The Blackhawks are one win away from their third Stanley Cup since 2010 and a chance at a modern-day NHL salary cap era dynasty.
Chicago got some fortuitous bounces early and saved their best at the start of the third period, showing their championship-caliber mettle in a 2-1 Game 5 win at Amalie Arena.
"I mean, tonight was a pretty solid effort by everyone, especially the third period. Once we got that goal, everyone was coming back hard," goatlender Corey Crawford said. "We were able to keep things out of the slot. Any rebounds or plays into the slot, guys were there to get in and clear it. Just a great team effort I think at the end of it."
Just two minutes into the third, Antoine Vermette scored his fourth goal of the playoffs to give Chicago its eventual game winner. It was Vermette’s third game winner this playoff in a one-goal game.
The Blackhawks will have a chance to clinch the Cup in Chicago at Game 6 on Monday. It will be the Blackhawks first chance to clinch a Stanley Cup at home since 1938.
The Lightning’s goaltending uncertainties continued with Ben Bishop starting. Nobody seemed to know -- other than Tampa coach Jon Cooper -- whether Bishop or Andrei Vasilevskiy would start until Bishop led the team onto ice for warmups. He stopped 27 of 29 Chicago shots on goal. Blackhawks netminder Corey Crawford made 31 saves on 32 shots on goal. This included 15 by the Lightning in the third period.
"You make your own breaks. These guys have been gaming games out through this whole playoffs," Cooper said. "I feel bad for them in a sense that I think they've deserved a little bit better than what we're sitting now. The one thing, we're still alive. We're not out. This is not the press conference that says we're done."
Up until the Blackhawks got that late separation, the game was close.
With 9:07 left in the second period Valtteri Fillpula took a feed by Jason Garrison and buried the shot past Crawford.
A little over five minutes into the first period, the Lightning lost one of the more prolific ‘Triplets’ when Nikita Kucherov’s head slammed into the Chicago goal post. Kucherov went into the game as the playoffs’ second-leading scorer behind linemate Tyler Johnson.
That looked painful. Tampa put rookie Jonathan Drouin on the line.
At the 6:11 mark of the first period, Chicago’s Patrick Sharp scored on a gimme. Victor Hedman and Bishop collided in their own zone when Bishop went to play the puck. This gave Sharp a wide-open net.
That was Sharp’s first goal since May 3.
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