Rozner: Now Blackhawks have something to prove
No one said it would be easy.
Well, that's not exactly true. Too many people around these parts thought it would be nothing more than a coronation when the Blackhawks faced the Lightning in the Stanley Cup Final.
But it's now the Hawks who face a must-win in Game 4 Wednesday night at home and or face a nearly impossible task.
Tampa, which was down 1-0 in the series and trailed 2-1 in the third period Monday night, has now won two straight after scoring twice in the third to beat the Hawks 3-2 and own a 2-1 series lead.
"Feels like we gave one away," said a clearly disgusted Brad Richards. "Feels like that was a good opportunity to win a game."
The Hawks were outplayed in both games in Tampa and knew they needed a better start Monday and they got precisely that. They absolutely dominated the first period, but instead of being up a bunch, they were tied at 1-1.
"We had a very, very strong start," said Patrick Kane, who is still without a point in the series. "We had a chance to open up the game in the first and we missed a couple open nets.
"(Marian) Hossa gets tripped on one open net and Teuvo (Teravainen) had one, too. It would have been nice to have the lead there."
The Hawks came out flying in the first and swarming the net when Victor Hedman corralled a loose puck and hit Ryan Callahan with a stretch pass at the home blueline.
Callahan fired from a bad angle and long distance as Corey Crawford went down and he beat the goaltender over his left shoulder for a 1-0 Tampa lead at 5:09 of the first.
But the Hawks continued to carry the play and tied the game on the power play when Richards shot through an Andrew Shaw screen and off Ben Bishop's glove at 14:22.
"That was the best period of the series for us by far," Richards said. "We did a lot of good things in the first, but the second period is where we lost the momentum."
With a 30-11 shots attempted advantage in the first, the Hawks could have easily been up by 3 or 4 goals, and at the same time Bishop was laboring to stay upright, but the Hawks couldn't maintain that pace and it was mostly Tampa in the second.
"That happens sometimes in a game like that," Hossa said. "We got the start we wanted but didn't capitalize."
The Hawks received a power play midway through the second period when Nikita Kucherov tripped Johnny Oduya with a nasty collision that sent Oduya to the locker room for the rest of the period.
The power play was perhaps the worst mankind has ever witnessed, with the added bonus of a Kucherov breakaway out of the box. Crawford beat him and was then spectacular as the Hawks killed off a 5-on-3 late in the period as 22,336 stood to salute Crawford and the penalty killers.
Tampa dominated the second and carried a 25-12 shots attempted margin in the middle period, which makes sense considering how much time they spent in the Hawks' zone.
The Hawks got the lead back at 4:14 of the third on Hossa's brilliant pass to Brandon Saad, who buried it upper right corner, but only 13 seconds later, Kucherov walked around a hobbled Oduya and in the ensuing scramble, Ondrej Palat stuffed it home for a 2-2 tie.
And with less than 4 minutes remaining, Hedman made another great play, Kyle Cumiskey got beat in front and checking center Cedric Paquette scored the game-winner.
It was a flip of the script from Game 1, when the Hawks were outplayed but hung around and scored late to win it.
"I like the way we played most of the game," Hossa said. "It's over and now we have to rest and come back. We've been here before."
While the Hawks lost two in a row for the first time this postseason, they were down 2-1 to Boston two years ago in the Final and won Game 4 in Boston and then the next two to win the Cup.
They were also down 2-1 to Anaheim in the conference finals and won the series in seven, so the Hawks aren't exactly in trouble yet, but they better start taking this opponent seriously or they will be in serious trouble.
Tampa has been the better team in about six of nine periods thus far and they deserve their lead in the series, which is no surprise for Tampa coach Jon Cooper.
"We've come back in series, so now we know we can do it," Cooper said. "We never really sit back and say, 'We're out of this series.' Believe me, we don't want to fall behind. But we know if we do, we have the ability to come back."
The Bolts have displayed great character in the postseason and have come back time and time again.
Now it's the Hawks' turn to prove it one more time.
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