Stanley Cup Final: Hawks Miss Mark, Give Up Home Ice Advantage

WARR’s hockey writer Sidney Brown offers his takes on the Blackhawks throughout their postseason run

All the elements were there for the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final, but not much came together for them and nothing resulted as the United Center would like in a 3-2 loss to Tampa Bay, which put the Lightning ahead 2-1 in the series.

Just as the Hawks have won a slew of key road games to get themselves to this point, so have the Lightning, who are now 5-2 on unfriendly ice in this year’s playoffs.

In the opening period Monday, the Hawks came out with more energy than in the previous two games, but again it was the Lightning who scored the first goal for the third consecutive game in this series courtesy of Ryan Callahan, who netted home only his second goal of playoffs at five minute, nine seconds into the period after receiving a perfect stretch pass from defenseman Victor Hedman and catching the Hawks napping.

Chicago responded with a power play goal courtesy of Brad Richards, his third of the playoffs (14:22) to tie the score at 1-1. During the opening period, the Hawks peppered injured Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop with 17 shots on goal but missed two golden opportunities to perhaps put distance between themselves and Tampa — Marian Hossa missed an wide open net before he was called for a penalty and Teuvo Teravainen missed an open net minutes later.

The second period saw the Lightning regain the edge in play but with no goals to show for it.  While the Hawks struggled to regain offensive control, Corey Crawford kept his team in the game by making key saves, including what in the moment was a game changer on Nikita Kucherov on a breakaway midway thru the second period to keep the score tied at 1-1. The Hawks overcame adversity in the middle period when back to back penalties were called on Bryan Bickell (15:18) — who returned to lineup Monday after missing the last two games with vertigo — and Brandon Saad (15:52), giving Tampa Bay the 5 on 3 power play.

Along with Crawford standing up, the Hawks’ penalty kill closed the door on the Lightning’s chances to regain the lead. The third period saw the scoring opening up and the Men in Red struck first as Brandon Saad netted home his seventh goal of the playoffs (4:14) off a beautiful pass from Marian Hossa giving the Hawks what would be their last lead this game.

Just 13 seconds after the Hawks took the lead, the Lightning tied the game courtesy of Ondrej Palat, who scored his eighth goal of the playoffs (4:27) and swung the game’s control right back into the hands of his team. The Hawks continued their push offensively, but it wasn’t enough and their defensive coverage came apart in the late stages of the game as Cedric Paquette scored the go -head goal (16:49), to supply the Lightning the upset victory on the road.

Before the game their were questions if Lightning goalie Bishop would play after leaving the game twice during Game 2 and being shown up in some ways by backup Andrei Vasilevskiy.

Charles Rex Arbogast/AP Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford, right, stops a shot by Tampa Bay Lightning's Nikita Kucherov during the second period in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final Monday night.

Charles Rex Arbogast/AP
Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford, right, stops a shot by Tampa Bay Lightning’s Nikita Kucherov during the second period in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final Monday night.

Bishop answered those questions with a solid performance, though he hobbled in net throughout the contest, in stopping 36 of 38 shots and posting a save percentage of .947.

Crawford rebounded with a good performance overall but his defenders in front of him were missing in action when it mattered most.

Crawford collected 29 saves with a save percentage .907 and it should be noted that without his effort in the second period the Hawks would have possibly been blown out their own building.

If Hawks fans can take anything away from another loss in Game 3, Chicago dominated in the face-off wins category (39-28) this time around, it scored a power play goal and Brandon Saad and Marian Hossa were the two best players on the ice for the Men in Red, helping show a level of depth that hasn’t always been there this playoff season.

Give Tampa Bay credit for sticking with its defensive game plan by been physical and  leading in the hits category once again (46-27), not giving Kane and Toews any significant room on the ice to work with and using their speed and skill to keep up with the Hawks. Before the game, Hawks head coach Joel Quenneville separated Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane on different lines, but the results were the same as when they hit shifts together — 0 points scored.

Game 3 was entertaining to watch, with both teams displaying their skill, but the Lightning made the crucial plays when it mattered most and it’s now Chicago’s turn to respond with a must win Game 4 on home ice.

Quick On The Draw

Tampa Bay helped solidify its effort with a quick goal response, just 13 seconds after the Hawks took a 2-1 lead early in the third period off a Brandon Saad score. The Hawks falling flat after a seemingly momentum-filled goal has been a recurring issue this postseason.

Quick Opponent Responses

Game 3 vs. Lightning — 13 seconds after Chicago goal
Game 2 vs. Lightning — 1:32 after Chicago goal
Game 4 vs. Ducks — 23 seconds after Chicago goal
Game 4 vs. Ducks — 37 seconds after Chicago goal
Game 4 vs. Wild — 51 seconds after Chicago goal
Game 3 vs. Predators — 31 seconds after Chicago goal

Giving Props

TB — Victor Hedman scored two assists
TB — Ryan Callahan scored a goal and an assist
TB — Tyler Johnson scored one assist

CHI — Marian Hossa scored two assists
CHI — Duncan Keith scored one assist
CHI — Bryan Bickell and Antoine Vermette led with 4 hits each

Mishaps

TB — Steven Stamkos was held pointless

CHI — Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane were both held pointless
CHI —  Patrick Sharp scored 0 points and won only 33% of his faceoffs

A Look Ahead To Game 4

Tampa Bay was quick in returning the favor that Chicago gave to them in Game 1 of this series — winning on road ice and making the home team an instant underdog.

By stealing home ice away from the Hawks at this point, the Lightning have transferred a healthy amount of pressure on Chicago to respond starting in Wednesday night’s Game 3. This is not a new position for the Hawks, most recently they fought out of a 3-2 hole last round against the Anaheim Ducks before clinching the series in seven games.

Charles Rex Arbogast/AP Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Ben Bishop has been beat up all series but he's stood strong and so has his team in taking the series lead.

Charles Rex Arbogast/AP
Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Ben Bishop has been beat up all series but he’s stood strong and so has his team in taking the series lead.

If there’s a silver lining for Chicago beyond that it exists in the 2013 Stanley Cup Final against the Boston Bruins where the Hawks also trailed 2-1 in the series before winning the its final three games to capture the Cup.

Can it happen again? It’s not a guarantee, but it’s very possible. The Hawks must play Game 4 like a Game 7 and give a full, unrelenting effort for 60 minutes and not give Tampa Bay any more confidence.

Going down 3-1 will put a comeback too close to the impossible side, especially given the fact that the Lightning are playing with an injured goalie and their biggest superstar Steven Stamkos has been a non-factor on the score sheet. Should Hawks fans be worried? No… but without a victory in Game 4 on Wednesday, you’re playing with more fire than at any point this playoff season and possibly going down in flames for good.

Series Schedule

Game 4: Lightning at Blackhawks, Wednesday (7 p.m., NBCSN)

Game 5: Blackhawks at Lightning, Saturday (7 p.m., NBC)

*-Game 6: Lightning at Blackhawks, Monday, June 15 (7 p.m., NBC)

*-Game 7: Blackhawks at Lightning, Wednesday, June 17 (7 p.m., NBC)

*-if necessary

Follow Regal Radio on Twitter @regalradio1 and on Facebook under Regal Radio and Sidney Brown on Twitter @sidkid80

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