RECAP: Blackhawks drop second straight game, fall to Lightning 4-2

  

The Chicago Blackhawks looked to bounce back from a loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday night. While the Blackhawks have been on the rise, the Tampa Bay Lightning are struggling so far this season, but they had won three out of their last five games before Thursday night. In a rare occurrence, both teams went with 11 forwards and seven defensemen, as the Lightning were without their top forward Nikita Kucherov and the Blackhawks scratched Dominik Kubalik. Corey Crawford started in net for the home team.

The Blackhawks lines and pairings were as follows:

Brandon Saad — Jonathan Toews — Alexander Nylander

Alex DeBrincat — Dylan Strome — Patrick Kane

Kirby Dach — Andrew Shaw

Ryan Carpenter — David Kampf — Zack Smith

Duncan KeithCalvin de Haan

Olli Maatta  Connor Murphy

Erik Gustafsson — Brent Seabrook

Slater Koekkoek

Prior to puck drop, former Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Brian Campbell took the ice for One More Shift. It was an awesome moment no one will ever forget.

First period

With only 11 forwards for the Blackhawks in this matchup, Patrick Kane took on the task of double-shifting on the third line. Slater Koekkoek and Erik Gustafsson seemed to be alternating shifts on the third pairing with Brent Seabrook.

The game was pretty much even for the Blackhawks and the Lightning in the first 20 minutes. Both teams stifled transition opportunities against each other and whenever one team managed to get some offensive zone time, they didn’t allow many chances. With around 9 minutes remaining in the first period, the Lightning had a couple of great scoring opportunities, but Corey Crawford stood tall and stopped them.

After Slater Koekkoek drew a cross-checking penalty on Alex Killorn, the Blackhawks new power play units got to work. The first unit of Erik Gustafsson, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Alex DeBrincat, and Andrew Shaw got a couple of good looks. Kirby Dach got his chance on the second unit, but the Blackhawks couldn’t convert on the man advantage.

Directly after the Lightning killed the penalty, Duncan Keith sat for interference on Brayden Point. While the kill looked good to start, Ryan Carpenter blocked Corey Crawford’s view of Mikhail Sergachev‘s point shot and it found its way into the net to give the Lightning the lead.

Within the last five minutes, the Blackhawks put the pressure on the Lightning and earned a power play opportunity with under 15 seconds left. After the first period, Tampa Bay held a 1-0 lead over Chicago and a 14-12 advantage in shots.

Second period

The trends from the first frame continued into the beginning of the second. When each team had the puck, they maintained pressure but couldn’t create prime scoring chances. That changed as the Lightning held onto the puck more as the period continued.

Everything seemed really boring this period, until the Blackhawks coughed up the puck with around five minutes left in the period. Chicago allowed a two-on-one but Crawford stymied Anthony Cirelli before the rebound hit the crossbar. That was the best chance for either team during the second period.

With four minutes remaining, Chicago circled the puck around Tampa Bay and Patrick Kane generated what was the Blackhawks’ best chance of the period. This all led to the Lightning taking their third penalty of the game with four minutes remaining. A good opportunity to tie the game for the Blackhawks was wasted, as they could not find shooting lanes for themselves. While the power play units sustained control in the offensive zone, the theme seemed to be a lack of shots with the advantage.

At the end of 40 minutes, the Lightning continued to lead the Blackhawks 1-0 and shots were 24-20 in favor of the visitors.

Third period

The Blackhawks didn’t get off the greatest start after the puck dropped for the third period. David Kampf was called for boarding around the three-minute mark and Zack Smith left the ice after taking a puck up high. So, Chicago was without one of their penalty-killing forwards, but they managed to kill the minor.

Then came the third-period push for the home team. Puck possession for the Blackhawks actually led to scoring chances when they were in the offensive zone. They circled the puck around the Lightning and it founds its way to Brent Seabrook. He went down low, almost below the goal line, and shot the puck off Curtis McElhinney‘s back to tie the game at one with just over ten minutes left in the third.

What looked to be a momentum swing was quickly washed away when the Lightning were able to grab the puck again just over a minute later. Mathieu Joseph and Olli Maatta crashed together and the refs missed a blatant high-sticking call as Joseph got his stick up around Maatta’s face. That allowed the puck to slide past him to Alex Killorn, who found an open Victor Hedman at the point. His shot was tipped by Anthony Cirelli and the Lightning regained the lead.

Although the Blackhawks continued to pressure, the Lightning took advantage of their defensive breakdowns yet again. A puck battle in the neutral zone was lost by the Blackhawks and Ondrej Palat came up with the puck. Maatta, the only defenseman back, slid to his stomach for the stick check, but Palat went around his skates and slipped the puck to an uncovered Brayden Point. He gave Tampa Bay a 3-1 lead with 7:30 left in the game.

It looked as if things were over for the Blackhawks when Brandon Saad sat for hooking, but they pulled Corey Crawford early after the penalty kill pushed momentum their way. With just under three minutes left to play, Chicago won a faceoff with six attackers on the ice. Patrick Kane patiently waited until he found a shooting lane, and the puck found its way through multiple bodies in front. McElhinney stopped the original shot, but Dylan Strome corralled the puck and slipped it above the right shoulder of the Lightning goaltender to bring the Blackhawks within a goal.

But all hopes of tying the game were cut short when Anthony Cirelli single-handedly worked the puck out of his own zone and found Cedric Paquette, who buried the empty-net goal to seal the 4-2 win for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Overall, the Lightning outshot the Blackhawks 35-34 in what turned out to be a close game.

Pluses

  • Patrick Kane extended his point streak to 11 game with an assist on Dylan Strome’s goal. After a rough start to the season, he’s looking to be back to normal. He was an absolute beast in this game, double-shifting on the second and third lines and accumulating the most time on ice of any player on either team (27:52).
  • After a rough game against the Hurricanes, the Blackhawks seemed to put together a better defensive effort this time out. They kept up with the Lightning in terms of shot attempts, scoring chances, and high-danger chances. If they can continue this pattern and score more at the same time, they just might win some of these close games.

Minuses

  • I don’t know what Jeremy Colliton was thinking going with 11 forwards and seven defensemen tonight, and it’s clear by the post-game comments from Jonathan Toews the team didn’t get it either. I get that the team struggled against Carolina, but you won four in a row prior to that with the same lineup. Why would you switch something that was working all that time just because it fell short once? This tactic almost never works, and it was obvious the Blackhawks looked extremely disjointed throughout the majority of the game with a disjointed lineup.

The Blackhawks will head to Dallas to take on the red-hot Stars Saturday night at American Airlines Center. Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m. CST.

Center Ice Forums RECAP: Blackhawks drop second straight game, fall to Lightning 4-2

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