With the season's new schedule structure due to COVID-19 concerns, teams have the rare opportunity to play two game "series" with their opponents. A slight wrinkle in the Blackhawks schedule this season has the team playing the Tampa Bay Lightning three times in four days at the United Center.
The Blackhawks split the first two games, losing in heartbreaking fashion on Thursday night, but Malcolm Subban stole game two from the Lightning on Friday night. Chicago entered Sunday with the opportunity to take five of a possible six points from the Central Division's best team.
Jeremy Colliton went back to the 11 forward, seven defensemen approach for Sunday's game. With Calvin de Haan out of the lineup on Sunday, Lucas Carlsson dressed in his place and Wyatt Kalynuk made his NHL debut as the seventh defenseman.
The game started with a much slower pace than the prior two meetings. Both teams looked a little sluggish early with nothing to show for their efforts. Neither team could crack the opposing goaltender through the first ten minutes of play.
The best chance for the Blackhawks to that point was a Philipp Kurashev miss thanks to Mikhail Sergachev's stick. However, Kurashev received an opportunity for redemption. At the 10:51 mark of the period, the young Swiss forward made a nifty move around a sprawling Andrei Vasilevskiy to give the Blackhawks the early lead.
Not long after Kurashev's marker, the Lightning committed the lone penalty of the period sending Chicago to the power play. Pat Maroon's tripping penalty proved costly for the Lightning. A beautiful tic-tac-toe play from Patrick Kane, Dominik Kubalik, and eventual goal scorer Mattias Janmark extended the Blackhawks' lead to two.
The Blackhawks held on to their lead as they entered the first intermission. Although play was close early, the Blackhawks were the better team in the second half of the period.
The middle frame began much faster than the opening period did, with both teams picking up the intensity. The action started early and often in the second, as the Blackhawks extended their lead.
Just over three minutes into the period, Mattias Janmark made an excellent pass to Pius Suter, who buried the feed for his eighth goal of the season. The legendary Suter Sunday's live on with the tally.
Although the Hawks captured momentum, the Lightning quickly snatched it back. Faster than a strike of lightning, the visitors added two quick goals. A Brandon Hagel hooking call cost the Hawks as Ondrej Palat fired home his 10th goal of the season within the first 15 seconds of the man advantage. A short 23 seconds later, the Lightning tallied again, with Yanni Gourde getting involved and potting his seventh of the season to bring the Lightning within one.
The Blackhawks did not do a good job staying out of the penalty box. An Ian Mitchell hooking penalty led to a Victor Hedman power play tally for the Lightning, knotting the game at 3-3 three minutes after Gourde's goal. Not long after, Connor Murphy was ejected from the game for an illegal hit to the head, leaving the Blackhawks down a man for the rest of the game.
The Blackhawks weathered the Murphy major penalty, but the Lightining regained the momentum on Sunday afternoon.
Near the end of the period, the Lightning added a fourth goal in the period and their third on the power play. Yanni Gourde scored his second goal of the day and the Blackhawks entered the intermission down one after being up two entering the second period.
The third period proved to be less chaotic than the second. In the first half of the period, the Blackhawks nearly tied the game. Ryan Carpenter made a nice move in on Vasilevskiy but rang the goal post.
The Blackhawks were kept in the game by Kevin Lankinen. Time and time again the Finnish net-minder stopped some high quality chances for Tampa Bay, including a save that is highlight reel worthy.
At the 9:41 mark, the Blackhawks were granted a well needed power play thanks to a Ryan McDonough hooking call. However, the Blackhawks couldn't capitalize on the chance. The Hawks' comeback attempt took a huge hit with the lack of a power play conversion.
The Lightning unfortunately continued to pour it on. At 14:25, Alex Killorn fired home his sixth goal of the season, giving the visitors the 5-3 lead. Five unanswered goals propelled the Lightning to the comfortable two goal lead late in the third.
The Lightning finished the game off with yet another power play goal. Pat Maroon banged home a loose puck just outside the blue paint for his third goal of the season. The Maroon tally was the final dagger to put the Hawks away.
The Hawks fall to Tampa Bay 6-3 after a 3-0 lead in the second period. This was a missed opportunity for the Blackhawks to gain two big points.
The Blackhawks' first 23 minutes of Sunday's game were fantastic as they frustrated the defending Stanley Cup champions. However, the champs proved why they are just that, scoring six unanswered to take the game away from the Hawks.
The biggest blunder today was the Hawks' compete level after they took the 3-0 lead early in the second period. They seemed to fold a bit and allowed the defending champs to climb back into this game quickly.
That said, the Hawks showed a lot of promise in these three games against Tampa Bay. If they can play a full 60 minutes night in and night out, they'll set themselves up for a playoff appearance this season.
What's On Tap Next?
The Blackhawks travel to Dallas this week for two games against the Stars. The first game is Tuesday with puck drop scheduled for 7:30 PM CST. The game will be broadcasted on NBC Sports Chicago and NBC Sports Network for the out-of-market audience.
Be sure to tune in to the Four Feathers Podcast for reactions to this game. Available wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.