Game 9: Tampa Bay Lightning versus Chicago Blackhawks

The Lightning rebound from their worst effort of the season with a wildly entertaining game, a 6-5 overtime win over the Chicago Blackhawks that had a little bit of everything, including key contributions from the big names on both rosters.

The Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Chicago Blackhawks 6-5 in overtime at the Tampa Bay Times Forum Thursday night.

The question that was on everyone's mind coming into tonight's game was how the Lightning would respond in following up their worst game this season, an embarrassing 5-0 home loss to the Boston Bruins last Saturday. Facing the defending world champion Chicago Blackhawks after an unusually long four-day layoff during this current seven-game homestand, expectations were nearly possible to predict. What followed was a back-and-forth affair that saw the Lightning build an early lead, surrender it, re-take it, give it away and eventually triumph in overtime, all while under an effectively smothering offensive onslaught.

"It wasn't pretty all the way through but they're a good team and they make you look bad sometimes. But it's about finding ways to win in this league. Two months from now, we'll look back and we got four points from the Blackhawks and that's all that matters" - Lightning forward Martin St. Louis

Matt Carle got things started with his first goal of the season, a power play goal at 6:28 of the first, assisted by Valteri Filppula and Richard Panik.

This would be the only goal scored by either team in the opening period, during which the Lightning were outshot 12-4.

At 1:24 of the second, Nate Thompson netted his first goal of the season, scoring shorthanded with assists from B.J. Crombeen and Andrej Sustr on just the team's fifth shot of the game.

Any thoughts of a blowout were extinguished at the 9:00 mark when Bryan Bickell scored for Chicago, helped by Marcus Kruger and Brent Seabrook.

Still riding the momentum, undoubtedly aided by the mass of red sweater-wearing Blackhawks fans in attendance, Marian Hossa tied the game at two just a minute and 36 seconds later. Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews chipped in with assists. The play was reviewed for a possible high stick by Hossa but was upheld.

If there was concern that the Lightning wouldn't hold up to the turning tide, those fears were allayed when Stephen Stamkos scored at 17:21 with an assist from Victor Hedman to regain the lead.

However, the Lightning were unable to carry that lead, and the accompanying momentum, into the second intermission as Patrick Kane scored unassisted on a breakaway at 18:53.

The score at the end of two was tied at three. The Blackhawks at that point were outshooting the Bolts 27-11.

Chicago took the lead early in the third, with Kane and Duncan Keith feeding Andrew Shaw for a power play goal at 1:33.

The Bolts evened things up at 11:03 when Victor Hedman scored his first of the season, getting help from Martin St. Louis and Stephen Stamkos.

With the Lightning finally showing signs of mounting a sustained offensive attack, they regained the lead at 17:31 on a power play goal from Stamkos, assisted by Filppula.

Before fans could start counting down the remaining seconds, one of the most bizarre plays in Lightning history (at least recent Lightning history) happened; a seemingly innocuous pass in the defensive zone from Carle deflected off of Radko Gudas and past netminder Ben Bishop to tie the game again at the 18:11 mark. Toews was given credit for the goal.

Regulation ended with the teams tied at five and Chicago up 42-23 in shots.

Having given the Blackhawks a point in the standings that they didn't really earn (although it could be effectively argued that the skate was on the other boot when the Lightning came out of Chicago with a 3-2 win earlier this season), the Bolts wasted little time in overtime, with St. Louis scoring on assists from Stamkos and Gidas at 1:16.

"I don't think we stole tonight. Statistically, you might look at shots on goal but I don't think it was a terrible game. I thought we hung in there and every time they pushed, we pushed back." - Cooper

The Lightning will be in action again on Saturday when they wrap up the homestand against the Buffalo Sabres.

Game notes:

  • Tonight's contest concludes the season series between the two teams. The Bolts have yet to face divisional rivals Toronto, Detroit, Montreal and Ottawa once. They won't even play Toronto until January 28, 2014.
  • The Lightning are now 4-0-0 against Western Conference opponents this season, outscoring them 17-9.
  • The Lightning are now 3-0-0 in overtime this season, with two of those wins coming against the Blackhawks.
  • With a goal and an assist, St. Louis now has 924 points in his career and passes Neal Broten for 93rd on the NHL's all-time scoring list. His nest target is Steve Thomas with 933 points.
  • Shaw's power play goal in the third ended a streak of three games in which the Lightning penalty kill had been perfect PP goal in last three games, Counting tonight, they had successfully killed off 15 penalties over that stretch.
  • Tonight was "Breast Cancer Research and Awareness" night.  Lots and lots of pink everywhere.
  • Former Lightning goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin started for Chicago.
  • St. Louis (two goals, two assists) and Stamkos (two goals, four assists) have combined for 10 points against Chicago this season.
  • The Lightning honored Ed Ameen as the sixth Lightning Community Hero of the year during the first period of tonight's game. Ameen, who received a $50,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program, will donate the money to Ronald McDonald House Charities, St. Pete Free and the Coast Guard Foundation. Ameen has made his presence felt across the Tampa Bay area by his countless hours of dedication and service to the Ronald McDonald House Charities. He has been the Chairman for 33 years and oversees the Board of Trustees and works closely with the chief executive officer. Despite holding a high title, Ameen is often found at one of the houses making notes or taking calls, ensuring people receive the best service possible. As one of the founding fathers of the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Tampa Bay, Ameen cares about each staff member and mentors several board members. He has overseen expansion from one cottage to four houses, making this area one of the largest chapters in the world. Along with Lloyd Horton from the All Children's Hospital, they put together the plan to build the first Ronald McDonald House in the state of Florida. Since those early days, the Ronald McDonald House of Tampa Bay has cared for more than 42,000 families.
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