The Chicago Blackhawks have an opportunity to do something they haven't done in nearly 80 years: clinch a Stanley Cup championship on home ice after a 2-1 win on Saturday night.
Antoine Vermette scored a goal early in the third period to put the Blackhawks ahead for good, and Corey Crawford made the lead stand up. Patrick Sharp also snapped a 13-game scoreless drought as the Hawks moved to within one victory of their third Stanley Cup championship in six seasons.
The Blackhawks got off to a really nice start as they dominated the early stretch of play, racking up six shots on goal in the first three minutes. None of their shots went in, and things nearly turned disastrous when Corey Crawford coughed up a bad turnover in front of the net, but he was able to push the puck away from Nikita Kucherov to keep the game scoreless.
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That gaffe wasn’t costly to Chicago, but a mistake by Tampa goalie Ben Bishop was as the Blackhawks took the lead. Coming out to play the puck in the face-off dot, Bishop collided with teammate Victor Hedman, and Patrick Sharp grabbed the loose puck and tossed in an easy empty-net goal to make it a 1-0 game in favor of the Blackhawks.
After the goal, the Lightning pushed back vigorously, but Crawford made a couple of big saves late. The best came on a Steven Stamkos chance from the right face-off dot, and Crawford knocked it away with his blocker to keep Chicago in front after the first period of play.
The Blackhawks got an early power play in the second period, but they were unable to score as they once again struggled to move the puck. Teuvo Teravainen did get a breakaway shortly after the man-advantage ended, and Antoine Vermette fired in a shot too, but Bishop made some big saves to keep his team within range.
That goaltending performance ended up paying dividends later in the period as the Bolts scored to tie the game up. Jason Garrison picked up the puck in the face-off circle and rifled a pass across the ice to Valtteri Filppula. The former Red Wings star casually flipped in an easy shot from the side of the net, and the game was tied at 1-1.
The Lightning continued to push hard late in the period, with the Blackhawks getting occasional pressure as well. The Hawks’ fourth line was especially potent, with Andrew Shaw and Andrew Desjardins each getting chances denied to keep the game knotted up with a period to play.
The third period opened with the Blackhawks getting an immediate chance, and they cashed in. Kris Versteeg broke through traffic and drove hard to the net, and even though he was denied a shot, he still was able to get a pass up to Antoine Vermette. The veteran center hammered a shot past Bishop, and the Hawks seized a 2-1 advantage as a result.
The Lightning kept peppering Crawford with shots through the rest of the game, but the Blackhawks' goaltender stood tall and kept every single one of them out of the net as the Hawks triumphed on the road for the second time in this series.
The Blackhawks will have an opportunity to clinch the championship on Monday night when the series shifts back to the United Center. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 p.m., and the game will air on NBC 5 Chicago.