Victor Hedman’s very good Stanley Cup playoff run got much, much better Monday.
The Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman notched two assists including a brilliant setup to Cedric Paquette for the game-winning goal late in the third period, over the Chicago Blackhawks. The Lightning have a 2-1 lead in the final.
Lightning coach Jon Cooper is among those impressed with the 24-year-old Swede’s performance in these playoffs. “This is really his coming-out party,” Cooper said. “He was a monster tonight.”
It was another exciting night of end to end hockey between what are clearly the two best teams in the NHL right now.
For the third game in a row, the team that won had to come from behind to do it.
Chicago took a 2-1 lead on Brandon Saad’s seventh goal of the playoffs early in the third period. But the Lightning wasted no time in tying it up. Saad’s goal was still being announced in Chicago’s United Center when Lightning forward Andrej Palat jammed a bouncing puck past Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford to even things up.
The other big story of the night was Lightning goalie Ben Bishop. He was pulled late in Game 2 for an undisclosed injury. It was unclear until just before the puck drop last night if he’d start in Game 3. But he put in an impressive performance, making 36 saves despite showing clear signs of being in pain.
“Of course we can see that, but he’s fighting just like anyone else in this series,” Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said of Bishop. “It doesn’t mean he is not going to stop working and making sure he is stopping pucks. He made some huge saves. We had a couple of empty nets earlier in the game that somehow ricocheted and bounce the wrong way. It is what it is.”
Going into this series, a lot of the talk was about the advantage the Blackhawks got from having experienced clutch goal scorers such as Toews and forward Patrick Kane. Kane has been held off the scoresheet this entire series. Toews has only one assist. In an effort to shake things up, Chicago coach Joel Quenneville played them on different lines Monday. It had no effect.
For Chicago to turn things around at home in Game 4 on Wednesday night, it will be essential for Kane and Toews to start putting some pucks in the net.