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Blackhawks squander two-goal lead in OT loss to Lightning

TAMPA, Fla. — Patrick Kane was inches away from a hat trick. More important, he was inches away from a victory.

Two minutes into overtime Wednesday night, Kane raced in all alone on Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy and went to lift a backhander over the lanky goalie’s leg.

He almost got there.

“We talked about it a little bit before [the game], if you’re going to make a move on him, he’s got such long legs, you’re going to have to get it up,” Kane said. “I made the move I wanted, just maybe got a little too close. Got it up, but not enough. He made a nice save with his leg there.”

Patrick Kane celebrates his first-period goal Wednesday night in Tampa. (AP Photo)

Barely a minute later, the Lightning won 3-2 on Brayden Point’s power-play goal.

In theory, a point on the road against the best team in the league is a good point. But the Hawks weren’t in the mood to celebrate one point after losing their seventh straight regular-season game in Tampa (five of which have come in overtime or a shootout).

“I guess you can look at it that way,” Kane said. “You can also look at it that we had a 2-0 lead and gave that up. It’s tough. Would have been nice to score there on the breakaway in overtime and would have had a lot better feeling.”

For one period, at least, the Blackhawks had their way with the Lightning. Kane scored two goals, the Hawks killed off a double-minor that overlapped with another penalty, and they skated stride-for-stride with the high-speed Lightning in a fun and fast first period that hearkened back to the 2015 Stanley Cup Final.

“Had a great first period, great pace,” Joel Quenneville said.

Kane got things going with a wrist shot from the left circle that beat Vasilevskiy far side just 3:49 into the game. The Hawks held the lead with a stellar 5 minutes, 15 seconds of penalty killing — including 45 seconds of 5-on-3 — against the league’s best power play. Then late in the period, the Hawks got a 5-on-3 of their own, and after a nice save by Duncan Keith at the blue line, Cody Franson found Kane for a sharp-angle shot along the goal line and a 2-0 lead.

So after scoring just one goal in the previous 10 games, Kane scored twice in one period. The Hawks now have six power-play goals in their last four games after a lengthy stretch of futility.

“Seems like we’re starting to get some chemistry, the units are starting to get some chemistry,” Kane said. “Just keep working on it, keep getting some new ideas, and take it seriously every time you’re out there.”

Tampa Bay took back the momentum in the second, with the Hawks scrambling in the defensive zone for much of the period. But it was an early shorthanded goal that got the Lightning on the board. Victor Hedman blocked a Kane shot, raced up the ice, then triggered a beauty of a passing play, dropping the puck for Ryan Callahan, who fed Ondrej Palat for the one-timer and tally.

Tampa Bay carried that surge in the third period, with Chris Kunitz slipping a puck between Corey Crawford’s pads just 31 seconds in to tie it 2-2. Each team had its chances to win in regulation, but Crawford and Andrei Vasilevskiy were both strong down the stretch, with Vasilevskiy robbing Richard Panik with a brilliant toe save off a Brandon Saad setup a little more than five minutes into the third.

The chances continued in overtime, with Crawford stopping Point and Nikita Kucherov, and Kane coming up empty on his breakaway. Then Nick Schmaltz was whistled for a questionable slashing penalty — Quenneville, diplomatically, said, “I couldn’t find it on the replay” — and Point cashed in for the victory.

“It was an exciting game,” Quenneville said. “We had our chances to get the lead again, but they’re a dangerous team. Took one too many penalties — although I’d argue that call.”

Follow me on Twitter @MarkLazerus
Email: mlazerus@suntimes.com