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Lightning beat Blackhawks 3-2, lead Stanley Cup Final 2-1

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Lightning beat Blackhawks 3-2, lead Stanley Cup Final 2-1

By JAY COHEN

CHICAGO (AP) -- Victor Hedman is throwing a party at the Stanley Cup Final, and the Tampa Bay Lightning are having a great time so far.

Hedman had two assists while hounding Chicago's elite group of forwards, and the Lightning beat the Blackhawks 3-2 on Monday night to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.

"To be able to contribute and see how much this means to Tampa is my No. 1 priority," Hedman said. "Like I said all playoffs, I want to be a difference-maker on the ice on both ends, and it doesn't matter what type of game it is and what game it is. I always want to try to get better."

Ryan Callahan, Ondrej Palat and Cedric Paquette scored in Tampa Bay's second straight win, and Ben Bishop made 36 saves in a gutsy performance after he was questionable coming into the night. Game 4 is Wednesday night in Chicago.

Brad Richards and Brandon Saad scored for the Blackhawks and Corey Crawford finished with 29 stops. Marian Hossa had two assists after he missed a golden opportunity in the first period.

"Just a couple of little bad habits that ended up hurting us," captain Jonathan Toews said. "We're all responsible for that."

Toews and Patrick Kane have seen a lot of Tampa Bay's top defensive pairing of Hedman and Anton Stralman through the first part of the final, and the two key scorers for the Blackhawks have combined for just one point. Hedman also has contributed two assists in each of the last two games.

"Victor Hedman, what he's doing, I mean, this is clearly his coming-out party," Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said. "He sets that one up and then makes a big-time play on the winner. He was a monster out there tonight."

The third consecutive one-goal game in the final was tied at 1 after two periods, and then tied again after the teams exchanged goals in a 13-second burst in the third. But Hedman helped the Lightning take the lead for good when he skated into the corner and made a perfect pass to Paquette in the middle for his third goal of the playoffs with 3:11 remaining, silencing the United Center crowd of 22,336.

"Hedy got the puck at the blue line," Paquette said. "I just went to the net, he gave it to me. I waited until the goalie couldn't see the puck."

After nearly two days' worth of speculation, Bishop led the Lightning out of the tunnel for warmups and got the start in goal. He participated in the morning skate, but there was no definitive word on his status until he was announced as the starter right before the game.

The 6-foot-7 Bishop left two different times during the third period of Tampa Bay's 4-3 victory in Game 2 on Saturday night. The team has not provided a reason for his twin departures, but he appeared to be dealing with some sort of groin or leg injury as he struggled to get up and down for much of the night. He shed no light on the situation after Game 3.

"It's going to take a lot not to play in a Stanley Cup Final game personally," Bishop said.

The Lightning got the first goal for the fourth straight time when Hedman made a terrific stretch pass to an open Callahan for a big drive over Crawford's left shoulder at 5:09 of the first.

The Blackhawks dominated the rest of the period. Hossa wasted a prime opportunity when his shot on an open net was wide left as he tumbled to the ice. Teuvo Teravainen also shot it wide on a good look while Bishop struggled to move around the goal.

Tampa Bay defenseman Braydon Coburn was sent off for hooking with 7:18 left, and the Blackhawks capitalized on their first power-play opportunity. With Andrew Shaw lurking in front of the goal, Richards' big slap shot went off the top of Bishop's glove and into the net for his third goal of the playoffs.

"I liked their first period," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "We had two empty nets and didn't capitalize on either one. We still had 1-1. Scored a big power-play goal, got some excitement. The crowd was there. I thought we had a good first, they had a good second. Third was even. Tough loss."

NOTES: Blackhawks D Johnny Oduya missed the last part of the second, but returned for the start of the third. "We'll see," Quenneville said. "We'll see tomorrow how he presents." ... Blackhawks F Bryan Bickell and rookie D Trevor van Riemsdyk each made their first appearance of the series. Bickell had been sidelined by vertigo, while van Riemsdyk was coming back from surgeries on his left knee and right wrist. It was the first NHL game for van Riemsdyk since Nov. 16. ... Nikita Nesterov returned to Tampa Bay's lineup, giving the Lightning seven active defensemen. Rookie winger Jonathan Drouin was scratched. ... It was Richards' first goal in the Stanley Cup Final since he scored for Tampa Bay in Game 6 of the 2004 series against Calgary.

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Believe it or not, this isn't the first D.C. vs. Vegas postseason matchup

Believe it or not, this isn't the first D.C. vs. Vegas postseason matchup

In what is perhaps the most unexpected Stanley Cup Final pairing in recent memory, the Washington Capitals and the Las Vegas Golden Knights are going to make history this year.

Either it is going to be the first expansion team to win a title in their first season, or it will be a team looking to end a 27-year title drought for one of the biggest cities in the United States.

But what it will not be is the first D.C. vs. Vegas postseason matchup.

Going even farther back than the Capitals last Stanley Cup appearance (1998), the Georgetown Hoyas and UNLV Rebels met in the 1991 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

Sin City took the first, and up until now, the only postseason bout between these two cities. The Larry Johnson-led University of Las Vegas squad powered right past the Hoyas in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament.

[D.C. sports and Second Rounds, I know right?]

Coming fresh off the NCAA title in 1990, UNLV waltzed right to the Final Four before meeting their demise against Duke. It also ended up being the last game for Dikembe Mutombo in a Georgetown uniform.

While in all likely-hood this will not be the final game/ series for Alex Ovechkin rocking the red, it may be his last and only chance for him to play this far into a postseason.

In the past two seasons, Vegas has gone from zero professional teams to having a Stanley Cup contender, a WNBA franchise, and lined up to take over the Oakland Raiders in 2020. 

Now time for the Golden Knights' Cinderella story to come up a little bit short. 

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Capitals listed as underdogs in their first Stanley Cup since 1998

Capitals listed as underdogs in their first Stanley Cup since 1998

The odds have never gone the way of the Washington Capitals.

After years of being the common pick to finally break through and win the Stanley Cup, this was most definitely not the year.

Yet, here we are with the Capitals as one of the final two teams standing.

For their upcoming Stanley Cup Final, the Caps are the underdogs against the Las Vegas Golden Knights.  The opening line from OddsShark has the Golden Knights as -135 money line favorites to win the Stanley Cup. The Capitals were listed as +115 underdogs.

Vegas (the betting entity, not the team) has not exactly been the most reliable this year though. After all, the Golden Knights were 100/1 odds to win the whole thing. Now they are four games away.

In their past two series, Washington was not the favorites. The Capitals have not been favorites since the First Round against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

For years in the Alex Ovechkin era, they have been the favorites to not only go on to play for the Stanley Cup but winning it.

In 2018 they started the season tied for the fifth best odds to win the Cup (14/1), one of their lowest opening marks in the past decade. For the full perspective, Washington was tied with the Toronto Maple Leafs and behind the Dallas Stars at the start of the season.

Without question this underdog role has fit them quite well, they shouldn’t want anything to change heading into the biggest postseason series in 20 years for Washington D.C.

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