Late goals fuel Blackhawks victory over Lightning in Game 1


Late goals fuel Blackhawks victory over Lightning in Game 1

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.”

[MORE: Teravainen, Vermette score two in 1:58 as Blackhawks win Game 1]

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.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

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.”

Hawks Talk Podcast: Crawford's return, Saad's demotion and power play concerns


Hawks Talk Podcast: Crawford's return, Saad's demotion and power play concerns

In the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle, Charlie Roumeliotis and Slavko Bekovic provide their thoughts on the Blackhawks’ 3-0-2 start.

They also discuss Brandon Saad’s demotion and whether it could serve as a wake-up call, Corey Crawford’s potential return on Thursday vs. Arizona and what could happen with Anton Forsberg because of it, and address the power play concerns.

The guys wrap up the podcast by making a few bold predictions going forward.

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below, and be sure to subscribe, rate us and write a review!

10 years with 'Coach Q' anything but ordinary

10 years with 'Coach Q' anything but ordinary

Over the last 10 years, the words “ordinary” and "OK" have taken on a new meaning to Blackhawks players and fans alike. 

That’s “Coach Q” speak. 

A language where “ordinary” means awful and “just OK” means you were a non-factor. The good news is the last 10 seasons under Joel Quenneville have been anything but ordinary at the United Center. 

On Oct. 16th, 2008, the Blackhawks let go of fan-favorite Denis Savard after a 1-2-1 start to the season and named Quenneville as head coach in his place. Quenneville coached the Colorado Avalanche the previous season, but after another disappointing exit in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the two mutually parted ways. He had originally planned to stay away from the bench for at least a season, but the Blackhawks triumvirate of Rocky Wirtz, John McDonough and then-GM Dale Tallon brought Quenneville on as a scout and then handed him the keys to the car shortly after.

“Dale’s obligation is to put together a winning team,” said McDonough at Quenneville’s introductory press conference. “At this point, Joel is the coach of that team.”

It was an emotional day at the Blackhawks offices. Savard – a Blackhawks legend on the ice and a coach the players held in high regard – was let go just as things started to turn upwards for the organization. The end of the 2007-2008 season saw the Blackhawks once again miss out on the playoffs, but the fans began to flock to the United Center once more, and the hype train around the young team built around Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane was gaining steam.

“Moving forward, if we want to be a championship-caliber organization, we have to make tough decisions,” said Tallon. “This was the toughest decision I’ve ever had to make.” 

Savard was 65-66-16 in parts of three seasons as head coach of the Blackhawks. Meanwhile, Quenneville had compiled eight 95+ point seasons behind the bench for the Blues and Avalanche in his 11 years as a head coach.

“We felt the experience and the track record of Joel would be a balance that we needed with a young, inexperienced team,” said Tallon. "Joel brings us a wealth of experience and a winning track record that will have an immediate and lasting impact."

The gamble paid off for the Blackhawks in a major way. Once Quenneville took over, the team got to the sought-after next level. 

They finished the 08-09 season with 104 points, third-most in the NHL’s Western Conference, had a franchise-record setting 9-game win streak in the month of December and returned to the playoffs for the first time since the 2001-2002 season. The “young and inexperienced” Blackhawks took the league by storm, dropping the Calgary Flames in the first round of the playoffs in six games before taking down the rival Canucks in the next round.

They ultimately lost out to the Detroit Red Wings in the Western Conference Finals, but the bar was now set for the organization. From then on, the Blackhawks were Stanley Cup contenders. 

Quenneville currently ranks 2nd in franchise history with 449 wins, trailing only Billy Reay’s 516. 

But most importantly, Quenneville’s 76 playoff wins rank at the top in the organization’s long and storied history, and those three Stanley Cups that he’s raised over his head were anything but “ordinary.”