TAMPA, Fla. — Patrick Sharp talked of trust, of just going with the ups and downs that come with every game.
“I think it’s a credit to just trusting the process, staying with it,” Sharp said. “There are some stretches that don’t look so good. There are some stretches that look great. It’s all about that next shift and what you can do to help your team, and no better example than tonight.”
Indeed. The Lightning flashed their speed early, and it kept them on top for two periods. The Blackhawks flashed their third-period prowess late, and it helped them take Game 1.
Teuvo Teravainen scored with 6:32 remaining in regulation and Antoine Vermette added the winner just one minute, 58 seconds later as the Blackhawks came back to beat the Lightning, 2-1, in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday night. Game 2 is at 6 p.m. CT on Saturday.
Corey Crawford stopped 22 of 23 shots for the victory. Duncan Keith had an assist as did Andrew Shaw, who may or may not have bitten Tampa Bay defenseman Victor Hedman during a first-period scrum — “It felt like it,” Hedman said. “I have a little bruise, so maybe.”
One surprise came before the game even began, as Bryan Bickell is out day-to-day with an upper-body injury. Coach Joel Quenneville said Bickell is “close. We’ll see how he is over the next day or so.” Kris Versteeg, who rejoined the team Tuesday morning after he and his wife welcomed their first child on Monday, took Bickell’s place.
While the lineup was slightly different, the Blackhawks’ ability to find a way remained the same. The Blackhawks played a more aggressive third period, outshooting the Lightning 6-0 at one point. Then Teravainen struck, his shot screened by Valtteri Filppula and Marcus Kruger, among others, before settling behind Ben Bishop to tie the game 1-1.
“I just try to shoot. Shoot high there and sometimes good things happen,” Teravainen said. “I think there was a lot of traffic in the net. Krugs was out there and maybe the goalie didn’t see it.”
Less than two minutes later, Teravainen poked the puck away from J.T. Brown and got it to Vermette, who fired high to give the Blackhawks a 2-1 lead with 4:34 remaining in regulation.
“I think that was a great illustration with the way we try to play,” Vermette said of the game-winning goal. “We try to establish our speed and are moving our feet, especially on our end. Teuvo created a turnover, I got the puck and got a shot out of it.”
In a game that didn’t feature many great scoring opportunities, the Blackhawks capitalized on two late ones. It helped them get over a very slow start.
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The Lightning, meanwhile, couldn’t have had a better start. Fueled by a boisterous home crowd, Tampa Bay came out flying, buzzing around Crawford not long after the opening puck drop. Their lone goal was a beauty, as Alex Killorn redirected an Anton Stralman pass — or had one of the niftiest backhand shots ever, we can’t decide — to give the Lightning a 1-0 lead just 4:31 into the game.
But the Lightning couldn’t find another goal among their 23 shots at it.
“I think the way I'd look at the game, we didn't really give them much the entire game. If we're going to sit here and count, yeah, did they have a little more puck possession in the third period, they did. There's no question,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said. “Could we have made a few more poised plays? I suppose we could have. But I thought we had chances to put them away. We didn't put them away.”
The Blackhawks’ core has learned a lot through these postseasons. They’ve learned not to react too extreme to the ups and downs of every contest. They’ve learned to trust that they’ll figure things out. On Wednesday, they did. Again.
“The last half of the game I thought we were fine. Playing catch-up to against a team that, when they get the lead on you they get into the prevent defense, it was tough to get through. Basically we had to get through,” Quenneville said. “Finding a way today is a good illustration of what this team’s all about. Finding ways to win, it was probably a good example of that tonight.”