Blackhawks

Vermette powers Blackhawks to Game 5 win over Lightning

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Vermette powers Blackhawks to Game 5 win over Lightning

TAMPA, Fla. — The Blackhawks played the necessary styles in the third period, getting just enough offense at the start, working like they were on the penalty kill through a good deal of the middle and then breaking into the Lightning’s zone more at the end.

It was opportunistic at some times, nail biting at others. Throughout, however, it was effective. And now the Blackhawks have a chance to claim the Stanley Cup on home ice.

Patrick Sharp scored his first goal since early May and Antoine Vermette scored another game-winning goal this postseason as the Blackhawks edged the Tampa bay Lightning, 2-1, in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final. The Blackhawks take a 3-2 lead back to Chicago, where they’ll have a chance to win the Cup at the United Center on Monday night.

[MORE: Blackhawks: Vermette elevating game as stage gets bigger]

Corey Crawford was strong again, stopping 31 of 32 shots, including 15 in the third period. Vermette won eight of 11 faceoffs and Niklas Hjalmarsson recorded a game-high seven blocked shots.

These games haven’t been for the faint of heart or the high of blood pressure. It was also no surprise that these two teams once again played to a one-goal game, the Blackhawks hanging in another thriller.

“Whether winning championships or playing in a number of playoff series over the last few years, you have to find ways to win, find ways to fight out victories,” Sharp said. “Whether it’s the guys who have been here with those championships or the new players like Vermy and a lot of young guys who have stepped up, everyone’s on the same page and we have the same goal in mind, that’s for sure.”

Vermette was there with the clutch goal once again on Saturday, scoring on Kris Versteeg’s rebound to give the Blackhawks that 2-1 lead just two minutes into the third period. It was Vermette’s third game-winning goal of the postseason and second of this series.

“He's gotten better every game,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “I thought he had a great game tonight, very timely goal, big faceoffs wins [in] both zones tonight. He was positionally aware and [he] battled.”

[RELATED: Five Things from Blackhawks win in Game 5: Versteeg’s new home]

Both goaltenders looked like they were battling in the first period, especially when they came out to play the puck. When Crawford did it, he barely got back in time to stop a Nikita Kucherov scoring attempt — Kucherov was injured on the play and Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper did not have an update on his status immediately following the game. When Ben Bishop came out to play the puck he collided with defenseman Victor Hedman. Sharp grabbed the loose puck and scored the empty-net goal, his first goal since Game 2 against the Minnesota Wild.

Sharp’s thoughts when he saw that loose puck and gaping net?

“Put the puck in the net,” Sharp said to laughs. “Just trying to force the play, skate as fast as I can up the ice, apply some pressure. I haven't seen the highlight, exactly what happened. I just know there was a collision. I found myself with a heck of an opportunity, so make sure you put that one in.”

The Lightning were the better team in the second period, especially after killing off a Blackhawks power play early. Valtteri Filpulla, alone on Crawford’s glove side, scored his fourth of the postseason to tie it 1-1.

Then came the third, the early Blackhawks goal, defense first, Crawford keeping the Lighting at bay and the Blackhawks pushing late. Their third and fourth lines were out there in critical situations and had some solid scoring opportunities, another example of how Quenneville will use whatever like is working well, no matter the time of game.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

“I think everyone's reassuring each other to go out and make plays. Just go out there and make things happen. You've got five other guys out there with you. If you make a mistake, it's not the end of the world,” Jonathan Toews said. “We're gonna bail each other out when we get in tight spots. So whether you have a lot of experience or you're a young guy with not so much experience, we're all trying to make each other a little more comfortable out there."

The Blackhawks won another close game in a series that’s been full of them. They’ve got the chance to win the Cup at home, something they haven’t done since 1938. It will take an even bigger effort than it did to win Game 5; the Lightning are 8-4 on the road this postseason and won’t go down without a fight. The chance to win the Cup in Chicago, however, is plenty of motivation to stay focused.

“We try not to think too far ahead. But obviously you’re just human,” Hjalmarsson said. “You just have to find a way to calm down and just be excited to play in front of our own crowd and having the possibility to do something extremely special.”

Getting to know four newly-signed Blackhawks

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AP

Getting to know four newly-signed Blackhawks

The Blackhawks announced Monday that they have officially agreed to terms with forward Dominik Kahun, defensemen Lucas Carlsson and Darren Raddysh and goaltender Kevin Lankinen on entry-level contracts.

Kahun ($925,000 cap hit), Lankinen ($925,000) and Raddysh ($730,000) each signed two-year deals that run through the 2019-20 season while Carlsson's is a three-year deal that runs through the 2020-21 campaign and carries a cap hit of $792,500.

