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Toews gives Blackhawks win against Lightning

by Brian Hedger

CHICAGO -- Much has changed with the Chicago Blackhawks since they clinched a championship against the Tampa Bay Lightning at United Center in Game 6 of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final.

One thing remains the same: The Blackhawks make it tough for the Lightning to create offense, as shown Saturday in a 1-0 overtime victory in Tampa Bay's first visit to Chicago since the Cup Final concluded June 15.

Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews scored his first goal 17 seconds into overtime to end it.

"I don't think the pace was quite Stanley Cup Final worthy, but we knew what we had to do against that team," Toews said. "They played [Friday] night. We wanted to wear them down and find our chances late in the game. We showed the type of game we're looking for, given our new look, new group this year. If it takes one goal, we'll win that way, but I think we worked hard on the offensive side of the puck and finally got one that made the difference."

The style of play throughout the game resembled the championship series, when the Blackhawks limited the Lightning to a total of two goals in the final three games. This time, Chicago outshot Tampa Bay 32-21, had a 66-51 advantage in shot attempts, and got 21 saves from goalie Corey Crawford, who also shut out Tampa Bay in the 2-0 victory that clinched the Cup.

"It's like deja vu all over again," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "Come here and can't find the back of the net. I think we hit every post, and Crawford made the big saves when he had to. It's frustrating, but we're on a pretty tough road trip here, going through the Central Division, and we've [earned a point] in every game. So, we'll take that as a positive."

Tampa Bay (5-2-2) has played the first three games in a stretch of five against teams from the Central Division, with the first four on the road. The Lightning are 1-0-2 in those games and will conclude their road trip at the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday.

Rookie goalie Kristers Gudlevskis, in his second NHL regular-season start, made 31 saves for Tampa Bay.

"I thought Gudlevskis was the best player on the ice for us tonight," Cooper said. "You've got to commend the poor kid. He was fantastic out there. Their guy [Toews] made a big-time play, and it's a big second-effort goal, so you've got to tip your hat to him."

Gudlevskis' only prior NHL regular-season experience was when he started and got the win in a 3-2 victory against the Columbus Blue Jackets on April 11, 2014. He made two appearances (one start) against the Montreal Canadiens in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

He was recalled from Syracuse of the American Hockey League, where he was 2-0-0 with a 2.00 goals-against average and .930 save percentage, on Saturday

Toews scored off his rebound after getting a pass in the neutral zone and splitting two Tampa Bay defenders in the right faceoff circle for the initial shot. It rewarded the Blackhawks for another strong defensive game without top defenseman Duncan Keith, who had surgery Tuesday to repair a meniscal tear in his right knee.

Chicago has won its first two games without Keith and killed four power plays against the Lightning.

"We're playing strong defense, but we're getting the puck back pretty quick, and then we're going on offense," Crawford said. "I think that's a key part of it too. Our [defensemen] are getting it back, skating and moving it quick to our forwards. When you have the puck, that's going to be good defense."

Gudlevskis led the defensive effort for the Lightning, who were outshot 23-12 through the final two periods and overtime.

Two of his best saves happened in the first period; he made a pad save off a hard wrist shot by Toews at 8:39 and quickly sealed off the left post to stop a rebound attempt by defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk at 8:43. Gudlevskis stopped Patrick Kane on a breakaway in the second.

Crawford countered with a save on a one-timer by Steven Stamkos at 17:35 of the first during the second Tampa Bay power play. HE also made a diving glove save off a rebound attempt by Erik Condra with 2:34 left in the third period.

He wasn't as busy as Gudlevskis, but Crawford's play was reminiscent of what he showed in that Game 6 victory.

"It was nice to continue the shutout streak, I guess," Toews said. "We knew they were going to come out hard. Regardless of what happened last year, I think both teams are eager to prove to each other that they still think they're the best team, and we found a way to get on top tonight."

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