In a stunning turn of events, the Blackhawks erupted for five unanswered goals — including a hat trick by rookie Dominik Kubalik — in the third period Thursday night, shocking the Tampa Bay Lightning in a 5-2 win at Amalie Arena.
For a while, it felt like the Blackhawks (28-28-8) were destined for another one of the disappointing, deflating losses that become their routine.
Chicago had three power plays in the first period and did not score on any of them, with legitimate scoring chances few and far between. Tampa (40-19-5) had its own trio of power plays that also produced no goals, sending both teams to the first intermission scoreless.
As the second period unfolded, the ice tilted in Tampa’s favor, and the Lightning bombarded Corey Crawford, who held the fort for a little more than 15 minutes before Brayden Point freed up in the high slot and fired a seeing-eye wrist shot through a maze of bodies for a 1-0 Tampa lead.
Save for a brief spurt of offensive pressure by Chicago near the end of the second, it was a dominant 20 minutes by the Lightning.
Only 17 seconds into the third period, Nikita Kucherov was left all alone by Crawford, one-timing a Point pass into a gaping net for a 2-0 Lightning lead.
After being outplayed in the second and suddenly down two goals, it seemed like the Blackhawks were on their way to loss No. 10 in their last 12 games.
Then, the damndest thing happened.
At the 4:36 of the third, after another unsuccessful Chicago power play, Brandon Saad cut the deficit to 2-1 with a tap-in from just in front of the net.
Twenty-six seconds later, Dominik Kubalik tied it 2-2 by collecting a rebound off his own shot and guiding it past Curtis McElhinney.
Slater Koekkoek — a former first-round pick of Tampa who’d had a rough opening 40 minutes of the game — fired a shot from the point past McElhinney to give the Blackhawks their first lead, 3-2, of the game at 9:56.
The Blackhawks power play — yes, the Blackhawks power play! — scored when Kubalik unloaded a one-timer from the right circle at 11:43 to double the Chicago lead, 4-2.
Kubalik wasn’t done, either. With Tampa’s goalie on the bench for an extra attacker, the rookie tallied his 29th goal this season with an empty-netter, completing the first hat trick of his career.
It was a massive turn of events in Chicago’s favor, as the Blackhawks did something to the Lightning that no other NHL team had done this season:
Lightning were 28-0-4 this season when leading after two periods.#Blackhawks handed them their first regulation loss.— Charlie Roumeliotis (@CRoumeliotis) February 28, 2020
It’s worth reiterating this game likely doesn’t end in Chicago’s favor without a monumental effort from Crawford in the second period, stopping 19 of the 20 shots Tampa registered during the frame.
- Dominik Kubalik (CHI) — First career hat trick
- Corey Crawford (CHI) — 37 saves
- Brandon Saad (CHI) — 1 PPG, 1 assist
The Blackhawks stay in the southeast to face former coach Joel Quenneville and the Panthers at 5 p.m. Saturday at BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida.