TAMPA — For a while Wednesday, the Lightning looked like it was going to follow a similar formula to its two shutouts against the Rangers in the Eastern Conference final.
It started fast, impressively taking a 1-0 lead in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final against the Blackhawks. It didn't give up much defensively, hoping to hold on for a low-scoring win.
But these Blackhawks aren't the Rangers. With two Cups in the past five years, they've proven to be too skilled and too resilient for opponents to let them hang around. Just ask Anaheim.
The Lightning's passive play cost it. Tampa Bay gave up two goals in two minutes of the third period for a deflating 2-1 loss in front of a stunned sellout crowd of 19,204 at Amalie Arena. The Lightning had been 42-0-1 this season when leading after two periods.
"There's a fine line between respect and fear," veteran wing Brenden Morrow said. "Give (the Blackhawks) respect. Can't fear them. It looked like in the third we were holding on, (we) feared maybe what might happen.
"We learned our lesson here."
The Lightning better have. Though it lost Game 1 in two of its first three playoff series before rallying to win the series, the Blackhawks are a different animal. Chicago didn't have many great scoring chances in the game and just 21 shots, but it scored twice in two minutes late in the third, with Antoine Vermette's winner coming with 4:34 to go. The Lightning, meanwhile, had just two shots in the first 18 minutes of the third.
"You can't sit back and just give them the puck, especially a team like that," captain Steven Stamkos said. "Maybe you can get away with it with a team that's not as skilled or a team that's not as confident in these situations."
Morrow believed the Lightning surprised a lot of people with how it started the game, taking a 1-0 lead in the first, controlling play with 24 shots attempted (to 11) and winning 70 percent of the first-period faceoffs. Alex Killorn gave Tampa Bay the lead 4:31 in on a ridiculous backhand deflection of an Anton Stralman point shot.
"Pretty sick," defenseman Victor Hedman said.
"A nice backhand volley," Stralman said.
Hedman and Stralman did an outstanding job on the Blackhawks' dynamic duo of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, who were held to a combined four shots. The Lightning penalty kill went 3-for-3.
"Not a lot of people gave us a chance in this series," Stamkos said. "And for most of the game we saw we can hang. We can be better. We'll build off that."
The Lightning just couldn't finish. In the third, Morrow said the Lightning played as if it was just happy to chip the puck out of its zone. "We played almost a half-ice game," coach Jon Cooper said.
Unlike its shutouts in the New York series, the Lightning didn't put pressure in the offensive zone, other than a Ryan Callahan breakaway with eight minutes left, which goalie Corey Crawford stopped.
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"A 2-0 game would have been much different," Morrow said.
Two minutes after the Callahan breakaway, Teuvo Teravainen scored on a point shot that got through screened goalie Ben Bishop. Then, Lightning wing J.T. Brown was stripped in his zone, leaving Vermette with a wide-open shot from the slot.
"We had chances to put them away," Cooper said "And we didn't."
First Period—1, Tampa Bay, Killorn 8 (Stralman, Filppula), 4:31. Penalties—Shaw, Chi (tripping), 6:14; Garrison, TB (cross-checking), 16:48.
Second Period—None. Penalties—Killorn, TB (high-sticking), :28; Tampa Bay bench, served by Stamkos (too many men), 9:48; Versteeg, Chi (goaltender interference), 13:28.
Third Period—2, Chicago, Teravainen 3 (Keith, Shaw), 13:28. 3, Chicago, Vermette 3 (Teravainen), 15:26. Penalties—None. Shots on Goal—Chicago 7-6-8—21. Tampa Bay 10-8-5—23. Power-play opportunities—Chicago 0 of 3; Tampa Bay 0 of 2. Goalies—Chicago, Crawford 10-4-0 (23 shots-22 saves). Tampa Bay, Bishop 12-9-0 (21-19).