TAMPA, Fla. — Teuvo Teravainen’s shot from the top of the left circle somehow navigated its way past Marcus Kruger, past Valtteri Filppula, and past Ben Bishop, snapping the latter’s shutout streak at more than 113 minutes. It tied the score with just 6:32 left in the game. It came on the road in a raucous, hostile building in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final. It was easily the biggest goal of his life in easily the biggest game of his life.
Then, in the midst of the ensuing celebration, came a horrifying realization.
“When I scored the goal,” Teravainen said, “I think the first think [I thought] was, ‘Oh, no, I have to go do media now.’ ”
The bright lights and rapid-fire questions in his second language might faze Teravainen a bit, but the stage never does. He may be new here, but he already gets this whole Blackhawks thing perfectly — no matter the situation, no matter the score, they’re never out of it.
It was new characters, but the same old story on Wednesday, as Teravainen tied it and Antoine Vermette won it two minutes later, turning a prolonged 1-0 deficit into a stirring 2-1 victory as Amalie Arena — buzzing all night, and not just from the signature Tesla coils in the rafters —went from delirious to devastated in a flash.
“Great teams do that,” Teravainen said, who also had the lone assist on Vermette’s goal. “I haven’t been a part [of this team] for many years, but I knew this is the team that can do that anytime. If we’re back, we just fight back, play harder and get it back. Great teams do that.”
Vermette, who scored the game-winner in overtime of Game 4 of the Western Conference final, beat Bishop with a shot from the slot at 15:26, capping the latest Hawks rally. He’s been with the team even less than Teravainen, a trade-deadline pickup with a whopping three months of tenure. But he, like so many others around the league, knew all too well the Hawks’ reputation as tenacious closers, and the inevitability of that third-period push.
“I played against them quite a bit, knowing that there’s a lot of pride in this room, a lot of character,” Vermette said. “They’re going to keep battling no matter what. It’s nice to be on that side.”
The question entering the Final — as it was in the first round, as it was in the second round, as it was in the conference final, as it seems to be every series, every year —was whether experience really matters. Whether the Hawks’ history of facing any and every kind of situation imaginable would make the difference over a young, gung-ho Lightning squad. And for 50-some minutes, the Lightning stood tall, and dominated for stretches. They did not shrink from the spotlight, nor did they stumble on the big stage. They were fast and aggressive early, smart and conservative after that.
A solid, lane-clogging defensive effort — the kind that beat the New York Rangers 2-0 in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final — nearly made Alex Killorn’s extraordinary trick-shot goal early in the first period stand up. It was a game effort from a very good squad. So maybe hold off a bit on all that “dynasty” talk that’s been going around the past few days. For a bit, at least. The series is far from over, and it’s also far from a given for the tried and tested Hawks. The Lightning belong, and they have skill and speed to burn.
But they sat back too much in the third period, and the Hawks made them pay, as they have to so many teams over the years. Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper took the game as a positive, how Vermette’s goal was one of the very few — if any — high-end chances the Hawks had. Captain Steven Stamkos said the Lightning “saw we can hang, and we can be better.” But now they have to regroup for Game 2 on Saturday, having lost a game they could have won, and having ceded home-ice advantage to a team seeking its third Stanley Cup in six seasons.
“There’s a fine line between respect and fear,” Brenden Morrow said. “You can respect them. You can’t fear them. It looked like in the third we were holding on — the fear of maybe what would be coming and what might happen.”