TAMPA — Well, that was interesting.
In a game with so many compelling storylines — tons of offense, multiple lead changes and a bizarre situation with Ben Bishop twice exiting the contest — the Tampa Bay Lightning wrote the biggest and most important one by defeating the Blackhawks 4-3 on Saturday night, evening up the Stanley Cup Final at one game apiece.
For the Bolts, it was a gutsy victory. Though they refused to call it a must-win, tonight’s game was pretty much that — Since the Stanley Cup Final went to best-of-7 in 1939, teams that go down 0-2 have lost 44 of 49 times.
And getting this series to 1-1 wasn’t easy.
The Lightning had a legitimate beef with Chicago’s 3-3 goal in the third period, as Marian Hossa clearly interfered with Ben Bishop’s pad prior to the puck crossing the line. The officials convened briefly to discuss the incident but — with video replay and coach’s challenges not coming into effect until next season — there was nothing to be done; the goal stood, and the Blackhawks erased a one-goal Tampa lead for the second time on the night.
Shortly thereafter, things got weird.
Bishop left the game briefly midway through the frame, paving the way for 20-year-old Russian rookie Andrei Vasilevskiy to make his series debut. Vasilevskiy then proceeded to stand in net, not face any shots, yet end up the goalie of record as he was in when Jason Garrison scored at 8:49 for what proved to be the game-winner.
Immediately after Garrison scored, Bishop came back in — only to exit again minutes later, forcing Vasilevskiy to go back in goal and finish out the game.
The netminder drama and interference goal overshadowed one of the night’s major themes — that Game 2 was, as many will point out, a showcase of the hockey most expected but failed to witness in the series opener. It was fast, skilled and filled with scoring chances — a far cry from Game 1, which featured just three goals and a third period where Tampa went 13 minutes without a shot.
Tonight, Chicago and Tampa combined to score seven goals on nearly 65 shots. Sixteen different players scored at least a point, with the high-octane “Triplets” line of Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Nikita Kucherov combining for three.
It set the stage nicely for what promises to be an entertaining Game 3, when the two teams switch locations to the United Center in Chicago.
Bolts rookie Jonathan Drouin made his series debut and had two shots in 7:52 of ice-time… Nine different players had single points for Chicago, with Teuvo Teravainen scoring his second goal in as many games… Patrick Sharp wore the goat horns in the third period, taking back-to-back penalties, the second of which Garrison converted for the GWG… Vasilevskiy finished with five saves on five shots, Bishop with 21 on 24… Corey Crawford finished with four goals allowed on 24 shots.