CHICAGO — Breaking down the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 3-2 win in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final at United Center. The Lightning leads the series 2 games to 1
What happened: Despite the low score, this one was a tango between teams alternating as lead dancers. Both goalies — Tampa Bay’s Ben Bishop and Chicago’s Corey Crawford — had to be sharp.
Cedric Paquette’s deflection off Victor Hedman’s nifty centering pass with 3:11 left in the third period completed a rush, snapped a tie and stood up as the game winner. It was his second goal in two games, the 21-year-old center had scored only once in the Lightning’s previous 19 postseason contests.
“Hedy got the puck at the blueline,” Paquette said. I just went to the net, he gave it to me. I waited until the goalie couldn’t see the puck. I think I had the opening.”
Paquette added he didn’t know if he’s make the Lightning this year, but now he’s not only scoring, but being matched against Chicago stars Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews and holding them in check. Neither had a point on Wednesday.
“I think he’s a very underrated player offensively and scoring big goals for us” Hedman said. “And to have a big responsibility playing against Toews and Kane, it’s really good how he’s managed it.
“The kid wants to get going and wants the challenge.”
Tampa Bay came out quickly in the first frame, taking the initial four shots and a 1-0 lead on Ryan Callahan’s goal — off the goalpost and Hedman’s 120-foot stretch pass — 5:09 in. The Blackhawks dominated the rest of the period, taking 22 of the next 19 shots.
Brad Richards tied it at one-all during a power play with 5:38 left in the first on a screened shot from the top of the slot that struck Bishop’s outstretched glove and continued in. It was Richards’ first goal of the Final and first against the first NHL team he played for, with whom he won the Stanley Cup, and Conn Smythe (playoff MVP) and Lady Byng Trophies in 2004.
Brandon Saad put Chicago ahead 2-1 from the slot at 4:14 of the third to complete a nifty passing play. But Tampa Bay’s Triplet Line responded just 13 second later to tie it, with Ondrej Palat punching in a rebound to tie it at two.
Bi’SHHHSH’op back in goal: Ben Bishop started in goal for the Lightning after being pulled two separate times in the third period of Game 2 in Tampa. Although he took part in Wednesday’s game-day skate, Bishop, coach Jon Cooper and the Lightning refused to disclose the 6-foot-7 goalie’s status until he was announced as the starter before the game.
“We made a decision there before the game,” Bishop said. It’s going to take a lot not to play in a Stanley Cup Final game personally.
Bishop and his team remained secretive about why he left Game 2. Following Game 3 media tried to weasle an answer out of the goalie, but to no avail.
Bishop said he “felt the same pretty much the whole game.” When asked bluntly what was wrong with him, his answer: “I’m not going to get into that.”
Rookie Andrei Vasilevskiy picked up the win in Game 2 in Tampa, stopping all five shots he faced in 9:03 of ice time as he closed out the contest.
Bishop looked like he might really be hurt late in the second of Game 3 when Saad drove to the net with the puck and struck the goalie in the mask. Bishop stayed face-down on the ice for a about a minute and was tended to by a trainer before play resumed. Saad was whistled for goalie interference.
Really stretching it: It’s just not possible to make a longer stretch pass than the terrific one Hedman golfed from below the Lightning goal line to set up Ryan Callahan’s goal at 5:09 of the first that opened the scoring.
Tampa Bay’s rangy rear guard fired the puck from right side of his team’s net to Callahan on the right wing side at the Chicago blue line. Callahan turned, sprinted in and scored on a shot that sailed over Crawford’s glove and pinged in off the crossbar.
But the play almost didn’t happen, Hedman said.
“I wasn’t going to give it to (Callahan) at first because he was behind their ‘D,'” Hedman said. “I was going to settle the shift down a little bit.
“Then I saw their D went down and Cally was up there. I just wanted to make hard pass and he made a helluva play catching it on his backhand.”
Hawks back: Chicago winger Bryan Bickell returned after missing two game with what he told reporters was “vertigo.” The 6-foot-4 forward replaced Kris Versteeg on a line with Richards and Patrick Kane.
Bickell, an effective physical force in past playoffs, has been quiet this time. He has no goals and five assists in 18 games, and hasn’t scored since April 5, the Blackhawks’ third-to-last game of the regular season.
When Chicago won the Cup in 2013, Bickell was second on the team with 17 points in the playoffs (nine goals, eight assists) and was rewarded with a four-year, $16 million contract extension.
Wide open: The Blackhawks had ample chances to score more than once in their first-period push when they launched 19 of the final 22 shots in the frame. Not cashing in then might have decided the game.
Veteran Marian Hossa shot wide of a completely open net when he cut across the crease 8:12 into the period after Bishop and Braydon Coburn got tangled up and fell to the right of the net. Coburn also was whistled for tripping on the play.
Rookie Teuvo Teravainen fired wide to the left on a prime chance off a rebound during a 4-on-4 minutes later.
“We had two empty nets and didn’t capitalize on them,” Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. “The crowd was there. I thought we had a good first, they had a good second. Third was even. Tough loss.”
What the Lightning did well: Tampa Bay was on their heels for much of the first period, then got rolling in the second with the Triplets Line starting to generate chances. Like Chicago’s Corey Crawford, Bishop was alert and held down the fort in net, stopping 36 shots.
“Obviously probably wasn’t our best first, but I thought we got better as the game went on,” Bishop said. “Some big blocked shots there at the end. Just a good team win all around.”
The Lightning bounced back 13 seconds after Saad put Chicago ahead, then hung around and won it late.
Hedman, the Lightning’s dynamite defenseman, had a terrific game, setting up two goals, including the game winner. “He was a monster out there tonight,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said.
What the Blackhawks did well: Tampa Bay started fast, but Chicago quickly bounced back and outshot the Lightning 19-7 in the first.
The Lightning pushed back in the second, outgunning Chicago 17-7. Crawford, who took some heat after giving up at least one soft goal in Game 2, was up to the task. He was especially sharp in helping the Blackhawks kill a 5-on-3 Tampa Bay power play that lasted 1:26 late in the the second to keep the score at 1-1.
The crowd of 22,336 roared as loud as for any goal when the Hawks completed the kill and showered Crawford with chants of “Corey, Corey, Corey.”
The two teams meet in Game 4 at the United Center on Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET.
PHOTOS: Best of Stanley Cup Final
Game 3: Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Trevor Van Riemsdyk battles for the puck with Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Ryan Callahan in the third period at United Center.