With a 2-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Stanley Cup finals safely behind him, Chicago Blackhawks' goalie Corey Crawford summed up what it took to win: "They sat back in the third."
In the third period Wednesday night, the Tampa Bay Lightning did sit back and, in doing so, dropped a relentless attacking style that had got them to their first Stanley Cup final in over a decade.
The Lightning got the lead early in the game, with one of the more spectacular goals in recent Stanley Cup history. With his back to the net, forward Alex Killorn batted a shot out of mid-air and past a stunned Crawford.
Tampa kept up the pressure for the first two periods, but Crawford, who has become more dominant as these playoffs have progressed, kept them off the scoreboard.
After that, the Lightning appeared content to protect their slim lead.
Two third period Chicago goals, minutes apart, proved what a mistake that was. The Lightning didn't recover.
"Against a team like Chicago, you can't let them keep coming at you the way we did," said Tampa coach Jon Cooper after the game.
Still, there are plenty of upsides here for the young, talented Lightning team. In losing by only a goal, they proved they are a match for a veteran Blackhawks squad that is making its third Stanley Cup final appearance in the six past years. The 'Hawks are a team of living legends, featuring stars like Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp, Duncan Keith and Patrick Kane, whose stickhandling abilities border on wizardry.
But Tampa has arguably the best young talent in the NHL right now. Its usually dangerous triplets line, featuring Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat, all in the top eight playoff goal scorers, failed to score a point Wednesday night. If they start clicking, what is already shaping up to be an entertaining series will only be more so.
Game 2 is in Tampa Bay at 8:00 PM.
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