CHICAGO – For about 22 minutes, it looked as if Sunday afternoon was going to be the moment which the new-look Blackhawks would introduce themselves the hockey world.
Two goals in the first period and another early in the third by Pius Suter put the hosts up 3-0 against the reigning Stanley Cup champion Lightning at the United Center. Two rookies – Philipp Kurashev & Pius Suter – scored goals around one from Mattias Janmark, as it looked like the Blackhawks were in position to get their biggest win of the season.
But not so fast, said the Lightning. They had a champion’s response to the rough start, and in turn, provided a bit of lesson to their still growing opponents.
Tampa Bay responded to the Blackhawks’ offensive push by scoring three goals in exactly four minutes of the second period. Yanni Gourde’s second goal of the game later in the period then two more scores by the Lightning in the third period made up the scoring in a 6-3 victory for the visitors.
Just like that, an sizable victory for the Blackhawks went up in smoke, as they finish the three-game series netting three of six possible points.
“We’re gonna move on,” said head coach Jeremy Colliton. “We’ve got to keep building our game, and I think we’re doing that.”
Knowing the circumstances with his team, Colliton wasn’t exactly furious with his group after giving up the three-goal lead. He’s aware didn’t have defenseman Calvin de Haan from the start due to injury then Connor Murphy after a game misconduct after Tampa tied the game.
That left a number of rookies at the blue line, and against the best scoring team in the NHL, that spelled disaster in the second half of the game.
For Colliton, the game can serve as a lesson to those defenseman and the group as a whole as the season nears the midway point in early March.
“We’d love to have a little more killer instinct when we have them down 3-0 at home. You don’t want to give them any life, any reason to believe,” said Colliton. “Quick power play goal and then they score right away; it’s probably not what you want to do against the cup winners.
“So, you know, again it was tough. We got four of the six ‘D’ playing there haven’t played many games in the league and we’re playing against an excellent team. So we’re asking a lot of them. I thought for a lot of the game, they did well, but it’s a lot. We’ll bounce back, I’m certain of that. We’ve got to take the good with us and keep working. Obviously, there’s room for improvement.”
Time is there to do that, as a course in finishing games in the NHL was administered by the Stanley Cup champs on Sunday.