing for us here," Chicago defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson said. "He's a guy that's great in faceoffs and extremely nice guy off the ice too. He's a great addition to the locker room and … always plays as hard as he can out there. A lot of veteran presence."

The slim margins in this series were evident in the opening minutes of this game. Chicago goaltender Corey Crawford gave away the puck to the left of his net, but Tampa Bay Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov not only did not score, he fell into the left post and did not play the rest of the game.

Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper did not provide an update on Kucherov's status afterward.

A similar blunder at the other end of the ice resulted in the first goal.

Bishop came out of his net to play the puck near the top of the right circle, but he collided with defenseman Victor Hedman. They wiped out, and Patrick Sharp was left alone to skate the puck to the net and slide it into the empty goal at 6:11. It was Sharp's fifth goal of the playoffs, his first since Game 2 of the Western Conference Second Round against the Minnesota Wild.

"I was looking up ice, didn't see [Bishop] and didn't hear him," Hedman said. "Stuff like that happens, [54] minutes left in the game, stuff is going to happen."

Bishop left Game 2 twice and did not play in Game 4. After Game 4, Cooper said Bishop would play again in the series but he was not sure when. With an extra off day between Games 4 and 5, Bishop took three days off then joined his teammates for the morning skate Saturday.

Rookie backup Andrei Vasilevskiy made five saves in the final 7:41 of Game 2 for his first NHL playoff victory (4-3), then made 17 saves in a 2-1, Game 4 loss in his first Stanley Cup Playoff start. Bishop made 36 saves in a 2-1 victory in Game 3, but his mobility and willingness to play the puck appeared to be restricted.

He did not appear to have any problems in this game and said he expects to play Game 6.

"I hope so," Bishop said. "I feel better, we're making progress. I feel better than I did Monday."

Cooper said, "We're not here without [Bishop]. Aside from that one-in-a-million play that happened, I thought he was outstanding. He gave us every chance to win that game. We've got to score more than one."

Valtteri Filppula tied it 1-1 at 10:53 of the second period. Garrison found Filppula at the bottom of the right circle with a diagonal pass from near the left point for Filppula's fourth goal of the postseason.

Tampa Bay outshot Chicago 27-15 in the final two periods.

"You make your own breaks," Cooper said. "I feel bad for [us] in a sense that I think they've deserved a little bit better than what we're sitting now. The one thing, we're still alive. We're not out. This is not the press conference that says we're done. I don't know.

"I think there's happy days ahead for us. We've got to push through this."

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