CHICAGO — Now that was what many were expecting with this Stanley Cup final between the Lightning and Blackhawks.
After a defensive duel in Game 1, the pace of Saturday's Game 2 was more befitting two of the fastest teams in the NHL.
The Lightning's 4-3 win was a track meet, a drag race, providing end-to-end excitement.
"I'll be honest, I don't know how somebody could leave that rink (Saturday) night and not be an instant hockey fan if that was your first game," coach Jon Cooper said. "To me, it's a speed sport."
Captain Steven Stamkos said it was the fastest-paced game he has been a part of in his career. Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews called it "entertaining."
Lightning C Valtteri Filppula said it reminded him of the 2008 and '09 Stanley Cup finals he played in with the Red Wings against the Penguins.
"It was really, really quick," Filppula said. "A lot of back and forth. I felt that was kind of the same way that series was back in '08 and '09 as well. First couple games, you kind of get used to a team as well. So I think it's going to be the same way going forward."
Stars split: The Blackhawks split up their star-studded line with Toews and RW Patrick Kane during Game 2, and it appears they will have the duo open tonight's Game 3 at the United Center apart as well.
Though Toews and Kane were dynamic in the Western Conference final against the Ducks, they were neutralized by the Lightning in Games 1 and 2, with Kane having zero shots on goal Saturday.
"Splitting them up gives you a little bit more freedom," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said Sunday. "More balance to our offense is why we like to keep them apart, but they do like playing with each other."
The Lightning used a heavy dose of defensemen Victor Hedman — who has been terrific — and Anton Stralman on Toews and Kane, along with a line that includes right wings Ryan Callahan or J.T. Brown and C Cedric Paquette, who scored in Game 2.
"Whoever it is, it's our job to shut them down," Brown said. "For the most part we've been doing it all right. The best way to shut them down is to try to play offense. They're a skilled group over there. If they're playing in our d-zone, they're going to get their chances. The best chance to stop them is to be in the offensive zone for them."
Though the Blackhawks will have the benefit of the last line change at home during Games 3 and 4, allowing them to find more favorable matchups, Cooper is confident in any line and defensive pairing on Toews and Kane, whether they're together or not.
"We respect them immensely," Cooper said. "But we don't fear them."
Lining up: Though rookie LW Jonathan Drouin was minus-1 in 7 minutes, 52 seconds of ice time in Game 2, just his fourth playoff appearance and his first in the Cup final, Cooper seemed impressed. Drouin had two shots and a couple of giveaways. "I thought Jo was great," Cooper said. "He did everything we wanted him to. He got pucks in. He got them out. He was flying around the ice. He had command of the puck when he had it."
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Ice chips: Quenneville said rookie D Trevor van Riemsdyk could play tonight.
Contact Joe Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow@TBTimes_JSmith.