CHICAGO — They’re a tough bunch, these Bolts.
A tough bunch indeed.
After getting badly outshot in the opening frame — playing with an injured goalie that struggled simply getting to his feet — the Lightning once again found a way to fight through adversity, scoring a vital 3-2 win over Chicago in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final.
Cedric Paquette scored the game-winner with just over three minutes remaining…
… Which, under normal circumstances, would make him a shoe-in for hero of the night. Yet on Monday, that designation went to Ben Bishop, who battled through an unspecified injury to stop 36 shots — his second-highest save total of the entire postseason.
That’s right. On a night where he was clearly laboring, Bishop made more saves than all but one game these playoffs — when he stopped 43 in a double-OT win over Montreal in Round 2.
Most of Bishop’s action on Monday night came in a wild first period. The Blackhawks, determined to test the Tampa goalie after 48 hours of uncertainty regarding his physical state, fired 19 shots on goal — and another 11 that were either blocked or missed the target. Chicago dominated proceedings, yet only Brad Richards was able to beat Bishop, canceling out Ryan Callahan’s opening tally at the five-minute mark.
In the second period, the tide started to turn.
The Bolts out-shot the ‘Hawks 17-7, with both goalies making all the necessary stops. Crawford, as the numbers suggest, was the busier of the two netminders as Tampa Bay did a nice job of coming to Bishop’s aid, carrying the play while preventing another shooting gallery.
In the third, Tampa Bay again showed it resiliency — much like it did in Game 2.
Just 13 seconds after Brandon Saad looked to have scored a huge goal, the “Triplets” went to work — Ondrej Palat converted on assists from Nikita Kucherov and Tyler Johnson to even the score at 2-2. It was the line’s 31st goal in 23 games this postseason and one of the quickest replies in Stanley Cup Final history:
The two teams traded chances following the Palat goal, but it was Paquette who notched the decisive tally and first playoff game-winning goal of his career. What followed was more Bishop heroics, as he finished the final frame with 12 saves.
At the end of a day in which he said he felt like Marshawn Lynch, tonight’s effort was Bish Mode indeed.
With an assist on tonight’s opening goal, Victor Hedman set a new Lightning franchise record for career playoff assists (20) by a defenseman… Hedman (23 pts in 45 GP) later surpassed Dan Boyle (22 in 45) for most career playoff points by a Bolts blueliner… Richards’ first-period tally was his first Stanley Cup Final goal since scoring one with Tampa Bay in 2004.
Related: ‘It took him a few years, but Victor Hedman’s arrived’