With hobbled goalie, Lightning rally to stun Blackhawks

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With every save, every lunge, every reach, Ben Bishop looked worse. He leaned on his stick or his glove hand for support as he got to one knee. He strained to get from post to post. He stood flat-footed rather than get into his butterfly at times. His coach, Jon Cooper, told a TV interviewer that Bishop was “fine,” that it just took him longer to get up because he’s 6-foot-7, but the day-long charade that Cooper put forth was farcical in the morning, and risky during the game.

But, hey. It’s hockey.

“It’s going to take a lot to not play a Stanley Cup Final game,” Bishop said later.

And somehow, someway, after 40 minutes of breathtaking and often bizarre play, Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final was tied 1-1. After 50 minutes, it was tied 2-2. And after 60 minutes, the Tampa Bay Lightning had won 3-2.

The Blackhawks smelled blood against a clearly hobbled goaltender, but couldn’t complete the kill.

“Of course, we can see that,” Hawks captain Jonathan Toews said. “He was fighting like everyone else in the series. It doesn’t mean he’s going to stop working and making sure he stops the pucks. He made some huge saves.”

Cedric Paquette scored with 3:11 left in the third period to pull out a stunning victory, the Lightning stealing Game 3 like the Hawks stole Game 1, with a third-period rally and a late game-winner. Tampa Bay is now up 2-1 in the series and reclaimed home-ice advantage. Game 4 is Wednesday night at the United Center. Barring a meteor strike, it’s a safe bet Bishop will be back between the pipes.

Depsite all his struggles, he finished with 36 saves.

“I guess he’s OK,” Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said.

But, man, was it an adventure. Bishop somehow withstood all but one of a 19-shot barrage in the first period. He got lucky when Marian Hossa missed a completely open net by inches as he was tripped. He caught another break when Teuvo Teravainen’s shot toward an empty net skittered wide. He somehow closed his five-hole in time to stop Antoine Vermette on a mini-breakaway. He was bailed out after he was finally beaten in the third period when his teammates scored 13 seconds later.

He spent most of the first two periods struggling to get up, to move laterally, to do much of anything. But he kept stopping pucks, and Lightning coach Jon Cooper said he never thought about pulling him.

“We just were trying to put as many pucks on the net as possible and get to the net,” said defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk, who was effective in his playoff debut and saw seven shifts in the tense third period as Johnny Oduya battled an apparent injury. “You don’t want to turn down any shots.”

And they didn’t. After Victor Hedman — a force all night — set up Ryan Callahan’s goal 5:09 into the game with a remarkable 130-foot slap pass from behind his own net, the Hawks completely dominated the rest of the period. The Hawks had 25 of the next 28 shot attempts. The Lightning went more than 13 minutes without a shot on goal. And the Hawks tied it when Brad Richards capped maybe their finest power play of the postseason with a shot that beat Bishop through an Andrew Shaw screen.

But that was all the Hawks could get in a period they utterly dominated. A 19-7 edge in shots on goal, a 30-11 edge in shot attempts, a visibly pained and limited goaltender, and it was just 1-1. Anybody’s game. Somehow.

“Yeah, that was too bad,” Hossa said. “Because we created so much pressure, so many shots. I think we missed two empty-netters. So definitely, that hurts a little bit.”

The tables turned in the second, and this time, the Hawks were fortunate to get out of the period still tied 1-1. Tampa Bay had five shots in the first 90 seconds, and Crawford and the penalty-killing unit came up huge with an 82-second kill of a two-man Lightning power play, leaving the United Center crowed roaring its approval for several minutes.

It was a massive momentum swing, but there was an even wilder one in the third period. The Hawks finally appeared to get their breakthrough at 4:14 of the third period, when Saad one-timed a Hossa feed in the slot past Bishop for a 2-1 lead. But “Chelsea Dagger” had barely stopped playing when Ondrej Palat followed a Nikita Kucherov shot for the equalizer 13 seconds later — a familiar and frustrating scene throughout this postseason push.

Bishop looked better and stronger in the third and stood tall —once he was able to stand up, at least — until Paquette crashed the net and smacked in a Hedman setup for the game-winner. The Lightning are now two wins from the Stanley Cup, the league’s best home team in the regular season, and the league’s top road team (8-3) in the playoffs.

“I don’t think it’s sending a message,” Stamkos said. “It’s proving to ourselves that we can beat any team, in any rink.”

The Hawks have been here before — they trailed Boston 2-1 in 2013 — but the hill is steep, and the Lightning are rolling.

“It’s frustrating,” Toews said. “A lot of things that we did today gave us the feeling we were going to come out on top, the effort we gave. Just a couple bad habits ended up hurting us. … We’ll improve in that area and use as motivation to find that anger — the emotion we need to bounce back.”

Email: mlazerus@suntimes.com

Twitter: @marklazerus

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