For two-and-a-half periods, the Chicago Blackhawks defense was its usual stellar and stymieing self. But for two critical minutes, the Tampa Bay Lightning got the breaks – and goals – that were so elusive to them through the first 50 minutes.
Patrick Kane and Brandon Saad each scored their second goal in as many games, but the Lightning scored twice in the third and Valtteri Filppula had the shootout winner in a 3-2 decision over the Blackhawks . The Blackhawks have points in their first two games out of the gate, but they were a tad frustrated in leaving that extra point on the table.
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But some nights you just have to tip your hat to the opposing goalie, and it’s arguable that’s the case for Saturday night. Getting a shot on Tampa Bay goaltender Ben Bishop was easy. Getting one past him, not so much. Bishop was masterful in stopping 37-of-39 through regulation and overtime, as well as all three Blackhawks shootout attempts.
Smith played against Bishop when the two were in college, and in the American League, and he knows how tough the 6-foot-7 goaltender can be.
“He’s done well and played a great game tonight,” Smith said. “Those big, long legs, a lot of pucks hit him.”
While Smith said the Blackhawks had a lull during the Lightning’s comeback, Coach Joel Quenneville didn’t quite agree.
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“I didn’t mind the way we played. It’s one of those games where they had a goalie win out of the game,” Quenneville said. “We did what we wanted to do most of the night. When we play like that, we’ll find a way to get two points. Sometimes you get a goalie win on the other side and you don’t get a point, so that’s the positive we’ll take out of it. But we certainly did what we were looking to do tonight.”
Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said his team stole one in Chicago.
“Let’s call a spade a spade: 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. “We needed Ben Bishop to stand tall if we had any chance of coming back and he did. We just hung around. You get one and then we were opportunistic on our power play and snuck out with a win. I was looking for the police when we left the locker room because I thought we’d get arrested for stealing.”
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Steven Stamkos had two assists for the Lightning. Corey Crawford, who didn’t see a shot on goal until early in the second period, allowed two on 16 shots.
Indeed, the Blackhawks did a lot of things right, from dictating the tempo to firing at well on Bishop to blanking the Lightning on shots on goal in the first period. It was the first time since Dec. 4, 1946 (against Detroit) that the Blackhawks didn’t allow a shot on goal in a period.
On the other side, the Blackhawks were suffocating in their offensive attack. Kane cleaned up when the Blackhawks had traffic around Bishop 59 seconds into the second period for a 1-0 lead. Then Saad capitalized when Bishop went behind the net to play the puck, but the puck took a weird carom and slid in front of the net for, essentially, an empty-net power-play goal and a 2-0 lead.
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But the Lightning, few shots and all, weren’t done. Not long after winning a faceoff, the Bolts broke through when Martin St. Louis tallied his first of the season. Then Teddy Purcell scored 31 seconds into a power play against a Blackhawks penalty kill that’s suddenly looking very vulnerable.
The Blackhawks did a lot of things right, indeed. The penalty kill didn’t show well in its one chance, but otherwise the Blackhawks were cultivating opportunities and controlling the pace. Still, the Blackhawks would’ve liked to collect that second point – if only they could’ve found that third goal.
“We had quite a bit of chances,” Saad said. “It was a tough loss, for sure. There are a lot of great goaltenders in the league, but we have to stick with it and keep battling. Unfortunately, it didn’t go in enough for us tonight.”