NHL Game Night: 10-24-13 Blackhawks at Lightning

Some things you just have to see to believe.

CHI-5
TB-6

Ben Bishop allowed 5 goals on 43 shots for the victory. He played about as good a game as you can play allowing 5 goals. He made several key saves at key points throughout the game to allow the Lightning to stay in the contest and eventually take the 2 points.

First Period
6:28 TB Carle (1), (Filppula, Panik)(PP)

Second Period
1:24 TB Thompson (1), (Crombeen, A. Sustr)(SH)
9:00 CHI Bickell (3), (Kruger, B. Seabrook)
10:36 CHI Hossa (4) , (Sharp, Toews)
17:21 TB Stamkos (6), (Hedman)
18:53 CHI Kane (5), (unassisted)

Third Period
1:33 CHI Shaw (1), (Kane, D. Keith)(PP)
11:03 TB Hedman (1), (St Louis, Stamkos)
17:31 TB Stamkos (7), (Filppula)(PP)
18:11 CHI Toews (4), (unassisted)

Overtime
1:16 TB St Louis (5), (Stamkos, R. Gudas)

Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos were the game's first and second stars. Victor Hedman was robbed, I tell you.

You can't buy experience more valuable than what the Lightning got themselves tonight as a young club trying to overcome tilted ice against a very good, very polished Chicago team. The first half of the game I thought they played to the blueprint of what they needed to do almost perfectly. They were limiting odd man rushes to practically nil, getting good goaltending, and they were opportunistic as heck when their chances came. I mean, you have no complaints about scoring when 2/3 of the Bluetooth Line decides to cash in a fairly pretty shorthanded goal.

And then the first wave of adversity came. A bounce went against them on the Bickell goal, Hossa makes a nice tip-in goal, and then Gudas gets himself thrown in the box immediately after. At that point the wheels very easily could have come off, but Bishop made a couple of key saves (without a stick, as I recall) to settle his team down. Then Stamkos makes a tremendous individual play to blow down the ice and rip a laser beam past Khabi to regain the lead. Happy days are here again! Nope. Kane takes the third pair to school and the teams go into the intermission tied 3-3.

Chicago comes out and almost immediately retakes the lead and with a young team you can't help but think there's no way they can scrape themselves off the mat a second time, now trailing for the first time in the game. They did. Bishop again made a couple of quality saves to keep the Lightning alive and then Hedman jumps into the play and makes a really patient goal slipping the puck 5-hole to tie it up and then Stamkos buries another laser off the faceoff on a power play late in the Third Period. We win, right?

Not yet, because then we got into the theater of the absurd. Matt Carle flings a hard pass down the middle of the ice back into the D zone to Gudas which riccochets off Gudas past Bishop and into the net to tie the game. I don't think anybody within a 1,000 mile radius of the Forum expected that to happen, and at that point you expect the team has to come unraveled. Given how poorly the team responded the previous two waves of adversity, needing Bishop to really bail them out, getting a point out of the game was in serious doubt. But, you know, the Johnson and Palat line showed the maturity of grizzled vets the next shift out and settled it down. 1 point secured, we head to OT.

And, in OT, after some harrowing early moments, Gudas takes off those goat horns and helps the Lightning get some good possession going and next thing you know Marty St. Louis is putting the dagger in Chicago's heart. Wow. 3 waves of adversity, and they overcame each of them to get the 2 points.

Key takeaways:
1. Ben Bishop did what #1 goaltenders do. He kept his team in it and gave them a chance. Just keep your young team within 1 goal, and with some of the weapons they have, particularly Stamkos, they have a puncher's chance.
2. After floundering to handle adversity the first 2 times, the kids figured it out the 3rd time. Palat and Johnson diffused an atom bomb at the end of the Third Period and then Gudas, after getting caught in some unfortunateness twice over the course of the night, is a prominent part of the winning goal.
3. This is the really big one: when the chips were really down in the Third Period, the young bluechippers really stepped it up. Stamkos and Hedman were bad against Boston. Stamkos not as much as Hedman, but he wasn't the factor you needed him to be to lead his team against a better club. Stamkos made a great individual goal to get it to 3-2 and a PP goal to get it to 5-4 at separate points in this game. Hedman, my gosh, he went from -5 and his worst game of the season against Boston to looking like a Norris Trophy candidate at times against Chicago. Assertive. Strong. Leading his team from the backline. If Bishop, Stamkos, and Hedman all hit their stride together this season, this team's going places faster than anyone's original timetable.

My goal for the first 10 game segment of the season was 12 points. 9 games in they're already there. That's an advantageous spot going against Buffalo in the homestand finale with the chance to get 2 insurance points to close out the segment heading into the next 10. Looking at the schedule of the first 10 game segment, they should feel pretty good about what they accomplished, especially when you consider they left at least a point on the ice against Pittsburgh.

Radko Gudas had a helper and was -1 with a bad minor penalty, 3 shots, 4 hits, and 4 blocked shots in 19:16. The penalty he took right after Chicago tied the game at 2 was really cringe-worthy, but he got it back on the final sequence of the game. He atoned.

Tyler Johnson was -1 with 2 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 16:59. He was also 59% on draws. He blew an open net in the Third Period that would have tied the game at 4-4 just before Victor Hedman went into beast mode. That was a little cringe-worthy. But, the work he helped do to settle things down shortly after the own goal tied it at 5-5 more than made up for it. Like Bishops big saves, that shift was a game-saver.

Alex Killorn was -3 with 2 shots, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 18:40. Cooper shuffled the lines a bit to put Killorn with Stamkos at one point and Malone down with Filppula. I must say, I preferred it.

Ondrej Palat was -1 with 1 shot, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 15:35. He damned near created 2 goals on his own with his puckhandling ability and was smooth and poised in all three zones as usual. It's getting a bit like it was when he was in the AHL now, where you feel good anytime he has the puck because good things are probably about to happen.

Andrej Sustr had a helper, 1 shot, and 1 hit in 14:41. He was on the ice for that undressing by Patrick Kane, but with that said, he was pretty good tonight. Good breakout passes and assertive in the offensive third. I'll take that performance most nights from Sustr.

Richard Panik had a helper and was -2 with 1 hit in 15:48. I thought he was more assertive and more active tonight, helping to screen Khabi on the opening goal by Carle. It's coming along. I wish the stat line was a little more reflective of it. I keep hoping Panik can get that first goal and breakthrough, because it feels like it's coming along and it could be floodgates once he gets it.

Pierre-Cedric Labrie had 1 hit in 3:46. You feel for Nacho being the 1/3 of Bluetooth Line that didn't get a point.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.