TAMPA, Fla. —Patrick Sharp understood. He was waiting at his locker stall, waiting for the onslaught of questions, waiting to take the blame. After all, it was his back-to-back stick penalties — a slash and a high stick —that led to the game-winning goal in the Tampa Bay Lightning’s wild 4-3 victory in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final on Saturday night.
“Small mistakes [were] the difference,” Sharp said. “It’s frustrating to take two quick penalties like that. … I don’t think I’ve ever done that before, but it happened. Move on from it. I take responsibility and I apologized to our penalty-killers for putting them under such stress.”
But to distill Game 2 to simply Sharp’s penalties — somewhat reminiscent of Jonathan Toews, Game 4 in Detroit in 2013 — is to diminish a game that had more mood swings and story lines than some series.
The Lightning lost goalie Ben Bishop for mysterious reasons (believed to be some sort of injury) in the third period. Twice. It was so crazy, Steven Stamkos said the Lightning found themselves listening to the PA announcements to find out who their own goalie was. There were three game-tying goals and three go-ahead goals, shots pin-balling past goalies from all angles, off all objects. It was a throwback, full-throttle affair from the start, both teams buzzing and both goalies fighting the puck, making for an exhilarating and entertaining contest.
Safe was death in Game 1. Safe was dead in Game 2. As a result, the Lightning are very much alive.
“Two quick teams,” Stamkos said. “The fastest pace I’ve played in my career.”
Just like in Game 1, the Lightning came out buzzing. Only this time, the Hawks joined them. Jonathan Drouin, making his Final debut, had two scoring chances on his first shift. Tyler Johnson hit the post. Bishop made big saves on Antoine Vermette and Brandon Saad. A Corey Crawford save was so close that it actually set off the goal horn for an instant. Finally, Tampa Bay got on board first when Cedric Paquette — whose line did a tremendous job of shutting down Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane —fired a sneaky shot past Crawford after making a nifty move around Saad at 12:56 of the first.
Then all hell broke loose in the second. Andrew Shaw fought through traffic and whacked in an Andrew Desjardins rebound to tie it 1-1 at 3:04, as Bishop’s shakiness and lack of rebound control finally cost him. Teuvo Teravainen then scored off a beautiful give-and-go with Marian Hossa for a power-play goal and a 2-1 lead barely two minutes later.
The Lightning bounced right back, led by the resurgent Triplets line. After a sustained shift in the Hawks zone, Nikita Kucherov redirected a Jason Garrison shot past Crawford to make it 2-2 just 92 seconds after Teravainen’s goal. And Johnson walked in on Crawford from the corner and snuck the puck in when the goalie went for the poke-check instead of hugging the post.
Joel Quenneville said Crawford (20 saves) was “just OK.”
“It took a funny bounce; I’ve got to be able to read that,” Crawford said of the Johnson goal. “I’m competitive. I want to stop everything. It’s pretty frustrating, especially a couple I think I could have had. It’s frustrating but you keep going. You can’t hang your head right now.”
But just like in Game 1, the Lightning couldn’t hold a third-period lead. Brent Seabrook tied it 3-3 at 3:38 of the third, when his shot from the high slot made it past Bishop —Hossa appeared to interfere with him, but that won’t be reviewable until next season, when coach’s challenges are expected to be introduced.
Unlike in Game 1, though, the Lightning recovered. On the second of Sharp’s back-to-back penalties, with Bishop out of the game and confusion running rampant, Garrison got the game-winner when his shot deflected off Desjardins’ stick and past Crawford at 8:49 of the third. Bishop came back in, then left again, and 20-year-old Andrei Vasilevskiy made five big stops down the stretch to pick up the unlikely victory.
Toews, as he so often is after losses, was calm and confident — borderline content, even — saying the Hawks’ effort was far better in Game 2 than it was in Game 1, when they basically stole the game late in the third when the Lightning got too conservative. The goal was to leave Tampa with at least a split and home-ice advantage. They did that.
They just did it in a way nobody could have expected.
“Our effort was there, for sure,” Toews said. “Let’s keep it in perspective — it’s a good team, to go home tied 1-all, I don’t think is something we’re satisfied with, considering the position we were in coming into tonight, (but) we’ve definitely got to be excited, going back to our building.’’