CHICAGO — The injury, when it occurred Sunday night, didn't seem that bad as Vinny Lecavalier skated himself off the ice.
But the Lightning captain did not return to the 2-0 victory over the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks at the United Center after Michael Frolik, 4:42 into the second, inadvertently hit him above the right eye with his stick blade.
Lecavalier, who scored the winner, needed three stitches and had a vision issue coach Guy Boucher said could be a scratched cornea.
"He wanted to go back in, but he couldn't see," Boucher said. "He's a warrior. There was blood here, blood there, around the nose."
The injury overshadowed the effort of goaltender Mike Smith, who made his fourth start since his late February recall from AHL Norfolk.
Smith made 31 saves to steal a fifth straight win for Tampa Bay (44-24-11), now guaranteed to finish no lower than fifth in the East. The Lightning is one point behind the fourth-place Penguins, a potential first-round opponent, for home-ice advantage.
Smith dazzled as Chicago, a speedier team fighting for a playoff spot, dominated in puck possession and attack-zone time and had a 31-15 shot advantage, 24-11 in the second and third periods.
Tampa Bay's 15 shots were a season low.
"Oh, wow, he played great," defenseman Pavel Kubina said of Smith. "He made some unbelievable saves."
Smith was at his best in the third as a clearly exhausted Lightning squad, playing the second of back-to-back games and without defenseman Eric Brewer because of what was called a "very, very minor" lower-body injury, was on its heels.
His paddle-down stop of Marian Hossa's in-close shot with 4:13 left was crucial. He stopped Hossa again in the final 30 seconds, and Nate Thompson's empty-netter sealed it.
"I felt pretty good. I felt very patient," said Smith, who got his first shutout of the season and 11th overall. "Every win is rewarding; the defending champion. When you beat a team like that, it's a little bit more rewarding."
For a team outshot 7-4 and without a shot on goal for nine minutes, the Lightning played a pretty sturdy first period, especially defensively with a five-man mentality.
It cashed in on its only real scoring chance as Lecavalier, in front of the net on a power play, redirected Marty St. Louis' centering pass 7:56 in.
The Blackhawks took control in the second with an 11-4 shot advantage. Of more immediate concern was Lecavalier's injury, for which Frolik received a four-minute high-sticking penalty.
First Period—1, Tampa Bay, Lecavalier 21 (St. Louis, Gagne), 7:56 (pp). Penalties—Hjalmarsson, Chi (delay of game), 7:48.
Second Period—None. Penalties—Frolik, Chi, double minor (high-sticking), 4:42; St. Louis, TB (interference), 5:00; Johnson, Chi (hooking), 13:24.
Third Period—2, Tampa Bay, Thompson 10 (Gagne, Hall), 19:38 (en). Penalties—Ohlund, TB (interference), :27; Moore, TB (cross-checking), 6:34; Hossa, Chi (cross-checking), 6:34; Ohlund, TB (hooking), 9:31; Crawford, Chi, served by Kopecky (delay of game), 12:00. Shots on Goal—Tampa Bay 4-4-7—15. Chicago 7-11-13—31. Power-play opportunities—Tampa Bay 1 of 5; Chicago 0 of 2. Goalies—Tampa Bay, M.Smith 12-6-1 (31 shots-31 saves). Chicago, Crawford 31-17-5 (14-13). A—21,587 (19,717).