One night after winning a game they probably shouldn’t have, the Lightning lost a 4-3 shootout to the Blackhawks on Friday night at the United Center in a game that felt like a role reversal.
Just because the Lightning had won a season-high six straight games going into Friday, it doesn’t mean they were playing their best.
Their 3-2 overtime win Thursday in Chicago was one of their most flawed. They were outplayed by the Blackhawks before a second-intermission discussion among the players sparked them and they won on Alex Killorn’s deflection with 0.1 seconds left in overtime.
Friday’s loss was different. The Lightning outplayed the Blackhawks in every facet. The game came down to Chicago rookie forward Philipp Kurachev’s shootout goal past Lightning goaltender Curtis McElhinney and Blackhawks goalie Malcolm Subban stopping the Tampa Bay trio of Victor Hedman, Brayden Point and Steven Stamkos.
“I think both teams probably know who was a little bit better (Friday), and (the Blackhawks) ended up winning,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “And I’d say for two-thirds of the game (Thursday) night they were better than us. So it’s probably worked out the way it should have in reverse order. But we did a lot of good things (Friday). We can’t hang our heads.”
The Lightning (16-4-2), who had the league’s longest current winning streak end, blew a 2-0 first-period lead and struggled to stay out of the penalty box, giving the league’s top power play too many opportunities (five). The Lightning saw their streak of 19 straight penalties killed snapped but were 4-for-5 on the kill.
In a frenzied overtime, the Lightning had a 4-on-3 power play for the final 1:56 but couldn’t produce a winner.
“For the most part, I liked our game,” Cooper said. “It’s unfortunate we couldn’t close them out on the 4-on-3, probably an opportunity missed there. And give them credit, they defended well at the end of the OT, and then it comes down to a skills competition.”
“That’s the way it goes,” said Lightning defenseman Ryan McDonagh, who scored early in the third period for a 3-2 lead. “I think more importantly we were happy with our efforts for pretty much the 60 minutes there, playing a lot more in the (offensive) zone, not getting caught in our zone as much.
“We continue to play like that, we’ll give ourselves a chance to win every night, and we need to continue to follow this up here. It can’t be a one-in-every-couple-games kind of thing. We’ve got to make sure that we take the good from this game and put it forth right away from the start next game.”
The Lightning played a much more complete game in the second of the back-to-back games. They wasted no time, starting off strong with first-period goals by Anthony Cirelli and Killorn in the first 10 minutes for the 2-0 lead.
The Blackhawks responded with goals from forward Alex DeBrincat in the first and second periods to tie the score at 2, including one on a power play, the first goal the Lightning’s penalty kill allowed in six games.
McDonagh scored on a rebound for his goal 3:20 into the third. But Chicago forward Dominik Kubalik responded less than three minutes later, putting in a puck he found at his feet.
McElhinney did his part, especially in overtime, when he turned away three shots by Blackhawks star Patrick Kane, including one on a breakaway.
“I thought he made all the saves we needed,” Cooper said. “And then (McElhinney) made some huge saves in overtime on an elite player. So, we had our chances to win. And ‘Mac’ gave us every opportunity to win, which he’s done all year. We just couldn’t capitalize.
“If we’re going to play like the way we did (Friday) on a regular basis, which we hadn’t been for most of the year, we’ll be fine.”
Contact Eduardo A. Encina at email@example.com. Follow @EddieInTheYard.
Chicago won shootout 1-0
First Period—1, Tampa Bay, Cirelli 7 (Palat, Point), 2:51. 2, Tampa Bay, Killorn 5 (Hedman, Palat), 10:27 (pp). 3, Chicago, DeBrincat 13 (Kane, Boqvist), 12:57 (pp). Penalties—Mitchell, CHI (Hooking), 10:06; Coleman, TB (Hooking), 12:03; Schenn, TB (Interference), 17:28.
Second Period—4, Chicago, DeBrincat 14 (Kane), 7:18. Penalties—Zadorov, CHI (Interference), 5:02; Soderberg, CHI (Interference), 8:47; Sergachev, TB (Delay of Game), 17:29; Coleman, TB (Hooking), 19:01.
Third Period—5, Tampa Bay, McDonagh 2 (Johnson, Killorn), 3:20. 6, Chicago, Kubalik 9 (Keith, Boqvist), 6:00. Penalties—Kubalik, CHI (Tripping), 0:54; Hedman, TB (Interference), 8:03; Kubalik, CHI (Tripping), 14:14.
Overtime—None. Penalties—Keith, CHI (Slashing), 3:04.
Shootout_Chicago 1 (DeBrincat NG, Kane NG, Kurashev G), Tampa Bay 0 (Hedman NG, Point NG, Stamkos NG).
Shots on Goal—Tampa Bay 11-11-14-5_41. Chicago 10-5-8-4_27. Power-play opportunities—Tampa Bay 1 of 6; Chicago 1 of 5. Goalies—Tampa Bay, McElhinney 2-1-0 (27 shots-24 saves). Chicago, Subban 3-2-1 (41-38). A—0 (19,717). T—2:37. Referees—Tom Chmielewski, Brian Pochmara. Linesmen—James Tobias, Travis Toomey.
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