Lightning stave off Blackhawks in Game 2, even up series


Lightning stave off Blackhawks in Game 2, even up series

TAMPA, Fla. — The Blackhawks felt they got away with one in Game 1, needing two goals within two minutes late in the third period to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning.

They said they wanted to be better in Game 2 and for awhile, it looked like they were. And while the Blackhawks were contributing more on offense, the Lightning were taking more at the other end.

Brent Seabrook scored his seventh goal of the postseason but Jason Garrison scored the game-winning power-play goal about five minutes later as the Lightning beat the Blackhawks, 4-3, in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final on Saturday night. The series is tied 1-1 heading to Chicago, where the Blackhawks will host Game 3 on Monday and Game 4 on Wednesday.

Corey Crawford allowed four goals on 24 shots in a performance coach Joel Quenneville said was “just OK.”

As opposed to Game 1, in which neither team had many great scoring opportunities, Game 2 was more open, more offensive-minded and came with a few surprises. The biggest shocker came in the third period when Tampa Bay goaltender Ben Bishop exited the game twice, first briefly and the second time for the rest of the game. Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped five shots in relief. Coach Jon Cooper would not discuss what happened to Bishop or the goaltender’s status going forward.

[MORE: Antoine Vermette coming up big for Blackhawks]

The third period began with an expected change, when Quenneville split Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, putting Kane back on the second line with Brad Richards and Kris Versteeg and Marian Hossa back on the top line with Toews and Brandon Saad. The Lightning had held Toews and Kane in check for five periods.

“They’re working hard, they’re playing good hockey, playing smart, defensive hockey,” Toews said of Tampa’s defense. “We just got to stay with it. I think Saad had a great chance 2-on-1 early in the game, I had a great chance where it bounced right off my stick — great set-up by Kaner — so one of those go in, maybe you’re not sitting here asking those questions as much.”

Quenneville said the Toews/Kane dismantling was more for balance.

“They had some great looks there, a couple really good quality chances in the first period, good stuff in the second. They were dangerous,” Quenneville said. “But got more balance off [the change]. We scored right away, then lost the momentum.”

The right-away score came from Seabrook, who tied the game 3-3 at the time. The momentum loss came about five minutes later when the Blackhawks were trying to kill off the Lightning’s second consecutive power play. The Lightning went on the advantage on back-to-back Patrick Sharp infractions, and Garrison got the winning goal on the second one.

“It was something I don’t think I’ve ever done that before, but it happened. Move on from it,” Sharp said. “I take responsibility and I apologized to our penalty-killers for putting them under such stress.”

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Andrew Shaw and Teuvo Teravainen (power play) scored for the Blackhawks, who took a 2-1 lead on those two second-period goals before the Lightning came back with two of their own. Tyler Johnson scored his 13th goal of the postseason, a new Lightning franchise record, his shot sneaking through Crawford’s stick side.

“I definitely don’t want to give that up,” Crawford said. “He kind of fanned on his backhand, it hit the side of the net. I don’t know how it bounced up. I kind of lost it from there. But I felt something on my back. You can’t give those up in these games — two goals we just gave them and gave them the momentum back.”

The Blackhawks didn’t create much in Game 1 but they also didn’t give up much, either. In Game 2 they did both, but too much of the latter against a young, opportunistic team willing to take. Still, they split on the road and head back to the United Center, where they’ve lost once this postseason.

“Let’s keep it in perspective: it’s a good team,” Toews said. “To go home tied 1-all I don’t think is something we’re satisfied with considering the position we were in coming into tonight. [But] we’ve got to be excited, definitely, going back to our building.’’


Sports Talk Live Podcast: Is Crawford ready to go?


Sports Talk Live Podcast: Is Crawford ready to go?

Jimmy Greenfield, Connor McKnight, and Matt Spiegel join Kap on the panel to discuss Corey Crawford back on the ice for the first time in 10 months. The Bears have good news when it comes to Khalil Mack, who injured his ankle against the Dolphins.

Plus, Fred Hoiberg announces that Jabari Parker is coming off the bench for the season opener.

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below:

Niklas Hjalmarsson 'wasn't happy' about trade, but remembers time with Blackhawks fondly

Niklas Hjalmarsson 'wasn't happy' about trade, but remembers time with Blackhawks fondly

Apparently time doesn’t heal all wounds. 

Nearly a year and a half since being traded to the Coyotes, Niklas Hjalmarsson will return to the United Center ice on Thursday playing for the visiting team.  

“It’s going to be strange coming in as the away team and being in the other locker room,” said Hjalmarsson on Wednesday. “I bet it’s going to be a lot of emotions and mixed feelings.” 

This is also the first time Hjalmarsson has been back to the city of Chicago since he was traded, a city he called his “second home.” A home where he spent parts of 10 seasons, and never really planned on leaving.

“I wasn’t happy, to be honest with you,” said Hjalmarsson of the trade to Arizona. “I was shocked. It took me a couple days to actually realize I wasn’t going to play for the Hawks anymore.”

Including the playoffs, Hjalmarsson played 751 games in the Indian head sweater. Despite that and the team’s three Stanley Cup victories, the Blackhawks shipped him off to Arizona for Connor Murphy and Laurent Dauphin in June of 2017.

“You kind of let it go after a while,” he said. “Now I’m just hoping all the success for the guys over here too.”

Hjalmarsson was known for his toughness, repeatedly blocking shot after shot, giving up his body, while never missing a shift. He credits his long-time teammates — Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook — for a lot of his success and identity on the blue line.

“I couldn’t have had better role models coming into a team,” he said. “I’m very thankful to have played on the same team as those guys and created a lot of success together. We’re always going to be connected with the Cups that we’ve had.”

The third championship won by that defense-trio was on United Center ice against the Lightning in 2015, but that isn’t the memory that stands out most for Hjalmarsson.

“The first Cup is always going to be pretty special,” said the 31-year old. “Even just going to the conference final (in 2009), even when we lost against Detroit that year, the year before was great memories too. The first time for me going into the playoffs and playing deep.”

The tables have turned now for both Hjalmarsson and the Blackhawks. 

The Coyotes have yet to score an even-strength goal this season, while the Blackhawks have claimed eight of a possible 10 points thus far through five games and expect to have their starting goaltender back between the pipes. 

But you won’t hear any ill-will from Hjalmarsson, he’s still rooting for the Hawks.

“I always think that Chicago deserves to have a team in the playoffs,” he said. “It’s not that I wish them not to do well. It’s the total opposite. I want them to have continued success.”