So who are these guys? Let's meet them:

Carlsson

Drafted in the fourth round (No. 110 overall) by the Blackhawks in 2016, Carlsson set a career-high with 17 points (seven goals, 10 assists) in 44 games this season with Brynäs IF of the Swedish Hockey League. He was tied for fourth among all blue liners with seven goals.

Carlsson, 20, doesn't have major upside, but he's a reliable, well-rounded defenseman and that's what drew the attention of Blackhawks vice president of amateur scouting Mark Kelley.

“When he’s on the ice, he makes things happen," Kelley told Scott Powers of The Athletic last summer. "I think what impressed the Sweden under-20 coach was Lucas’ ability to challenge in all three zones. He’s an active defensively. Offensively, he challenges. He keeps plays alive.”

Kahun

The 22-year-old forward spent the last four seasons with EHC München of the Deutsche Eishockey Liga, Germany's top professional hockey league, where he established career highs in assists (29), points (41) and tied a personal best with 12 goals, leading Munchen to their third straight championship in 2018 after recording four goals and 10 assists in 17 playoff contests.

He raised eyebrows at the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, where he compiled five points (two goals, three assists) in seven games and won 55.4 percent of his faceoffs (41 of 74), helping Germany capture a silver medal.

“He has made an enormous step this year, has become much more stable and mature," German national team coach Marco Sturm said after the Olympics. "I am sure that he would grab it in the NHL,” Sturm told the Hamburger Morgenpost.

Most recently, Kahun had a goal and two assists in seven games for Germany during the IIHF Men's World Championship. He's 5-foot-11, 176 pounds whose known to be a solid two-way player and can play center but may need some time to adjust to the smaller ice surface and NHL style of speed and physicality.

Lankinen 

Lankinen is 23 years old and coming off a season in which he was in the discussion for the Urpo Ylönen trophy, annually awarded to the top goaltender of the Finnish Elite League, after registering a league-best 1.33 goals against average and .946 save percentage in 15 games with HIFK.

He missed a large portion of the season because of an injury, but it didn't stop him from turning in a strong postseason, guiding his team to a bronze medal after posting a 1.99 GAA and .936 save percentage in 13 playoff games. The year before that, he led the league with seven shutouts in 42 games, backstopping his team to a silver medal.

This is a low-risk, medium-sized reward signing for the Blackhawks, who could use some more young goaltending depth in the pipeline, especially given how this season unfolded with the big club.

Raddysh

The Blackhawks signed Raddysh to a one-year AHL contract last June, and he turned it into an NHL one after a strong season with the Rockford IceHogs.

Raddysh, 22, accumulated 22 points (five goals, 17 assists) in 66 regular-season games with the IceHogs, and has appeared in each of the team's playoff games en route to the Western Conference Final.

Last season Raddysh was named the OHL's top defenseman after scoring 16 goals and 65 assists for 81 points in 62 games for the Erie Otters, where he was teammates with current Blackhawks winger Alex DeBrincat. He's the Otters' all-time leader in assists (143) and points (184) among defensemen.

Raddysh might be nothing more than a depth defenseman, but his development is worth monitoring because the offensive production is there and that's something the Blackhawks lacked this past season from their back end.

Blackhawks winger Marian Hossa: 'I will not play hockey anymore'

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AP

Blackhawks winger Marian Hossa: 'I will not play hockey anymore'

Days after putting his Gold Coast condo on the market, Blackhawks winger Marian Hossa revealed to a Slovakian newspaper that he is moving back to his hometown country and doesn't plan on returning to the NHL.

"I will not play hockey anymore," said Hossa, who missed the entire 2017-18 campaign due to a progressive skin disorder and the side effects of the medications involved to treat it. "I have a valid contract with Chicago for the next three years, but I have only one health and it does not allow me to return."

Because he has three years left on a deal that carries a $5.275 million cap hit, Hossa is not expected to sign his retirement papers until the contract is completed or else it would result in salary cap consequences.

The news is not surprising, but it officially allows the Blackhawks to move on without him in the fold roster-wise and toy around with some options this summer.

The first is stashing his contract on long-term injured reserve, as they did last season when they utilized the in-season preference.

The second, which Hossa wondered could happen, is finding a trade partner that would absorb the remainder of his contract, usually done by lower payroll teams aiming to reach the cap floor.

And it wouldn't be difficult trying to find a buyer, considering Hossa's actual salary is $1 million per year over the next three seasons. Hossa, of course, has a no movement clause but it's likely he would waive it given his status at this point.

The good news for Chicago is, the three-time Stanley Cup winner didn't rule out joining the Blackhawks organization in some capacity after his contract expires in 2020-21, whether it's in a front office role or as a team ambassador.

In 19 NHL seasons, Hossa accumulated 525 goals and 609 assists for 1,134 points in 1,309 regular-season games, and added 149 points (52 goals, 97 assists) in 205 postseason contests. He's one of 45 players in league history to net at least 500 goals in his career.