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Lightning win Game 3, take 2-1 lead on Blackhawks

by Corey Masisak

CHICAGO -- For much of the past seven years, the Chicago Blackhawks have been the team with the star players who made the crucial play in a big game more than any other in the NHL.

The Tampa Bay Lightning might be inexperienced at this level, but they have young stars who want to prove they can do the same.

Victor Hedman was that player Monday. The 24-year-old defenseman set up a pair of goals with highlight-reel passes in a 3-2 Lightning win against the Blackhawks in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final at United Center.

Cedric Paquette scored the game-winner on a pass from Hedman with 3:11 remaining in the third period.

The Lightning lead the best-of-7 series 2-1 with Game 4 here on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

"I just asked him right now when I saw him after the game: 'How do you find those plays, man?' I don't know. I mean, he's a tremendous player," Lightning defenseman Anton Stralman said. "He kind of just shook it off. I have to ask him again."

Tampa Bay won despite goalie Ben Bishop being questionable for the game because of an undisclosed issue. After two days of coach Jon Cooper and Bishop being coy about his status, Bishop made 18 first-period saves, 36 total, to put the Lightning two wins from the Stanley Cup.

Bishop did not attempt to play the puck as much as his typically does and looked slow to get up at times.

"We're not going to put anybody in a game that is going to be in harm's way of hurting himself," Cooper said. "We talked long and hard if he could play tonight. There wasn't a doubt in his eyes. You can read when guys are sitting there saying, 'Coach, I'll go for you.' Or you can say, 'Give me the net.' That kid said, 'Give me the net.' I knew we were going to be OK."

Cooper afterward again refused to reveal what is bothering Bishop.

"We'll have to wait till whenever this series ends for that," he said. "Sorry."

The Blackhawks were left smarting about missed chances in the first period and mistakes in the final two. They took the lead in the third period and lost it before some fans sat down from celebrating.

The final minutes of a tie game have so often been Chicago's time to secure victory, but not Monday.

"It's frustrating," Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said. "A lot of things we did today gave us the feeling we were going to come out on top with the effort we gave. It was just a couple of little bad habits that ended up hurting us."

On the winning goal, Hedman collected a pass from Ryan Callahan and skated into the Chicago zone toward the left corner before sending a perfect centering feed to Paquette, who redirected it from the slot for his second goal in two games and third of the playoffs. Hedman has 13 assists this postseason, second at his position behind Chicago's Duncan Keith (17).

"Victor Hedman, what he's doing, I mean, this is clearly his coming-out party," Cooper said. "He sets that [first] one up and then makes a big-time play on the winner. He was a monster out there tonight."

The Lightning controlled the first five minutes of the opening period, and Callahan gave Tampa Bay a 1-0 lead at 5:09. Hedman had the puck behind his net and sent a diagonal pass to Callahan at the far blue line.

Callahan got behind Chicago defenseman Johnny Oduya, who had slipped a second earlier, and took a slap shot from the top of the right circle into the top right corner of the net past Corey Crawford. It was Callahan's second goal of the 2015 playoffs.

"We were pressured in the zone a little bit and trying to calm the play down," Hedman said. "I wasn't going to give it to him. I saw their D-man fell. Tried to put it there. [Ryan] made a good catch on his backhand. It was a hell of a shot. That was obviously a big goal. We probably got a little lucky that their D-man went down.

"I was tired, to be honest. They pressured us pretty good there in the first period like everyone saw. [That we] came out from that period 1-1 was obviously huge for us. [Bishop] stood on his head there. I think we responded well and played well the last 40 minutes."

After falling behind, the Blackhawks dominated the first period. Chicago had a 25-2 advantage in shot attempts after the goal before Tampa Bay had three in the final moments. The Blackhawks finished the period with a 30-11 advantage and a 19-7 lead in shots on goal.

Brad Richards scored on a power play at 14:22 to make it 1-1. One of Chicago's best-executed power plays of the postseason yielded some great chances, and it was a simple shot from the top of the zone from Richards with a screen by Andrew Shaw that beat Bishop.

It was the third goal of the postseason and first of this series for Richards, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy with the Lightning in 2004.

"It would have been nice to get more than one," Richards said. "You can always look back at stuff, but we did a lot of good things in the first. Sometimes you can't predict if they are going to go in or not, but we did what we wanted. The second period was probably where we lost a little bit of momentum in the game."

Brandon Saad gave the Blackhawks a 2-1 lead 4:14 into the third period. Marian Hossa slipped a pass from the left circle to Saad, who took a one-timer from the slot while going down to one knee. It was Saad's seventh goal of the postseason.

The Lightning tied the game 2-2 while Saad's goal was being announced. Chicago won the faceoff, but Tampa Bay quickly gained possession in the neutral zone when defenseman Matt Carle poked the puck to Tyler Johnson. He got it to Nikita Kucherov, who swopped into the zone on the right wing and sent the puck toward the net.

Ondrej Palat was there to punch it across the goal line at 4:27 when Crawford failed to cover it. It was Palat's eighth goal of this postseason, and the 31st by a member of "The Triplets" line.

The Blackhawks fell behind the Boston Bruins 2-1 in the 2013 Stanley Cup Final before winning three straight for their second championship in four seasons.

Chicago is 16-1 in games after a series is 2-2 in the past seven years. To get this one there, the Blackhawks are going to have to find an answer for Hedman, who has four points in the past two games.

"Victor, he's just blossomed the last couple years," Cooper said. "I think everything starts with him defending. He doesn't spend a bunch of time in his own zone. I think just the way we play the game and our structure is kind of tailor-made for him. He's got pretty much free rein with me. He's got my trust. Just the plays he makes, it's fun to watch. He's a fun player to watch. He's really grown into that role.

"It took him a few years, but Victor Hedman's arrived."

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