Blackhawks and Lightning put on the show that had been promised

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TAMPA, Fla. – It was furious, desperate hockey, from the first drop of the puck to the last drop of sweat.

There were scoring swings and mood swings. There was a goal that shouldn’t have been a goal and a goalie who couldn’t stay on the ice.

Wherever you fall on the spectrum of fandom, whether you’re of the Blackhawks or Lightning ilk, you were not shortchanged Saturday night. Short of breath, quite possibly. Shortchanged, no.

Tampa Bay won this crazy game 4-3 to even the Stanley Cup Final at one game apiece, but it’s hard to say the Hawks lost much of anything. They know for sure now that they can go wind sprint-to-wind sprint with the Lightning. More importantly, they did here what they hoped to do: They came away with at least one victory. They head back to Chicago for Game 3 Monday night with a split.

The skating part of the equation is huge because if you’ll remember, the Hawks’ 2-1 victory in Game 1 left a few doubts that they could keep up with Tampa Bay’s young, speedy players.

“We know we can play at that pace — there’s nothing wrong with that,’’ Hawks captain Jonathan Toews said after Game 2. “It was a good game … back and forth. We let them get too comfortable with the rush game in the second and gave a few too many of those odd-man rushes and high-quality scoring chances.’’

Ah, that second period. That was more like it. That was what Blackhawks-Lightning was supposed to be – fun, fast and full of goals, everything Game 1 wasn’t. The faint of heart were better off doing something else during that stretch, when the Hawks scored two goals and the Lightning answered with two of their own.

Andrew Shaw opened the all-you-can-eat session (ooh, unfortunate phrasing) by knocking a skittering puck in the goalmouth past Tampa Bay goalie Ben Bishop. You’ll recall that Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman had accused Shaw of biting him in Game 1. Actually, of biting him in the midsection.

A few minutes after Shaw’s goal, Teuvo Teravainen took a beautiful pass from Marian Hossa and beat Bishop for a power-play goal. You could feel the Lightning losing cabin pressure, couldn’t you? A palpable sense of deflation? Yeah, well, about that. One minute, 32 seconds after the Teravainen goal, Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov redirected a Jason Garrison pass to make it 2-2.

The Lightning’s Tyler Johnson scored with about six minutes left in the period, when Corey Crawford had trouble knocking away the puck. The scoreboard read Lightning 3, Hawks 2.

Breathe. Remember to breathe.

Maybe you like your cake frosting-free. Some of us like ours with icing, the non-hockey kind, so that second period was delicious. Was there great defense and goaltending? No, there was not. Were those goals all empty calories? Depends on what you think is proper hockey. But it was ridiculously entertaining.

“Two teams that are giving it everything they have out there, and there’s such a small difference in winning or losing,’’ Hawks forward Patrick Sharp said.

Sharp had two penalties in the third period, and Garrison’s game-winner came with Sharp in the box for high-sticking. Again, such a small difference between winning and losing.

Earlier, it had looked as if things would go the Hawks’ way, the way things often do. They had caught a break when officials didn’t see Hossa’s stick push aside Bishop’s left goalie pad, perhaps allowing Brent Seabrook’s heavy slap shot to find the back of the net. Goalie-interference calls are likely to be reviewable next season. This season? No.

But when the Hawks really needed to take advantage of opportunities, they couldn’t. Bishop had to leave the game several times in the third period for unspecified problems. Spicy food consequences? A pulled muscle? This being the secretive NHL, we might not know until they open the 2050 Lightning time capsule.

Twenty-year-old Andrei Vasilevskiy took over in net, and the Hawks couldn’t answer with a goal.

“It was a good hockey game,’’ Crawford said. “It was back and forth, and both teams are battling. The margin wasn’t much there.’’

Not everybody was enamored with the thrills and spills of the game.

“What would be great about it?’’ Hawks defenseman Duncan Keith said. “I don’t care about up and down the ice. They’ve got a good skating team. So do we. You try to win every game you can. (Saturday night) it wasn’t good enough.’’

True. But it sure was captivating enough.


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