Lightning Miss Chance to Capture Blackhawks
Stamkos Scores Hat Trick in Losing Effort
The Tampa Bay Lightning, facing one of the top teams in the Western Conference, lost to the Chicago Blackhawks by the score of 5-3 tonight at the St. Pete Times Forum.
At one point in the second period, the Lightning had built a two-goal lead over the visiting Blackhawks, behind a natural hat trick by rookie Steven Stamkos
and some outstanding saves by Tampa Bay goaltender Karri Ramo.
But the last four goals of the game, including two by forward Jonathan Toews, belonged to Chicago as they roared back in period three to secure the victory.
The Blackhawks got the early lead at 11:53 of the first period. With the teams skating 4-on-4 as both Gary Roberts for the Lightning and Troy Brouwer for the Blackhawks were in the penalty box for slashing, Chicago forward Martin Havlat zipped around the Tampa Bay defensive zone, controlling the puck until he found defenseman Keith Duncan sneaking in front of the Lightning goal. Keith redirected Havlat’s pass into the net past Ramo.
Tampa Bay got the goal back just 65 seconds later when Stamkos picked up the puck along the goal line to the left of Blackhawk netminder Cristobal Huet, after Josef Melichar’s shot went wide. Stamkos backhanded the puck over Huet’s shoulder to tie the game at 1-1. The goal was number eight on the season for Stamkos and both Melichar and Lukas Krajicek assisted.
At the close of period one, the Blackhawks were outshooting the Lightning by a 19-3 margin, but despite the dearth of shots on net by the Lightning, the scoreboard had the game even.
The onslaught of shots on net by Chicago continued in period two, but Ramo was making one acrobatic save after another to keep the Lightning in the contest, and, near the mid-point of the period, Ramo’s work paid off as Chicago forward Craig Adams was sent to the penalty box with a four minute penalty for high-sticking at 9:45.
Just 43 seconds into the power play, Vaclav Prospal sent the puck from behind the Blackhawk goal line out to Stamkos, waiting in the right faceoff circle. Stamkos waited for the pass but didn’t keep the puck for long, as his blast zipped past Huet into the top corner of the net for his second goal of the night. Gary Roberts also assisted on the score.
Stamkos wasn’t finished yet because just 70 seconds later, with Adams still in the penalty box, standing in almost the exact same spot in the right faceoff circle, Stamkos collected a pass from Steve Eminger at the blueline and fired the puck past Huet for his third goal of the night. The hat trick, the first for a rookie in Lightning history, gave Stamkos his 10th goal of the season. In addition to Eminger, Prospal was credited with his second assist of the game on the score.
“It’s obviously a very memorable game for me,” Stamkos said. “Anytime you get a hat trick its special, but to do it on home-ice in Tampa in my rookie season is a dream come true for me.”
No one can take away the achievement that Stamkos produced tonight, but for Tampa Bay, there would be no additional highlights as the Blackhawks took control form that point forward.
After Lightning forward Adam Hall
and Chicago forward Adam Burish battled to a five-minute major each, Steve Downie
and Dustin Byfuglien took up the fight just 31 seconds later, but this time Downie was awarded an additional two minutes of penalty time for instigating.
Skating with the extra man and just 48 seconds remaining in the second period, Jonathan Toews flipped the puck to the front of the Lightning goal crease, where it found a skate and deflected into the net. The goal closed the gap to a one-goal advantage and set the stage for the Blackhawk comeback in period three.
Once again, it was the power play that got the Blackhawks going in the final period, as Krajicek was sent off for interference just 29 seconds after the puck dropped to start the period.
Patrick Kane ripped a shot from the high slot that beat Ramo and the game was tied at 3-3 with just 1:46 gone in the stanza.
Tampa Bay could muster only seven shots on net for the remainder of the game, while Chicago generated 15, including a goal by Dave Bolland from just outside the crease at 12:46and the final score by Toews on a turnaround blast that rang the post to Ramo’s left and found the twine at 15:59.
It was a memorable night for Stamkos and a good night for Ramo in net, but overall, a disappointing loss which Tampa Bay won’t have much time to contemplate before getting back on the ice.
The loss dropped the Lightning to 2-3-0 on the current homestand, with one game to go, Thursday night against the New Jersey Devils.
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