Something was bothering Ben Bishop. The Blackhawks could see it. The media could see it. Everyone watching from the United Center, from home or from a local establishment could see it.
For the first 20 minutes, the Blackhawks tried to exploit Bishop’s issue, the one that had him getting up slowly and moving gingerly. They got one. They missed on others. And by game’s end Bishop, injury be damned, was celebrating another road victory.
Brandon Saad scored his seventh goal of the postseason but the Lightning came with two in the third as they beat the Blackhawks 3-2 in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday night. The Blackhawks, who lost just their second game at home this postseason, trail 2-1 in the best-of-seven series heading into Game 4 on Wednesday night.
Johnny Oduya missed part of the second period and some of the third. Coach Joel Quenneville said he’ll see how the defenseman is doing on Tuesday. Trevor van Riemsdyk played in his first NHL game since Nov. 16, logging nine minutes.
The Lightning are now 8-3 on the road; their last loss away from home was Game 1 against the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Final.
For the Blackhawks, it was missed opportunities coupled with defensive lapses at awful times. Saad’s goal gave them a 2-1 lead early, prompting a boisterous celebration from the crowd. But it was short-lived, as the Blackhawks’ propensity to give up goals too quickly after they’ve scored struck again. Ondrej Palat scored just 13 seconds after Saad, eliminating the Blackhawks’ lead and taking the life out of the United Center.
“Just a couple of bad habits that ended up hurting us. We’re all responsible for that,” Jonathan Toews said. “This game could’ve been similar to the way we stole Game 1 from them. We feel like we had a lot of chances, especially early in the game. Late in the game we gave up those odd-man rushes we’ve been talking about that end up in the back of our net.”
At the start, however, it was what the Blackhawks couldn’t put in the back of Bishop’s net. Bishop’s status was up in the air entering Game 3, given he left Game 2 with a mysterious injury. His pain was evident early; Bishop was favoring his left leg, stretching it out whenever he got the chance and getting up slowly after several plays. The Blackhawks fired 19 shots at him and Bishop gave up plenty of rebounds off them. There were the missed shots, too: Marian Hossa, on a play he was tripped, missed a wide-open net from the slot.
“The rebound came up to me and I tried to fake to the shot right away and cut in the middle,” Hossa said. “And as soon as I tried to finish it, I felt like I was tripped and I lost the balance a little bit and I didn’t shoot the puck the way I wanted to.”
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Brad Richards broke through, his power-play shot glancing off Bishop’s glove and in to tie it 1-1 at the time. But whatever momentum the Blackhawks built up didn’t transition over to the second period.
“The second period we took a dip, got into some penalty trouble, gave them some momentum,” Richards said. “Play that first period over again and we might have a few more; couple open nets we missed. We played the game wewanted to in the first and then overall, a pretty good game, but they capitalized on a couple mistakes.”
Indeed, the Palat goal was deflating – “two games in a row we had the lead, short-lived two times, two tough losses in a row,” Quenneville said. The Blackhawks had better chances in the third but Bishop got everything before Paquette scored the game-winner.
Bishop was struggling early. The Blackhawks didn’t get to him as much as they could have. In a close series, a team has to take advantage of every opportunity, or every ailing goalie. The Blackhawks just didn’t do enough of that on Monday.
“This one hurts a little bit tonight,” Richards said. “But we’ll just focus on winning a game and making it a best-of-3. That’s all you can ever ask for.”