BOLTS OPEN ROAD TRIP, DROP 5-1 DECISION TO HAWKS
CHICAGO – Beginning a two-game road trip the Tampa Bay Lightning faced off against the Chicago Blackhawks for the first time in nearly two years. Many faces have changed on the Blackhawks roster since the clubs last met, including the additions of rookie Patrick Kane and forward Martin Havlat.
In the clubs’ first match-up at Chicago since March, 2004, the Lightning dropped a 5-1 decision as the Blackhawks skated to their fourth consecutive home victory on the power of multi-point nights by Havlat and Kane. Havlat scored twice for Chicago and Kane added two assists, while Nick Tarnasky scored the lone goal for Tampa Bay.
Opening the scoring 43 seconds into the contest, Havlat and Jason Williams skated into Chicago’s offensive zone on an odd-man rush. Williams made a pass across the high slot to Havlat who backhanded the puck to the left glove side of Johan Holmqvist.
Moments later Jason Ward intercepted a pass in the neutral zone to send Chris Gratton and Mathieu Darche ahead on a 2-on-1 break. After a pass by Gratton was blocked, the Lightning center flicked a backhanded shot on netminder Nikolai Khabibulin but saw the puck stopped on the play.
At 5:31 of the period Chicago built a two-goal lead on Dustin Byfuglien’s third goal of the season. The rebound from a shot by Kane at the right faceoff circle bounced out to the left of Holmqvist where Byfuglien put the puck into the open side of the net for the score. The Blackhawks further extended their lead early in the second period when Havlat connected for his second goal of the night off a faceoff win to the right of Holmqvist.
Shortly after Andre Roy and David Koci exchanged a handful of punches 2:19 into the second, Holmqvist denied Havlat his third goal of the night on a Chicago power play. Havlat fired a wrist shot from the slot but Holmqvist caught the shot in the chest to make the save.
Tampa Bay had a number of chances to connect on Khabibulin through the period but were unable to find the back of the net. Doug Janik tried to bang in a rebound at the side of the net following a Vaclav Prospal shot from the left faceoff circle, before Khabibulin held on for a save by Filip Kuba from the top of the slot.
With the man advantage Vincent Lecavalier
carried the puck to the right faceoff circle from behind the net, snapping a shot that Khabibulin stopped with a glove save. Brad Richards added a hard shot from the same area of the ice but was held off by the Blackhawks netminder.
Minutes later the Lightning skated towards Khabibulin on a 3-on-2 rush, with Martin St. Louis
looking for a pass to Richards and the forwards broke into the zone. St. Louis passed back to defenseman Shane O’Brien who fired a hard one-timer from the top of the slot, but Khabibulin put out his left pad for the save before covering the rebound.
Converting their third power play of the night, Chicago opened the third period with a goal by Patrick Sharp. Jonathan Toews threaded a pass across the zone to Sharp for his team-leading 12th goal of the season as goaltender Marc Denis replaced Holmqvist between the pipes.
Notching his first goal of the season, Tarnasky connected with the man advantage for Tampa Bay to wipe out Khabibulin’s shutout bid. After Paul Ranger faked a slap shot from the point, he fired a wrist shot towards the Chicago net where Tarnasky banged in the rebound to the right of Khabibulin.
Less than one minute later Jonathan Toews added his ninth of the season to close out the scoring in the contest, although both teams posted strong chances late in the period.
After Ranger forced a turnover, forward Jan Hlavac rang a shot off the cross bar before Denis responded with a big glove save on an odd-man rush with Kane and Sharp. Holmqvist was credited with the decision in the contest.
The game marked only the fifth time through 24 games that Lecavalier has been held off the scoresheet this season.
Tampa Bay continues their two-game road trip on Thursday, November 29 (7:30p.m., Sun Sports, 620 WDAE) when they face off against the Detroit Red Wings. The contest is the lone meeting scheduled between the clubs this season.
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