The Blackhawks and Lightning met Thursday night for the first time since a season-opening series in January. The Bolts came into Chicago on a five-game win streak while goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy hadn’t allowed a goal in his previous ten periods.
Kevin Lankinen made his 16th start of the season and turned aside all nine shots he saw in the first period, including a point-blank save on Brayden Point ten minutes into the game.
The Blackhawks were able to match the Lightning’s speed and played the majority of the period in their offensive zone. As a line, Carl Soderberg, Philipp Kurashev, and Mattias Janmark were credited with nine shot attempts in the opening frame. As a whole, the Blackhawks created ten scoring chances but the two teams were scoreless after one.
It was much of the same for the Blackhawks early in the second period. They played on their toes and forced their game upon the Lightning.
Nearly six minutes into the period, the Lightning went to their first power play, but it was the Blackhawks who converted. Brandon Hagel cradled a rebound off a Vasilevskiy save in the slot and dished it to Ryan Carpenter who cranked it high short side for the game’s first goal.
It was Carpenter’s fourth goal of the season and the Blackhawks’ second short-handed goal this season. Mattias Janmark has the other.
The Blackhawks held a one-goal lead and were outshooting the Lightning 20 to 13 halfway through the game. Lankinen had kept the Lightning off the scoreboard thus far when Patrick Kane connected with Alex DeBrincat to extend the Blackhawks’ lead to two.
Originally credited to Kane, the goal was later given to DeBrincat. The Cat now has 12 goals on the season to lead the Blackhawks in that department.
The Blackhawks dominated the middle frame as they were credited with 22 scoring chances and held the Lightning to just one high-danger scoring chance in the period.
Lightning Flip the Switch in the Third
As the final full stanza rolled around, it seemed the team from Tampa Bay finally got off the plane. The Blackhawks started the third period with a power play, but it was their turn to give up a short-handed goal. Anthony Cirelli deflected a point shot past Lankinen, who had turned aside all 17 shots he had faced to that point.
Two minutes later, Steven Stamkos scored off a face-off to tie the game at two goals apiece. The Blackhawks were badly outplayed in the final twenty minutes but did just enough to force the game to overtime.
The Blackhawks gaining a point in the first of their three-game set against the Lightning was huge. And they nearly took the second when Alex DeBrincat beat Vasilevskiy but hit the post two minutes into extra time.
Lankinen made a sprawling save with a minute left before allowing a Victor Hedman shot, which was eventually deemed a redirect by Alex Killorn, to sneak under his pads with under a second remaining on the clock as the Blackhawks lost the game 2-1.
The Blackhawks are now 12-7-5 with 29 out of a possible 48 points and currently sit in fourth place in the Discover Central Division.
The Blackhawks line of Carl Soderberg, Philipp Kurashev, and Mattias Janmark was the spark to the team tonight. In 11:55 of ice time, the trio generated 17 shot attempts while allowing just four shots against. Every shift it seemed they were playing in the Lightning’s end. Janmark and Kurashev each recorded three shots on goal while Soderberg played two minutes on the power play as well. For the Blackhawks to compete with the best teams in the league, they need their bottom-six to dictate the play when on the ice and that’s what this line did tonight.
As a team, the Blackhawks showed tonight they have enough team speed to play a high-action style of hockey. But they also proved they limit their opponent’s chances at the same time. In years past, the Blackhawks would open up too much defensively when they started stretching out the ice, but tonight they were able to keep the Lightning to the outside for the most part. At even strength, the Blackhawks allowed just three high-danger chances, compared to their season average of 8.5.
What’s On Tap Next?
The Blackhawks and Lightning are back at it tomorrow night in Chicago at 7:00 PM CT. For further Blackhawks postgame analysis and commentary, tune in to the Four Feathers Podcast.