Rubber matches to decide three-game weekend series typically are the stuff of baseball, but with scheduling novelties aplenty during this NHL season influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Chicago Blackhawks and Tampa Bay Lightning find themselves facing such a scenario.
And on a Sunday afternoon, no less.
Host Chicago arguably carries the most momentum into the matinee at United Center. After squandering a two-goal lead in the third period to lose Thursday’s series opener in the final second of overtime, the Blackhawks responded Friday to prevail 4-3 in a shootout, with Philipp Kurashev scoring the lone goal of that session.
“This was a great team win,” said the Blackhawks’ Adam Boqvist, who tallied two assists. “I think we played better (Thursday) night, but obviously good goaltending, and I think we played pretty good overall. These are two huge points for us, but now we’re going to just reset for Sunday. Tampa’s going to come out really hard like they did tonight. We’ve got to be ready for it.”
Tampa Bay has yielded at least one point to the same club in successive games for the first time since Jan. 21 and 23, when the Columbus Blue Jackets followed an overtime loss with a victory in regulation.
Lightning leads of 2-0 and 3-2 didn’t hold up against the resilient Blackhawks as Tampa Bay saw its six-game winning streak fizzle.
“We’re not giving up games,” Chicago’s Alex DeBrincat said. “You go down to a team like that 3-2, a lot of teams will just fold, but we’re out there working hard. (Dominik Kubalik) had a nice goal at the end, just hard-working goal, gets to the net and puts one in. That’s huge for us.”
With two goals Friday to extend his point streak to eight games, DeBrincat has been no slouch himself lately. He has scored or assisted on seven of Chicago’s past 12 goals, a trend the Lightning will attempt to stifle.
While Tampa Bay realizes an opportunity slipped away, players also are cognizant they can channel a turnaround. They need only repeat what they did for most of Friday night, when they outshot the Blackhawks 42-27.
“That’s the way it goes,” said the Lightning’s Ryan McDonagh. “More importantly, we were happy with our effort from pretty much 60 minutes there, playing a lot more in the O-zone, not getting caught in our D-zone as much.
“We continue to play like that, we’ll give ourselves a chance to win every night. We need to continue to follow this up here. Can’t just be a one every couple of games kind of thing. We’ve got to make sure that we take the good from this game and put forth right away from the start next game.”
After requiring overtime just twice in their first 20 games, the Lightning have gone to OT in each of the first two games of the series.
Chicago, which snapped a three-game losing streak to the Lightning to begin the season, is 4-1-1 over the past six games.
–Field Level Media