LIVE: Lightning lead Hawks 1-0 after 2nd period


LIVE: Lightning lead Hawks 1-0 after 2nd period

Sunday, April 3, 2011
Posted: 11:40 a.m.

Associated Press
The Tampa Bay Lightning's win over the Chicago Blackhawks last month was a rare highlight during a disappointing stretch that saw them lose the Southeast Division lead.

Despite that slump, a top-four finish in the Eastern Conference isn't out of the question for the now-resurgent Lightning, who look to win their fifth straight Sunday when they visit Chicago.

Tampa Bay's 4-3 shootout win over Chicago on March 9 was part of a 2-6-4 stretch from March 2-25. Once the Southeast leaders, the Lightning (43-24-11) now trail Washington by six points with only four games remaining.

A more attainable goal may be fourth place in the conference and home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs, but Tampa Bay trails Pittsburgh by three points for that distinction.

The Lightning have already clinched a playoff spot thanks to a four-game winning streak, their longest since a six-game run Jan. 18-Feb. 1. They defeated Minnesota 3-1 on Saturday, as Dwayne Roloson made 29 saves against his former team while Ryan Malone, Steve Downie and Sean Bergenheim each scored.

"We play really well when we have the momentum, and we're playing with a little big of a swagger," Roloson said.

While the Lightning are hoping to improve their playoff position, Chicago (42-27-8) still needs to clinch a spot in the postseason.

The Blackhawks have won four of six, staying three points ahead of Calgary for the final playoff spot with a 4-3 shootout win over Columbus on Friday. Bryan Bickell tied it in the third period, setting the stage for Viktor Stalberg to score the only goal of the tiebreaker.

Chicago won despite blowing an early two-goal lead and putting Columbus on the power play seven times. The Blackhawks killed off six of the opportunities.

"Nothing wrong with that, we'll take anything we can get right now," coach Joel Quenneville said. "When you're down late in the game, it turns out to be a huge win for us."

Quenneville may stick with his newly-configured top line combination of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Bickell, who joined the line Friday. Bickell's goal was his first since March 5, while Kane had a goal and assist. Both players were plus-2 on the night.

"It's been a while since I scored," Bickell said. "Good things happen when you put it on net and I was just trying to get a rebound for the second opportunity for Toews or Kaner ... It put a big grin on my face."

The Blackhawks, who have won six of seven at the United Center overall, have won seven of their last eight home games against the Lightning.

Kane has three goals and six assists in four career games against Tampa Bay, while Toews has five goals and three assists - also in four meetings with the Lightning.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

The Blackhawks' uphill battle 'just sucks', so it's time to spark some optimism

The Blackhawks' uphill battle 'just sucks', so it's time to spark some optimism

Sitting eight points out of the playoffs, with four teams to jump and trade rumors circulating, the Blackhawks just need to feel good. 

It was clear at Fifth Third Arena on Thursday following off-ice work and meetings that the Hawks aren't feeling too hot about where they're at. Truthfully, the vibe could have best been compared to the type of demeanor and commentary you'd witness from players at the conclusion of a season in which they didn't make the playoffs, like the last two.

The Hawks more than likely sealed their non-postseason fate for the third straight year after going 1-4-0 on their recent road trip in Canada.

"I don't know if we're necessarily thinking about playoffs," Chicago forward Ryan Carpenter said. "That's still so many games away. But yeah, we're optimistic in here, we've gone on streaks before. 

"But right now this just sucks, the feeling in the locker room, and losing. No one’s happy in here, including myself, and we've got to find a way to figure it out. [Friday] will be a good chance against a good team in Nashville, and we'll be home and we'll see how we respond."

"It seems like it's been the last couple weeks here where we got off to a bad start on that road trip and it snowballed," said Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith, who recorded his 500th NHL assist on Wednesday. "Now that we're home, we've got a big game [Friday]. 

"We're obviously not happy with the last game (6-3 loss to Rangers at home on Wednesday), but we've got to find a way to get out of it and turn the page. I think that's what it comes down to. It comes down to just being better. We know what we have to do. It's just a matter of being consistent at it throughout the course of the game and having a good start."

The Hawks were tied 1-1 with the Rangers after the second period on Wednesday before allowing five third-period goals.

"Well, I don't know," Keith said of the reason behind the collapse in the final frame. "It seemed like they got the one goal and we just got deflated. And again it kind of snowballed from there without much pushback. When we're always chasing – they got the first goal in the game too – and we always felt like we were kind of chasing the whole game. 

"For whatever reason we weren't able to mount much of a comeback. I mean, I think at some point you give the other team some credit. They have some big guys and they hang onto pucks; they don't throw pucks away. 

"They force you to earn the puck back and it didn't seem like there were too many odd-man rushes for us. So those little things that we talk about in our game, when we do those things we're a hard team play against. And when we don't, things like that happen."

Friday the Blackhawks face the Predators, just three points out of the second wild card spot and itching to get in the postseason mix.

"We've faced adversity at different points in the season and this is just another one of those times where we need to really get back together and play the style of game we know we can play and know we can win with," Hawks forward Alex DeBrincat said. "I think that's what we're focused on right now."

The trade deadline rumors and whispers aren't helping the Blackhawks.

"Try to let it go as much as possible," DeBrincat said of how players deal with possibility of them or a teammate leaving. "For us in here, there's not much we can do at this point. 

"We're just trying to go out there and win games; whatever happens, happens. They know what they're doing and for us, we're all together as a team right now, so play as a team and focus on winning."

Regardless of the situation the team is in and no matter who stays or goes, the Hawks need to feel good about themselves and re-establish a high level to play at before things go from bad to worse with the possibility of carrying over into next season.

"We've got to create our own optimism by how we play," Blackhawks head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "I think the feeling in the group is not as good because our performance wasn't good enough last game. Obviously you look at the standings and no one feels good about it. The way we can bring good feelings back is by being really good tonight for 60 minutes."

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Blackhawks Talk Podcast: The team see change coming before the trade deadline

USA Today

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: The team see change coming before the trade deadline

As the NHL trade deadline looms closer, the feeling of uncertainty has surrounded the team. In for host Pat Boyle, Slavko Bekovic, Charlie Roumeliotis, Scott King, and Nick Gismondi discuss the feeling around the team and what may lie ahead for the future of this Blackhawks team.

(1:55) - Locker room felt somber today
(7:00) - Concerns about the team not being prepared game to game
(13:20) - Potentially being traded is weighing on the players
(19:00) - Possibility this group stays together
(26:10) - Erik Gustafsson possibly being traded
(30:20) - Teams around the league looking to win now

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.