CHICAGO — Facing the two Stanley Cup finalists from last season in the first two games of this season figured to be quite a test for the Tampa Bay Lightning.
After two games, Tampa Bay needs to do a bit more reviewing. But for one night, SparkNotes proved enough of a study guide for the Lightning to pass the exam.
The defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks took the Lightning to school for two periods Saturday, before Tampa Bay rallied for a 3-2 shootout victory in front of an announced sellout crowd of 21,563 at the United Center.
Chicago dominated puck possession and it showed with a 39-15 shot advantage. The Blackhawks also held the Lightning without a shot on goal in the first period, the third time in franchise history Tampa Bay has been held without a shot in a period.
But Marty St. Louis and Teddy Purcell scored in the third period to key a Lightning comeback that was completed when Valtteri Filppula notched the only shootout goal.
Ben Bishop, who stopped 37 shots in regulation, denied Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa in the shootout to allow Tampa Bay to escape with a victory.
“Let’s call a spade a spade. There is a reason they are defending Stanley Cup champs and they showed us for most of the game why they are the best team in the league,’’ Lightning coach Jon Cooper said.
“We needed Ben Bishop to stand tall if we had any chance of coming back, and he did. ... We snuck out with a win. We were looking for the police when we walked out of the locker room because I thought we might get arrested for stealing, because we stole two points.’’
Kane and Brandon Saad scored second-period goals to lead the Blackhawks, who captured a second Stanley Cup championship in four years in June. Chicago defeated Boston, Tampa Bay’s opponent in Thursday’s season opener, to win the title.
Tampa Bay improved to 1-1, and it did so by hanging around and getting some saves from Bishop in his season debut.
“You just try to make some saves to keep the team in the game,’’ Bishop said. “A comeback win in this building says a lot about this team. We know we have a lot to work on. We can always play better than that, but it’s always good to get two points on the road.’’
The shot clock showed a lopsided affair, and Chicago’s stifling defense snuffed any Lightning attack with effective poke checks to disrupt any chance at a transition game.
And when Tampa Bay was able to get the puck in deep, the Blackhawks were able to quickly exit the zone and push the puck up ice.
Despite the lack of an offensive attack, Tampa Bay escaped the first period in a scoreless affair despite an 11-0 shot disparity.
“They blocked a lot of shots well and we missed some nets, so I don’t think it looked as bad as the stat looked, but obviously we need to put pucks to the net more,’’ Filppula said of the first period. “They were skating better than us and we didn’t get to pucks and always a little bit behind.’’
In the second, the Blackhawks got on the board in the opening minute as both Bryan Bickell and Kane were alone at the right post where Kane was able to lift a loose puck off a rebound over Bishop 59 seconds into the game for a 1-0 lead.
A fortunate home bounce helped Chicago grab a two-goal lead when Nick Leddy threw a puck into the far corner boards that caromed back to the front of the net as Bishop went back to play the puck. Saad was able to get to the free puck first for a power-play goal and a 2-0 lead at 9:14.
Tampa Bay, which only had six shots through two periods, woke up somewhat in the third and found a way back into the game.
Off an icing call on Chicago, Nate Thompson won a faceoff back to the point, where Matt Carle fired a puck on goal before St. Louis backhanded a rebound over Corey Crawford at 10:08 to cut the deficit to one.
Purcell then found the tying goal with Tampa Bay on its first power play of the game as Toews was off for high sticking. Purcell was at the right circle where he took a pass and wristed a shot to the top far corner at 11:51, the Lightning’s 11th shot of the game.
“It was a good third period,’’ St. Louis said. “Bishop was huge. It’s a very important position in this league and he played it at a high level tonight.’’
The penalty kill was then put to the test when Filppula was whistled for high sticking at 12:26 for Chicago’s fourth power play. But Bishop held down the fort to keep the game tied.