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Blackhawks struck by Lightning in 6-3 loss

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Tampa had shots early, often and always against Chicago.

NHL: Tampa Bay Lightning at Chicago Blackhawks Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Lightning buried the Chicago Blackhawks with 33 shots on goals in the second period, scoring three goals, en route to a 6-3 victory Sunday night at the United Center.

Tampa had the first goal of the game as well when Nikita Kucherov scored just more than three minutes into the first period. Chicago responded when Alexandre Fortin converted on a breakaway for the first goal of his NHL career.

And then the second period happened.

Tampa tied an NHL record with 33 shots on goal in the middle frame and — despite some incredible saves from Cam Ward to minimize the damage — tallied goals from Anthony Cirelli, Yianni Gourde and Brayden Point to take a 4-1 lead into the second intermission. A fifth Tampa goal came from Victor Hedman at the midway point of the third period.

The Blackhawks showed some life late in the third period. Jan Rutta’s attempted dump-in ricocheted off a linesman and went right to the stick of David Kampf, who buried it past Louis Domingue for Kampf’s first goal of the season, making it a 5-2 game. One minute later, Nick Schmaltz scored his first goal of the season that pulled the Blackhawks within two.

The momentum was short-lived, though. Just 1:42 later after Schmaltz’s goal, a Duncan Keith point shot was blocked by Tampa and Ryan Callahan corralled the loose puck and fired it into the empty net to put to seal the Tampa victory.

3 Thoughts

Saad’s rebound performance

Lost in the madness of the second period was an excellent performance by the much-maligned Blackhawks forward. In back-to-back shifts in the first period, Saad hit a post then drew a penalty. He came within inches of his first goal of the season a second time during a short-handed 2-on-1 break in the second period. More performances like that are going to result in goals for the snake-bitten Saad — or so we all hope.

Brandon Davidson’s season debut

In his first two games of the season, Davidson was on the negative side of the possession ledger in each game and had an 11-1 deficit in terms of high-danger chances. He also had multiple turnovers Sunday night that led to Tampa odd-man rushes — although he was far from alone with this transgression. A small sample size, of course, but it’s hard to envision Davidson being any sort of cure for what ails the Chicago defense.

Please, please: don’t overreact to this loss.

Drawing worthwhile conclusions from what was clearly the Blackhawks worst game of the season feels like a waste of time. What Sunday night confirmed is what’s been known about the Blackhawks from the first game of the season: there are massive issues on defense and Tampa had the offensive firepower to exploit those holes more than most NHL teams. Ward played about as well as he could, considering the circumstances. The Lightning could’ve piled on six or seven goals in that woefully lopsided second period.

The only difference in some of the other games — the one against the Toronto Maple Leafs, for example — is that Chicago was able to halt the flurry of goals with goals of their own. But the Lightning also have a quality defense to match their excellent forwards and were able to stifle Chicago’s attack about as effectively as they lit up the Blackhawks net.

There’s no reason to make this a bigger deal. The Blackhawks are a defensively-flawed team that has an excellent goaltender and enough offensive firepower to be in the mix for a playoff spot come April. Whether or not they’re going to get that playoff spot depends on how much the offense has to cover for that defense (and also if Connor Murphy and/or Gustav Forsling’s returns from injury bolster that defense). Yes, this game was ugly. And the bad news is that it’ll probably happen again during the remaining 74 games. But that’s what’s going to happen with the problems Chicago has on its blue line.

3 Stars

  1. Brayden Point (TB) — 1 goal, 2 assists
  2. Victor Hedman (TB) — 1 goal, 1 assist
  3. Nikita Kucherov (TB) — 1 goal, 1 assist