In what was arguably the best mini series of the NHL season thus far, the Chicago Blackhawks scrapped together three points in three games against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Ideal? No, but the Hawks skated with the Bolts in the three games, until things got away from them in the last game of the weekend. The Lightning are far and away the better team, but if the Hawks are looking for that final playoff spot in the Central Division, getting half of six points on the table is not detrimental to their chances.
Thursday, March 4: Lightning steal it at the death
It started well for the Hawks. They took a 2–0 lead heading into the third period. Ryan Carpenter scored a shorthanded goal at 7:24 of the second period, and resurgent winger Alex DeBrincat extended the lead with his 12th of the year at 14:04 of the second frame.
But, it was not meant to be. The Lightning rallied to score twice early in the third period. In the overtime frame, the contest looked to be heading to a shootout when Alex Killorn deflected a Victor Hedman wrist shot passed Kevin Lankinen with less than a second to go in overtime to steal the extra point.
Cutting it reaaaaaaal close… like 0.1 seconds close 😬 pic.twitter.com/C51jxxwADd
— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) March 5, 2021
Friday, March 5: Subban’s superb goaltending gets the win
Malcolm Subban took the pipes in the second leg of the weekday tilts on Friday night. In a role reversal from Thursday’s match, it was the visitors who seized control early. The Lightning went up 2–0 halfway through the first period on goals from Anthony Cirelli and Killorn. DeBrincat cut the lead in half before the period ended, and in the second period, he tied the game with his third goal in two games off a nifty feed from Patrick Kane.
The Bolts reclaimed the lead early in the third stanza off a goal from Ryan McDonagh, but six minutes into the third, Dominik Kubalik buried a rebound off a point shot from Duncan Keith to tie the game at 3–3.
A frantic overtime session yielded no results despite multiple chances at each end. In the shootout, Philipp Kurashev sniped a high wrist shot on the Hawks’ third attempt. Subban stopped all three shootout tries and finished with 39 saves for the win.
Good morning #Blackhawks fans ☀️
Here are all of the goals from last night's win over the Lightning to start your Saturday off right. pic.twitter.com/JbSH5Ylwni
— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) March 6, 2021
Sunday, March 7: Penalties and collapse doom the Hawks
Everything seemed in place for the Hawks to come away with a win and a shocking five of six points against the Lightning. The Hawks jumped out to a 3–0 lead off first period goals from Kurashev and Mattias Janmark, and Pius Suter added the third tally at the 3:11 mark of the second period.
Then, it happened. The Bolts scored twice in 23 seconds to make it 3–2, and then Hawks defenseman Connor Murphy was assessed a match penalty for a hit on Erik Cernak. The Lightning scored twice on the five-minute major to take a 4–3 lead into the third period.
The Bolts would add two more goals in the third period to skate away with a 6–3 decision. Lankinen struggled, turning away 19 shots on 25 attempts.
— Bleacher Nation Blackhawks (@BN_Blackhawks) March 7, 2021
Sunday marked Wyatt Kalynuk’s NHL debut. In an odd move, Kalynuk was called up over the already somewhat proven Nicolas Beaudin, and Kalynuk struggled defensively. That was the concern when he was acquired, and while it is not his fault, as he is an unpolished prospect, in a rubber match of a three-game set versus the defending Stanley Cup champions, it is a little surprising that he would get the nod over Beaudin. The Hawks have no time to rest on their laurels, as they have a two-game road set ahead with the Dallas Stars beginning this week. Should the Hawks want to remain in the playoff picture, it is essential they take points in Dallas.
On the Murphy hit, as always, there will be debate on the play in its entirety. To be fair, Pat Foley said two things in the Murphy sequence as it unfolded: 1) “That’s a high hit.” 2) “I don’t think Erik Cernak ever saw Murphy coming.” What else do you need to know about that hit?