It took more than 60 minutes and some not-so shining moments, but the Tampa Bay Lightning came away with the result they were looking for in a 6-5 overtime win against the reigning Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks Thursday night at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
“We'd rather be looked at than looked over and I think after the last minute and a half we will definitely be looked at tonight,” head coach Jon Cooper said.
Losing a 2-0 lead in the second period and finding themselves in a back-and-forth battle in the final minutes of regulation, the Bolts fought through 45 Blackhawks’ shots, despite only putting 25 of their own on net. Tampa Bay remains undefeated against the Western Conference, while finishing-off the series sweep in two meetings versus Chicago.
“This is four points I don’t think many teams in the East are going to grab from the Blackhawks, so we’re very happy with the results,” captain Martin St. Louis said. “It wasn’t pretty all the way through, but they’re a good team, they make you look bad sometimes, but it’s about finding ways in this league.”
The Bolts accomplished two things with their first tally of the game – getting an early start against Chicago and having a defenseman contribute a goal for just the second time this season. After Michal Rozsival went to the penalty box for hooking at 4:49 of the first, Matt Carle took a shot from the blue line that beat Chicago netminder Nikolai Khabibulin glove side for the 1-0 lead with 19 second left on the power-play.
Yet the second period was not as simple as the first, with the score deadlocked by the time they finished the frame. To start the Bolts took a bench minor for too many men on the ice 33 seconds into the period, but instead of losing momentum they kept it in their favor. B.J. Crombeen and Nate Thompson led a 2-on-1 rush down the Blackhawks’ zone with Crombeen sending a pass that Thompson was able to finish for a shorthanded goal at 1:24 of the second. Thompson’s first goal of the season extended the Bolts lead to 2-0.
The Blackhawks answered back with two back-to-back goals. Brent Seabrook took a shot at Ben Bishop’s net, which Bryan Bickell was able to redirect past the Tampa Bay netminder, cutting the Lightning’s lead by one midway through the game. Chicago and the Bolts then found themselves tied, 2-2, with 9:24 left in the second. Jonathan Toews quickly sent the puck to Patrick Sharp, who took a shot from the right face-off circle. Marian Hossa scored on the deflection to knot the game at two at 10:36.
Each team added one more goal apiece before the second period’s end. The Bolts re-gained the lead after Steven Stamkos darted into the offensive zone and zipped a wrister into the Blackhawks’ net at 17:21, but Patrick Kane scored the equalizer just more than a minute later. Squeezing through Lightning defensemen Eric Brewer and Andrej Sustr, Kane went five-hole on Bishop with 1:07 remaining in the second for a 3-3 tie.
Chicago broke the tie 1:33 into the third on the power-play. With Filppula in the box for hooking, Kane took a shot, which Shaw got a piece of on the way into the Lightning’s net for the go-ahead 4-3 game.
The last nine minutes of the game made for some interesting hockey to cap-off the night. Hedman and Stamkos added goals to steal the lead, 5-4, but the Blackhawks then scored on a fluke. Carle sent a pass to Radko Gudas back in the Lightning’s zone, but the puck hit Gudas’ skate and caromed past an unsuspecting Bishop. The goal at 18:11 was credited to Toews and eventually sent the game into overtime. The overtime period was the fifth time this season the Blackhawks forced extra time.
“I’ve never seen that before, so that’s a first for me,” Bishop said. “They tied the game, but we still had a chance to win the game and go to overtime. It still hurts, so it wasn’t a huge dagger, but the guys are so resilient, coming back and winning it in overtime like that.”
St. Louis delivered the late night heroics for the Lightning though, Gudas took the initial shot, which St. Louis rebounded into the net for a 6-5 final.
UP NEXT – After an expected 11 a.m. practice at the Times Forum Friday, Tampa Bay concludes a season-long, seven-game homestand Saturday evening against division rival, the Buffalo Sabres at 7 p.m. Saturday’s game against Buffalo is also the first half of back-to-backs that features their second Atlantic Division opponent in as many nights, when they face the Panthers in Sunrise, Florida Sunday.