The first period started out very similar to the previous two games of this series, with the Lightning getting out to a fast start and dominating the puck possession for a good bit of the opener. Eventually it paid off for them, as Victor Hedman sent a beautiful stretch pass to free up Ryan Callahan, who ripped a wicked slap shot past Corey Crawford's glove. But after that, the Blackhawks woke up, and it was all Chicago, as they took their turn dominating possession, keeping the Lightning without a shot on goal for over thirteen minutes.
During that stretch, an interference penalty from Brayden Coburn put Chicago on the power play. After a great series of play for the home team, generating shots and scoring chances and not allowing the Tampa Bay penalty killers to clear the zone, Brad Richards beat Ben Bishop glove side to tie the game. The puck actually hit Bishop right in the glove, but he couldn't control it - presumably because an Andrew Shaw screen limited his vision - and it ended up in the back of the net.
The second period saw all eyes on both goaltenders, but for very different reasons. Corey Crawford shined for the Blackhawks, fending off all of the 17 Tampa shots on goal as the Bolts dominated the play. At one point, Crow made a series of saves on the likes of Tyler Johnson, Steven Stamoks, and Victor Hedman while the Blackhawks killed a 5-on-3. Great period from Crawford to silence any doubt there may have been about how he would perform after not being tested much in the first period.
Bishop was the real talking point of the middle frame, though, as he was clearly injured but remained in the game. At one point he had to move right-to-left, and when he tried to do so, he basically just collapsed and had to catch himself. Later, he was incientally hit in the head by Brandon Saad on a rush and spent a lot of time sprawled out on the ice. Most thought that would be the thing to finally get him out of the game, but he stayed in regardless. Pierre McGuire of NBC asked Tampa coach Jon Cooper about Bishop's clear injury during the bench interview, and Cooper said "he's fine," and chalked up his slow recoveries to his 6-foot-7-inch frame. Yeah, okay, Coop.
The third period started in a 1-1 tie. The Lightning came out fast yet again, as they seem to do at the start of most periods. The Blackhawks battle through, though, and soon got their turn to control the play again. A great offensive-zone possession from the top line eventually resulted in a Brandon Saad goal off a nice feed from Marian Hossa, and Chicago had a 2-1 lead. That lead was very short lived, though, as just 13 seconds later, Ondrej Palat put home a puck in a scramble in front of Crawford, and we were back even.
Both teams traded chances after that, but neither team could cash in until there was just 3:11 left. Hedman led a strong rush and made another incredible pass to set up Cedric Pacquette, who put the puck into an wide open net to give Tampa a 3-2 lead. It would prove to be the game winner.
The Blackhawks losing this game is pitiful, quite frankly. They were the better team for most of the game, had countless scoring chances on a goaltender who was clearly injured, and yet couldn't capitalize. They squandered chance after chance to go ahead in this one, and they paid for it in the end. They certainly aren't out of the series, but if they continue to let Bishop and Tampa Bay off the hook, they aren't going to be hoisting the Cup in the coming days.
If they lose this series, it won't be because they aren't the better team. They've showed that they can be. But they can't continue to allow scoring chances to slip away by passing when they should shoot, shooting when they should pass, or holding the puck too long. They might be better than the Lightning, but that doesn't mean the Lightning aren't a great a hockey team. They're gonna make you pay if you let them hang around.
The Blackhawks have been here before. They won Game 1 and went on to lose Games 2 and 3 in 2013. These Lightning are a different animal than those Bruins were, but the point is that hope is not lost. This is a squandered chance, but the series is far from over. But if the Blackhawks want to be lifting Lord Stanley next week, they absolutely have to win Game 4. That game goes Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. CT.