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Blackhawks Tue Oct 08 2013

Blackhawks Struck By Lightning, Now Eye Blues

Thumbnail image for GB blackhawks icon.png It seemed so hard to believe at the time, so unfathomable that such a stat ever could have existed. But after checking the line over and over again, it was indeed true that the visiting Tampa Bay Lightning were held without taking one single shot on goal after the first period in Saturday night's game at the United Center.

That's right. After the first 20 minutes, the Blackhawks fired 12 shots against goalie Ben Bishop while the Lightning sent over zero to Corey Crawford. It's the first time since December 4, 1946, that the Blackhawks last performed this feat, which happened to be against our buddies the Detroit Red Wings. In fact, the first shot Crawford saw wasn't until 1 minute, 22 seconds into the second period, just after Patrick Kane gave the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead with his second goal of the season.

Knowing that, and the fact the Blackhawks won the overall shot battle, 39-16, it would have been pretty clear to anyone who instead decided to stick with the Northwestern-Ohio State game that this one was going to be a clear snoozer. Just pack the bags for next Wednesday to the Scottrade Center, roll out the contestants for "Shoot the Puck" and take me home. Well, unfortunately, that's not how things wound up after the shootout ended.

You read that right -- a shootout. In the end, the Lightning fought back to tie the game up at two apiece, kept it even in the extra frame and then shut the Blackhawks out in the shootout to take the 3-2 victory. A mix of one sweet backhander by Martin St. Louis and one bad penalty kill (the Lightning were a perfect one for one on the power play while the Blackhawks only were one for five) made for a longer night than what was expected for the United Center crowd.

It became evident as soon as the Lightning tied it up about halfway through the third period that they had a chance to steal one on the road, and the Blackhawks provided that chance. It wasn't that the Blackhawks played terribly down the stretch of the game; they still outshot the Lightning 12-8 in the third. It's that they missed the opportunity to step on the Lightning's throat to finish them off when they had the chance.

True, the Blackhawks had plenty of good shots on goal, but it was Bishop who stopped 37 of them, which got his team motivated enough to play more aggressively down the stretch. In the end, it was a game in which the Blackhawks gained a point, but lost an opportunity for an extra one in the standings to keep pace with the Blues, Avs and Jets.

Speaking of the Blues, the Blackhawks look to hit the road for the first time this season against divisional foe St. Louis. If it's one thing the Blackhawks can ill-afford to do is to allow a team like this to get back into a game with over-confident play.

The Blues whipped up on the Panthers Saturday night and won by the final of 7-0. It's the type of game the Blackhawks wished they had played against the Lightning. Jaroslav Halák stopped 34 shots in the epic shutout while the speed of the game for the St. Louis offense continued throughout against a less-than capable foe.

The first two games of the season for the Blackhawks were against decent opponents in the Capitals and Lightning, but the first true test against a formidable opponent comes on Wednesday against the Blues. The Blackhawks won the (shortened) season series last year, three games to two, but are aware the Blues are going to be strong again this season after resigning T.J. Oshie, Chris Stewart, Dave Perron and Ryan Reaves to extensions. Coach Ken Hitchcock will have his team ready to make a statement that his Blues are here to make a run at the Central and make a run at the crown.

At the end of the day, it wasn't so much sloppy play against the Lightning that lost it for the Blackhawks Saturday night, it was the inability to shut matters down when the window of opportunity was open -- and as was the case this past weekend, it was wide open. That window might not be as open against the Blues.

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