Lightning withstand Blackhawks rally for win

After allowing a power-play goal that put Chicago back in the game, Tampa Bay’s penalty-kill unit locked down the Blackhawks late.
Lightning center Blake Coleman, center, celebrates his goal with defenseman Ryan McDonagh (27) and right wing Barclay Goodrow (19) during the second period.
Lightning center Blake Coleman, center, celebrates his goal with defenseman Ryan McDonagh (27) and right wing Barclay Goodrow (19) during the second period. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published Jan. 16, 2021|Updated Jan. 16, 2021

TAMPA — Despite all their skill and scoring, one of the big reasons the Lightning lifted the Stanley Cup last season was because they were able to execute on the penalty kill at the most critical times.

Their defense of the Cup is a work in progress, as has been said a lot by the Lightning.

Friday night’s 5-2 win over the Blackhawks at Amalie Arena proved that point. But when the Lightning seemed to lose momentum during an up-and-down middle of the game, their penalty kill saved the day.

After the Lightning (2-0-0) scored three straight even-strength goals in the second period to take a 3-0 lead, they left the door open for the Blackhawks. They allowed a power-play goal by Alex DeBrincat at the 14:20 mark, then a Patrick Kane backhander less than two minutes later that cut the Lightning’s lead to one.

It doesn’t hurt to have Andrei Vasilevskiy, who made 34 saves, in goal. But the Lightning killed three Chicago power plays over the final 20:23, allowing them to pull away with goals from Steven Stamkos and Yanni Gourde in the final seven minutes.

“We’re a pretty proud group,” said forward Blake Coleman, who had one of those second-period goals. “And just the fact that we gave up one (power-play goal) is upsetting. So it was good that we bounced back.

“In a close game like that, you’ve got to get those kind of kills, and the guys stepped up after we gave that one up and made some big (penalty kills). Obviously not ideal to be in the box that many times in the third, but fortunately we got the job done.”

On their way to the Stanley Cup, the Lightning were the fifth-best team on the penalty kill in the postseason, allowing 12 goals on 86 power plays for an 86.05 percent success rate. The deeper into the playoffs they advanced, the better the unit performed.

“Regardless of what happens when you’re winning in a game, it always feels like you’re going to take a penalty in the third period or at least in the last 10 minutes and you’ve got to kill those off,” coach Jon Cooper said. “The penalty kill was there for us in the third one when we needed it. That’s what gets you points.”

After Alex Killorn took an interference call with 23 seconds remaining in the second period, it took a fantastic save by Vasilevskiy on a DeBrincat wrister from the left circle and two putback attempts by Andrew Shaw at the buzzer to prevent a tie score going into the second intermission.

Related: Lightning’s Tyler Johnson picks up assist in return to lineup

Steven Stamkos started the scoring by stealing a puck behind the net that Blackhawks goaltender Collin Delia intended for defenseman Duncan Keith. Stamkos then found Ondrej Palat streaking to the slot, and as Delia stumbled to the ice, Palat’s one-timer found the back of the net at 2:25 of the second period.

Just 2:18 later, Killorn scored on a wrister from the slot off a feed from the right corner from Tyler Johnson. Then at 8:11, Coleman cleaned up a loose puck in the middle of a crowded net, a goal that stood after a Chicago challenge, to put the Lightning up 3-0.

“It was a little bit back and forth,” Cooper said. “All of a sudden, it’s 3-2 and we’ve given them some life. But I loved the way we responded to the third, and we didn’t give them a whole lot in the third period, and that’s what we want to see from the team.”

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The Lightning’s third line of Gourde, Coleman and Barclay Goodrow dictated the pace early with physical play, then accounted for two goals, including Gourde’s third-period score that gave the Lightning a 4-2 cushion with 6:28 remaining.

Goodrow deked a defender in the neutral zone to create an odd-man rush and passed to Coleman, who found Gourde trailing as he came through the slot. Gourde’s slap shot beat Delia on the stick side.

“This group is starting to get pretty comfortable with each other, having played all those games in the playoffs,” Coleman said. “You can kind of count on each other, know where you’re going to be. But at the same time, it was a short offseason; it was a very quick camp. There’s going to be some ugly moments and some things we need to clean up, and there definitely were in both the games against Chicago here.”

Contact Eduardo A. Encina at Follow @EddieInTheYard.

Lightning 0-3-2—5

Blackhawks 0-2-0—2

First Period–None.

Second Period–1, Tampa Bay, Palat 2 (Stamkos), 2:25. 2, Tampa Bay, Killorn 1 (Johnson, Cirelli), 4:43. 3, Tampa Bay, Coleman 1 (Gourde, Goodrow), 8:11. 4, Chicago, DeBrincat 1 (Strome, Boqvist), 14:20 (pp). 5, Chicago, Kane 1 (Murphy, DeBrincat), 16:11.

Third Period–6, Tampa Bay, Gourde 1 (Coleman, Goodrow), 13:32. 7, Tampa Bay, Stamkos 2 (Palat, Point), 17:38.

Shots on Goal–Chicago 13-10-12–35. Tampa Bay 10-17-10–37. Power-play opportunities–Chicago 1 of 4; Tampa Bay 0 of 3. Goalies–Chicago, Delia 0-1-0 (38 shots-33 saves). Tampa Bay, Vasilevskiy 2-0-0 (36-34). T–2:23. Referees–Francis Charron, Jean Hebert. Linesmen–Greg Devorski, Jesse Marquis.

Contact Eduardo A. Encina at Follow @EddieInTheYard.

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