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EXTRA SHIFT: Chicago

Before Saturday’s game in Chicago during our pregame interview, Lightning Head Coach Jon Cooper said this about his team’s game in Boston last Thursday: “People are going to say, ‘Oh, the Lightning hung in there, the Lightning potentially outplayed them’, but the final result was we lost the game and we got zero points out of it.” While he noted that there were things that he liked about the Lightning’s game, he said: “Ultimately, we’ve got to accumulate points and we didn’t get any.”

Well, on Saturday, the Lightning did not outplay the Chicago Blackhawks, but they picked up two points nonetheless. Hockey can be a funny game sometimes.

The main reason why the Bolts were able to win, of course, was the outstanding play of Ben Bishop, who finished with 37 saves through regulation and overtime. He then added three more stops in the shootout.

The first period was strange; the ‘Hawks held the Lightning without a shot and recorded 12 of their own, but it was their least threatening period. Only a couple of those shots were scoring chances and I felt the Lightning did a reasonably good job with their defensive zone coverage and control breakouts. Heading into the final TV timeout of the period (there were less than five minutes left in the frame), the Blackhawks only had five shots.

The second period was a different story, though. Chicago had 13 second period shots, but unlike the first, it generated numerous dangerous scoring chances. Two of those shots went in the net. The Bolts had six shots, but more than in the first, didn’t manage the puck as well in the defensive and neutral zones.

The first half of the third period followed a similar script. The ‘Hawks continued to pressure and Bishop continued to keep the Lightning within striking distance. Momentum finally swung when Chicago iced the puck at the end of a long shift. ‘Hawks head coach Joel Quenneville, recognizing danger, called timeout. It didn’t matter. Nate Thompson won the faceoff, Matt Carle fired a low, hard shot that led to a rebound and Marty St. Louis placed a perfect backhander into the top of the net. Momentum gained, the Lightning buzzed around the Chicago zone for the next two shifts and drew a penalty. On the ensuing power play, they again won an important faceoff (an area in which they struggled in their power plays against Boston on Thursday), held the puck in the zone and tied the score with Teddy Purcell’s goal.

Tampa Bay got through a dicey penalty kill late in regulation (Thompson was without a stick for a portion of the kill), forced OT and then the shootout. Valtteri Filppula scored and Bishop stopped three. Two points in the bank.

Here are my takeaways from this game. First, the Chicago Blackhawks are really good. Really, really good. They are the defending Stanley Cup Champions, after all, and played like it in this game. Second, even though the Lightning got outplayed, they picked up two points because their goalie stole one for them. All teams need that over the course of a long season. And third, the Lightning got through these two tough opening games with a split, a desirable outcome based on their first two opponents. On to Buffalo.

Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game: Ben Bishop’s key saves throughout the game.

Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game:

  1. Ben Bishop – Lightning. Made 37 saves through regulation and overtime. Added three more saves in shootout.
  2. Patrick Kane – Blackhawks. Scored goal. Five shots. Dangerous throughout the game.
  3. Marty St. Louis – Lightning. Goal and assist. Won two important third period faceoffs.

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