To close out the season, and heading into the playoffs, good starts are key. The Hawks on home ice in Chicago were sure to be desperate, and looking for one in hopes of making the dance. Meanwhile, the Tampa Bay Lightning wanted to get the jump in order to punch their ticket with a win Tuesday.
The Lightning hoped to continue a few themes from Sunday’s win over the Jackets. They needed to be aggressive on the forecheck, and sustain offensive zone time. Both would happen early on, but the first period against the Hawks was a long and eventful one.
Just 28 seconds into the game, the Bolts would prove to be the aggressor. Erik Cernak burst down the wing and found the five-hole on Hawks net-minder Kevin Lankinen to give the Lightning a 1-0 lead.
Three minutes and change later, it was another fabulous play by a Bolt D-man that gave the road team a 2-0 lead. Mikhail Sergachev navigated at the point and found the friendly cue of Yanni Gourde at the side of the net. He tipped it in and it was 2-0 Lightning less than five minutes in.
Sometimes a lucky break is all you need to get your game going and get back into things. Chicago got one off the skate of Barclay Goodrow, following friendly fire from Blake Coleman. They were on the board in a 2-1 game.
Chicago power plays turn the tide
While the Hawks went 0/3 on the power play in the opening period, it seemed like their man-advantages allowed them to gain some continuity and start skating.
Cal Foote was burned for two penalties and Luke Schenn a third.
‘ABB’ heating up
Later on, for the second straight game, Alex Barre-Boulet would find twine. He jumped on a rebound and hammered it home to restore the two-goal lead.
Hawks get one back
A hot stick on the Hawks blue-line got them within one to close out the opening frame. Wyatt Kalynuk, the rookie, who has been surging of late, put one in on Vasilevskiy. He mishandled it, and one the ‘Big Cat’ would certainly like back made it a 3-2 game after twenty minutes.
Bolts surge midway through second
A wraparound from Brayden Point restored a two-goal lead for the Bolts nearly seven minutes into the second. They weren’t done there.
Blake Coleman was next to hit the scoresheet. He roofed one past Malcolm Subban, who entered the game to start the second period after Kevin Lankinen allowed three goals on 11 shots in the first. Lastly, it was another fabulous play from Sergachev. He once again created some magic at the point, and found a moving Alex Killorn for the deflection and just like that it was 6-2 Lightning around the 14 minute mark of the stanza.
Unlucky night for Vasilevskiy continues
After having one put behind him by his own men in the first, Vasilevskiy was in perfect position for a shot in the second and a wonky bounce ended up beating him. The puck caromed off the back of Anthony Cirelli and beat the Lightning goalie. The Hawks were within three to end the second with the score 6-3.
Hawks muster only one on lengthy power play
Despite a 5-on-3 amidst a double-minor, the Blackhawks scored only once, a beautiful one-timer from Dominik Kubalik. The Tampa Bay penalty kill was a crucial aspect in this one, and they checked a huge box in Chicago.
Alex Killorn sealed this one with an empty netter, and just like that, the Lightning are back in the postseason. In fact, they tie a franchise record heading to the dance for a fourth straight season. The seventh time in eight years for the Bolts. A wonderful feeling to have a chance to defend Lord Stanley’s grail.
Our three stars of the game
- Mikhail Sergachev: Magic on the blue-line to create two goals.
- Brayden Point: Goal and an assist as he continued his stellar play.
- Erik Cernak: Gordie Howe hat-trick.
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