(photo: Jackman Chiu)
The Tampa Bay Lightning are no strangers to getting off to a bad start this post-season. Wednesday night marked the 3rd time this playoffs that the Lightning lost in the series opener, but for most of the game it looked like they were going to start the series with a win on home ice against the battle-tested Chicago Blackhawks. Alex Killorn opened the scoring early in the first with a skillful, backhanded deflection off an airborne puck that Anton Stralman had sent wide.
“It was a shot that was coming… I mean, you don’t expect to score on those shots, but I was just trying to sort of hit it towards the net,” Killorn said. “Not something you practice, but lucky it went in.”
Not much else happened in the game until Teuvo Teravainen and Antoine Vermette scored within two minutes of one another late in the third to steal the Lightning’s thunder. The 20 year old Teravainen not only broke the tie, but set up the game-winning goal, earning him 1st Star honors. Teravainen’s one-timer from Duncan Keith at 13:28 ended Ben Bishop‘s shutout streak of 113:28, a log he had been racking up since Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final. Marian Hossa heaped praises on young Teravainen after the game, commending his poise and his improvement since his stint in the minors,
“He’s one of the most talented guys I see, watching him every day… But coming to this team, there are so many skilled players, they decided that instead of playing only a few minutes they put him on a minor team so he could play lots of minutes. Obviously, it’s paying off. He’s playing with such confidence… He’s growing more confident every game. He doesn’t seem to have a heartbeat. He’s so calm. He’s Finnish cold.”
Coach Joel Quenneville also had high praise of Teravainen’s clutch performance,
“I thought he got better like our team did as the game went on. Couple of plays. Made a play at the net. He scored some goals in this playoffs as they progressed by just putting it at the net. He has the shoot-first mentality. He’s got a decent shot, pretty good looks. Getting that net front presence by Krugs. He was the one that forced the play to Vermy on the goal. So it was a couple real nice plays by a guy. That has a nice upside.”
Teravainen, back out shortly after his game-tying heroics, stole the puck from J.T. Brown and sent it in the direction of Antoine Vermette whose shot then deflected off the stick of Brown and into the net to clinch the victory for the Blackhawks at 15:26.
“I think on that play, it was great work,” said Vermette, “Teuvo kept it working hard, created a turnover, and we got the puck in the slot.”
Streaks are meant to be broken, as Bishop and his team learned Wednesday night. This was the first game all playoffs where the Lightning ended up losing after scoring first, as well as the first time all season they didn’t win after sustaining a lead for two periods. While Tampa held Chicago to just 13 shots in the first two stanzas combined, they only took 5 on Corey Crawford in the third. Perhaps they should have known not to sit on a one goal lead, as the Blackhawks have proven they can bounce back from a lot worse than a one goal deficit this post-season.
“You want to protect the lead and we’ve been quite successful in doing so in past games,” said Stralman, “This time, we’re playing a highly skilled team and they’re a little bit too good to give that much room and that much puck possession. So, lesson learned.”
The Lightning and the Blackhawks will face off for Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals on Saturday at 7:15 p.m. ET at Amalie Arena.