TAMPA, Fla. — Antoine Vermette knew the Chicago Blackhawks could come back in any game from playing against them in the playoffs. Teuvo Teravainen witnessed it from afar.
In Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final Wednesday night, Vermette and Teravainen joined the party. Their goals less than two minutes apart gave the Blackhawks a come-from-behind 2-1 victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena to take the series lead.
Despite trailing for almost the entire game, Chicago kept pressing and stunned the young Lightning. The Blackhawks were far from stunned at what they accomplished on hockey’s biggest stage.
“Great teams do that,” Teravainen said. “I haven’t been part of it many years, but I knew this team could do that. Any time if we’re back, just fight it back and play harder and get it back.”
Teravainen’s goal came with 6:32 left in the third period on what Lightning coach Jon Cooper called a “seeing-eye single” through traffic and past goaltender Ben Bishop. The goal felt inevitable given the Blackhawks’ pressure, then Teravainen forced a turnover and got the puck to Vermette for the winner 1:58 later.
It was the 14th third-period comeback in these playoffs. Old hat for the playoff-seasoned Blackhawks.
“I thought we got better and better as things progressed,” forward Patrick Sharp said. “There’s a belief in our room that we’re never out of any game, despite the score and how it looks out there.”
It looked bad for Chicago early, when the Lightning skated them up and down the ice. The speed was tough for the Blackhawks to contain, and Alex Killorn scored on a highlight-reel, behind-the-back tip early to give Tampa Bay the lead.
“I was just trying to sort of hit it towards the net,” Killorn said. “Not something you practice but lucky it went in.”
The Lightning were 9-0 in these playoffs when scoring first, and they kept the pressure on until late in the second period. After the Blackhawks had a shot drought of more than nine minutes, the Lightning didn’t put one on the board for more than 13.
It wasn’t the kind of attack-first hockey that got Tampa Bay to the Cup final.
“Maybe we took the foot off the gas a little bit, sat back a little bit, gave them time and space with the puck,” defenceman Victor Hedman said.
Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford stopped Ryan Callahan on a breakaway in the third to keep his team within striking distance. It was his most important of 22 saves, as Teravainen scored to tie it two minutes later.
“I just know he was solid out there from start to finish,” Sharp said. “We’ve come to expect that out of Crow the past few years. I do remember the breakaway — that would’ve been a turning point in the game, makes a big save for us and we were able to capitalize.”
The Blackhawks capitalized when Teravainen took a shot that went through almost a triple screen, then when he forced J.T. Brown to turn over the puck and Vermette completed the comeback.
“Finding a way today is a good illustration of what this team’s all about,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Finding ways to win, probably a good example of that tonight.”
For the Lightning, it was a bit of a tough lesson in playoff hockey. Cooper was satisfied at his team limiting the chances against, but the exclamation point wasn’t there when it had to be.
“We had chances to put them away. We didn’t put them away,” he said. “And once you do that, to me, that was letting them hang around.”
Letting the Blackhawks hang around is never a good strategy, something the Anaheim Ducks learned in the Western Conference final.
The Lightning hope to rebound from this loss for Game 2 Saturday.
“We have to regroup here,” captain Steven Stamkos said. “No one said it was going to be easy.”
Notes — Bryan Bickell, who was a surprise scratch for the Blackhawks, is day-to-day with an upper-body injury, Quenneville said. … Cooper again went with 11 forwards and seven defenceman, playing Nikita Nesterov and scratching Jonathan Marchessault.
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Stephen Whyno, The Canadian Press