The Chicago Blackhawks visit Amalie Arena to face the Tampa Bay Lightning. For Chicago, the Original 6 NHL team has seen better days. They just traded long-time star Patrick Kane among others in a rebuilding move. In recent years, the Lightning have owned the Blackhawks. Winning 18 of the last 20 meetings, including the last seven. Victor Hedman returns after missing the last two games due to an injury. Will the Lightning get back on point and the winning track after the OT loss to Vegas Thursday?
Sure it’s nice that Hedman returns to the ice tonight. Means that the awkward looking injury last Sunday in Carolina wasn’t as bad as it looked. There are a couple of other returns. Tyler Johnson, Taylor Raddysh and Boris Katchouk all return as visitors to Amalie Arena. Keep an eye on Brandon Hagel as he is playing against the team that drafted him. Sure he wants to show his old team how well he’s doing on his new team. All eyes must also stay on Brayden Point as he is one of the hottest players in the league with 4 goals and 3 assists in the last five games.
Hall Of Fame Puck Drop
Recently named to the NFL Pro Football Hall of Fame, former Buccaneer Ronde Barber dropped the ceremonial puck tonight, Wearing his familiar #20 on a Lightning sweater, Barber was hoping to bring the Bolts some puck luck. It couldn’t hurt the Lightning chances that the Blackhawks played in Sunrise last night. Losing to the Florida Panthers in overtime, Chicago’s energy would be tested in tonight’s back to back game. Maybe Barber’s influence was felt too strongly by both teams on the ice. As if the teams went into a prevent defense making it difficult to get a proper shot on goal. It made for a slower, more tempered game. Also made for a game with very few offensive chances for either team. The first period ended as it began, a scoreless tie.
Only 11 shots were made by both teams. Lightning with seven to the four for the Blackhawks. There were also 10 blocked shots and 21 hits. In one scrum near the end of the period, Steven Stamkos fell to the ice with the puck around his feet. As several players were taking whacks in that vicinity, Stamkos got back on his feet favoring his left leg. Would he return for the remainder of this game?
Brayden’s Game is On Point
The plodding style of play we saw in the first period continued in the second. Stamkos did not return from the locker room at the start of the period. Later in the period, the team announced that Stamkos would not return in this game. As the period developed, the Lightning spent more and more time in Chicago’s zone, Tampa was seemingly wearing out the Blackhawks. Forcing Chicago’s skaters to be stuck in their zone in the period of the long change paid off.
Just past the six minute mark of the second, the Lightning opened the scoring. Not only back in the lineup but Hedman returns to the scoresheet with a pass to Brayden Point. Getting the puck from Hedman right in front of Chicago’s net, Point didn’t waste time. He put the puck past Petr Mrazek to score the game’s first goal.
On Point for a new career high #CHIvsTBL
Brayden Point sets a new career high for goals to break the scoreless tie, as called by @DaveMishkin and @PhilEspo7
🎧: @1025TheBone or Lightning Radio 24/7 on the Lightning app pic.twitter.com/hCJinSGmzQ
— Lightning Radio (@BoltsRadio) March 12, 2023
On Point’s Milestone
For Point, this was his 42nd goal of the season. A new career high for him. Another milestone for Point in this season of milestones. This season, we have seen his 200th career goal as well as his 400th career point. What’s next for him? He certainly has a good chance to hit the 50 goal mark this season. The best part is he is only 26 years old.
Entering the third period with the slimmest lead possible, the Lightning have no room for mistakes. Brian Elliott in net for Tampa is playing very well tonight. The question is how long can Chicago stay in this game? They are one shot from tying the game. As long as they are in this position, the Blackhawks have hope they can steal this win.
Sure enough, former Lightning player Raddysh got a sweet pass from Cole Gutman and roofed the puck past Elliott. Now, it’s a brand new ballgame tied at one. As well as the Lightning have played and outplayed the Blackhawks, it’s anybody’s game with over 14 minutes left in the third period. As the final period unfolded the Lightning took control of the puck possession which led to scoring chances. A handful of times, the Lightning players thought they solved Mrazek but he was equal to the task. Back and forth the period went and to add to the drama, Erik Cernak and Jujhar Khaira dropped the gloves. The fight was a draw though both combatants got a few good licks in on the other.
To OT or No OT?
After the bout between Cernak and Khaira, the final minutes of regulation went into a frenzied mode. Especially on the part of the home team. From the Lightning’s perspective, these were two points they wanted or more importantly, didn’t want to lose. Putting more pressure on Chicago’s team defense, the Lightning were cycling in the offensive zone. Circling at the top of the left dot, Nikita Kucherov found Point sliding to a space in the high slot. Hitting Point with a tape to tape pass, Kucherov did his job. Like he did before, Point knows what to do when the puck is on his stick. Snapping the puck past Mrazek with just under a minute left to play. Sealing the win, Hagel added an empty netter with 2 seconds left to make the final score 3-1 Lightning.
Brayden Point is unstoppable! #GoBolts pic.twitter.com/geSuFr6QLO
— Bally Sports Sun: Lightning (@BallyLightning) March 12, 2023
- Brayden Point – 2 goals, his 42 and 43rd of the season. New career season high.
- Brian Elliott – 21 saves on 22 shots for a .957 save percentage
- Petr Mrazek – 32 saves on 34 saves for a .944 save percentage. Without Mrazek, Chicago could have lost this game by several goals.
Right back at this tomorrow in the last game of this four game homestand,. Winnipeg Jets come into town tomorrow after beating Florida tonight in Sunrise in overtime 5-4. Puck drops at 7:00 pm at Amalie Arena.
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