CHICAGO – Jon Cooper was happy with the two points his Tampa Bay Lightning earned on Saturday night at United Center, but the first-year coach didn’t gloss over the obvious.
His team was dominated for most of regulation in a 3-2 shootout win against the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks, but managed to come out on top despite not logging a shot in the first period and getting outshot 39-16 overall.
“Snuck out with a win,” he said, smiling sheepishly. “I was looking for the police when we left the locker room, because I thought we’d get arrested for stealing. I think we stole two points.”
If that had been the case, then Chicago police would’ve needed a very large set of handcuffs for 6-foot-7, 214-pound Tampa Bay goalie Ben Bishop, who made 37 saves and didn’t wilt despite several intense flurries late in the third with the Blackhawks on the power play.
Bishop got caught out of his net on the second goal he allowed – scored by Brandon Saad off an odd bounce to cap a power play in the second period – but wasn’t beaten again, including overtime and the three-round shootout.
“[Bishop] gave us a chance to fight back,” Lightning star veteran Marty St. Louis said, after picking up his first goal and assist of the season. “That’s what he did. And we did. We didn’t play a very good first period. They overwhelmed us, I think, with their speed and their puck possession. I thought we got a bit better in the second and because of the play of [Bishop], we were able to be only two goals away going into the third.”
Chicago (1-0-1) was in complete control for about 50 minutes, taking a 2-0 lead into the third on goals by Patrick Kane and Saad, who each scored for the second game in a row to start the season. It just wasn’t enough to polish off the Lightning (1-1-0), who didn’t force Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford (14 saves) to make a stop until 21:21 into the game.
Tampa Bay eventually fought back with two goals scored within two minutes of each other midway through the third to force overtime and eventually the shootout. In the breakaways, Valtteri Filppula’s goal in the opening round was the difference, thanks to three stops by Bishop against Blackhawks stars Jonathan Toews, Kane and Marian Hossa.
Understandably, the Blackhawks left the arena feeling empty, despite earning a point in the standings. They converted just one of five power plays into goals and the penalty kill – which was outstanding a year ago – gave up the game-tying goal in the third after allowing three goals on six power plays against the Washington Capitals in the season-opener.
“It’s tough to comment on [the penalty kill],” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “It didn’t even get through 30 seconds … before it went in the net. So, it’s a tough start right now on the PK.”
Chicago now has another three-day off period before playing its first road game on Wednesday against the St. Louis Blues. Saturday night, a different St. Louis gave the Blackhawks trouble – the speedy 38-year old, 5-foot-8 kind who’s one of the Lightning’s only veterans.
After watching his team get outplayed, St. Louis finally got Tampa Bay going by backhanding a rebound past Crawford at 10:08 of the third to make it 2-1. He then set up the tying goal by Teddy Purcell, who capped a power play with his first goal of the new season by firing a shot past Crawford from the right circle.
Prior to his pass to Purcell, St. Louis knocked down a puck coming hard and high around the glass after a missed shot by Steven Stamkos, who picked up the secondary assist.
“I’ll take an assist on that one any day,” Stamkos said. “That puck was three feet in the air and Marty just stuck his stick out. He’s got great hand-eye coordination, so that doesn’t surprise us. We see that a lot in practice. Gutsy win by us.”
That’s one way to describe it. Cooper had another way.
“There’s a reason they’re the Stanley Cup champs and they showed us for most of the game why they’re the best team in the League,” he said of the Blackhawks. “Again, you sit here and give our guys credit. We needed Ben Bishop to stand tall if we had any chance of coming back, and he did. We just hung around.”
As for being held without a shot in the first period, it did match the franchise-record low. It was the third time in franchise history the Lightning failed to record a shot on goal in a period, also doing it twice in 1999, in a 4-2 win against the Philadelphia Flyers on Nov. 11 and again 10 days later in a 3-1 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes.
“I think we knew it all the time,” Filppula said. “It doesn’t take much to look up and see that we have no shots. I didn’t think it was as bad as the stat looked, but obviously we need to get pucks to the net more.”
It was just the second time Chicago had ever held a team without a shot for an entire period, with the only other time happening on Dec. 4, 1946 against the Detroit Red Wings. This time, the Blackhawks blocked eight of nine pucks the Lightning sent toward the goal in the first, with St. Louis missing the net on the other.
Still, after losing the game it didn't seem quite as memorable.
"That means we’re playing well defensively, but at the same time we’re not playing to win periods ... we’re playing to win games," Chicago forward Ben Smith said. "We were up 2-0. It’s a little disappointing to come away with only one point."