Ben Bishop holds off Blackhawks as Lightning take a 2-1 series lead


Ben Bishop holds off Blackhawks as Lightning take a 2-1 series lead

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.

[MORE: Five Things to take away from Blackhawks' Game 3 loss]

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.”

[NBC SPORTS SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans]

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.”

Four takeaways: 'Vintage' Corey Crawford steals two points for Blackhawks


Four takeaways: 'Vintage' Corey Crawford steals two points for Blackhawks

COLUMBUS — Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 4-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena on Saturday:

1. Corey Crawford steals the show

The Blackhawks had no business winning this game. They were being outshot 28-15 through two periods, committed four penalties and gave up 18 high-danger chances in the game. 

But Crawford bailed out his team like he often has done in the past, and was zoned in from the moment the puck dropped. He finished with 37 saves on 38 shots for a save percentage of .974, picking up his first win since Dec. 17, 2017.

"Yeah, I felt good," Crawford said. "I think everyone was playing hard, rebounds, taking away sticks. That was a great effort by everyone."

"He was standing on his head for us," Patrick Kane said. "As Q would say, that’s a goalie win for us."

Said coach Joel Quenneville: "That was vintage Crow."

2. Tic-tac-toe leads to go-ahead goal

The Blue Jackets were clearly the better team through two periods. The Blackhawks were fortunate to go into second intermission with the game still tied at 1-1.

The next goal was crucial, and they got it thanks to a give-and-go play by Brent Seabrook and Kane, who buried home a wide open net to give the Blackhawks a 2-1 lead with 4:14 left in regulation.

Was Kane expecting Seabrook to pass it back?

"No. Not a chance," Kane said laughing. "That’s his wheelhouse, coming right down there. He scores a lot of goals from that area. Saw it was like a 2-on-2, he was coming late, he jumped in the play on the first goal, did a great job, jumped in the play on that goal. Made a great pass. When I saw it come back, I just tried to stay patient, settle it down and make sure I hit the net, because I knew I had the whole open net."

3. Busy night for PK

The Blackhawks penalty kill was very busy. It was also on it's A-game, partly because their best penalty killer was Crawford.

The Blackhawks spent 6:31 of the first 40 minutes killing penalties, allowing 11 shots total on it. But most importantly, they killed off all four penalties.

"We had some tough clears, but I thought we did some good things," Quenneville said. "We withstood some extended PK zone time there and found a way to keep us in the game. Obviously that next goal was huge and that second period was a big part of them having so much zone time, keeping us in our end. We'll say, hey good job, but Crow was the best penalty killer tonight."

4. Catching up with Kane on Artemi Panarin

Kane and Panarin spent only two seasons together, but they brought Blackhawks fans out of their seats on a nightly basis and it was amazing to watch the instant on-ice chemistry they shared. And most of it was non-verbal, which made it even more impressive. They were always on the same wavelength.

"Sometimes it takes time to build some chemistry but that was one of those things where it was like, I don't want to say instant chemistry, but after one or two preseason games we kind of new that maybe something special was going to happen," Kane told NBC Sports Chicago. "I think he scored in his first game in the NHL, we had a really good game, we had the puck a lot, we sensed that this could be a fun way to play hockey."

Off the ice, Kane said Panarin would use Google translate on his phone to communicate while Kane would try using a Russian accent while saying English words.

The two of them got a chance to hang out for a little bit on Friday and Kane still keeps tabs on his former linemate.

"I always really enjoy watching him," Kane said. "If we have an off night or something, he's a really fun player to watch."

Blackhawks and Blue Jackets both going through own challenges of Artemi Panarin and Brandon Saad trade


Blackhawks and Blue Jackets both going through own challenges of Artemi Panarin and Brandon Saad trade

COLUMBUS — The Blackhawks and Blue Jackets blockbuster trade from the 2017 offseason is always a hot topic in Chicago when things aren't going great. It especially is when the two teams square off against each other, like Saturday at Nationwide Arena for the first time this season.

If it wasn't already apparent in Chicago, Artemi Panarin has emerged as a real NHL superstar and is set for a giant payday when he becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2019. He set a Blue Jackets record with 82 points in a single season and has nine points (three goals, six assists) through six games this season.

Brandon Saad, on the other hand, had a challenging first year back with the Blackhawks in 2017-18 after netting only 35 points in 82 games and is off to a slow start this year as well with zero goals and two assists through six games. After a demotion to the fourth line, he was close to being a healthy scratch on Thursday, which only magnifies where things are at as the two get ready to clash.

But Saad was never going to be able to replace Panarin's offensive production. Everybody knows that. Yet, the offensive comparisons will always be there as a barometer and that's something Saad doesn't think about, no matter how much fans talk about it.

"I don't think I do it," he said. "We're different players. He's a great player. Fans are going to do whatever comparisons they want, but at the end of the day you've got to be true to yourself and do what you bring to the table. He's a great player around the league. You can see his highlights and his goals, he's definitely a special player. But at the end of the day I've got confidence in my abilities too. We both bring different attributes, but they're going to make comparisons regardless."

A big reason why the Blackhawks reacquired Saad, other than his ability to play a 200-foot game, is because he carries a $6 million cap hit through 2020-21, which is two years more than Panarin at the same cap hit. (It's also important to note that the Blackhawks hoped they were getting a reliable, young backup goaltender in Anton Forsberg, but the injury to Corey Crawford thrust him into a role he wasn't exactly prepared for.)

It's not all rainbows for Columbus right now regarding where things stand with Panarin, who has made it clear he's not ready to sign a long-term extension. All signs point to the 26-year-old winger hitting the market, putting the Blue Jackets in a tricky situation ahead of the trade deadline. The Blackhawks very well could have found themselves in this position, too, had a deal not been made.

Both sides are dealing with their own challenges of the trade. Saad is still a key piece to the Blackhawks' puzzle and they're hoping to get more out of him, for no other reason than the team's overall success.

"You want to have success regardless of who you're playing for, who you're traded for, things like that," Saad said. "Naturally, just as competitors, you want to bring that excitement and you want to have success with the team and personally."